Beauty and the Beast: Servant Leadership vs. Command and Control

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Command and control (the beast) is not a popular form of leadership these days. Most of the time the method is unnecessary and a sign of a weak and insecure leader who knows no other way to be effective. The most effective leaders find some version of servant leadership (beauty) to be a better approach.

But sometimes command and control is necessary. In emergencies or when time doesn’t permit discussion, it may be the best approach. In a recent article Joe Irocci showed that beauty and the beast can coexist. But, how do you create a leadership culture where the occasional reversion to command and control does not destroy the beautiful relationship you’ve cultivated with your team?

Ask yourself a few questions.

  1. Does your team trust you? Are you always honest with them, to include telling them if you can’t discuss a subject or answer a question rather than just brushing the question off or lying about it? Do they know that you support them when you’re in those meetings with your boss and other leaders?
  2. Do you have open communication with your team? Do they know you are open to their ideas and suggestions? Can you honestly say you value their input? Would they agree?
  3. Is your leadership style more asking and supporting rather than telling and directing? Do you request more than you direct?

If you can answer yes to these questions, then the occasional use of a command and control style will not destroy your relationship with your team. In fact it might even strengthen that relationship. In an emergency or crisis situation people are usually looking for leadership. They want someone to take control and solve the problem.

Here’s a bonus tip. Once the crisis or emergency is resolved and your team is returning to normal operations, review what happened and the results of your actions. Do this with the entire team as soon as possible. Be completely open and honest. Discuss what went right and what could have been better. This review might help prevent future issues requiring more directive leadership. At the very least, it will help you weather the next storm which is sure to come.

A directive, command and control leadership style is not always bad, but it should be unusual. Review the questions above. Have you created a team environment that allows you to answer yes to these questions? If so, you will be a more effective leader and your team will be more likely to trust you when the next crisis happens.

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