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Control: The Intersection of Decisiveness & Confidence


I like having choices. Am I going to have eggs or cereal for breakfast? Am I going to wear a green shirt or a white shirt? Am I going to exercise or not? Am I going to watch something on Netflix or Prime?


Most of the time there isn’t much effort expended on questions like these (except maybe the last one). Decisions come quickly because the tradeoff is clear and the consequences aren't likely catastrophic one way or the other. Plus, I’m likely to be presented with these choices every day so they become routine.


Choices can provide the semblance of control, if not actual control. I feel like I’m in control if I’m able to make a choice, regardless of how limited those choices may be. I watch people try to control everything their kids do or everything that happens in their professional lives, and the bottom line is that it’s impossible to do either. Simply put, there are too many factors they'll never be able to control.


Professionally we exert control by looking for ways to mitigate risk or uncertainty.  Sometimes that’s possible, other times it’s not. In my experience, confidence is the acknowledgement that control is a luxury we don’t always have, and arrogance is the belief that control is what we deserve.


What is the Control Intersection?

Control is the intersection of decisiveness and confidence (see Intersection 27 image below). Decisiveness without confidence is uninspired leadership. Confidence without decisiveness is all-talk, no-action.


Control is about reading a situation and understanding possibility. Doing this should provide you with information that lets you know how much, if any, control you have. Equally as important, is the ability to decide if you even want to exercise control in a particular instance. This calls to mind the saying, “Pick your battles…”. If you exert control now, what impacts does that have in the future?


There are times when I make good judgements about the control I have and the ways I exercise it. There are other times where the opposite is true. The dynamic nature of control, or the lack of control, is continually evolving and a frequently elusive target.


Decisiveness

Control requires decisiveness. Even the decision to do nothing is form of control. There’s a difference between doing nothing and an inability to make a decision, although sometimes the outcome looks the same to outside stakeholders. A lack of decisiveness, especially if demonstrated over time by a leader, becomes obvious and leads to confusion, a lack of confidence and a loss of control.


That said, decisiveness does not automatically mean a leader is good or strong. The quality of the decisions must be considered before making that determination. Decisiveness is just one part of the control equation. 


Intersection 27: Control = Decisiveness + Confidence


Confidence

While the results of decisions are usually visible, confidence isn’t. The line between confidence and arrogance is thin but important. The side of the line on which a person falls can have very different impacts in terms of the level of control desired vs achieved. Arrogant decision makers typically make decisions without considering input from others, whereas the opposite is true of confident decision makers. Additionally, I’ve found that arrogant decision makers are narrower in the considerations, time frames and impacts they use in decision making.


That’s not to say that arrogance is always wrong or unsuccessful, rather that it’s different from confident decision-making. My observation of confident decision makers is they inspire rather than alienate those around them and that their confidence can be contagious.


What Can Leaders Do?

It’s a balancing act for leaders. When do they keep control and when do they delegate control?  This requires an awareness of when relinquishing control won’t have adverse impacts and / or will lead to growth and learning. The need to be in control all the time can be exhausting and counterproductive.  


Micro-management is a common example of taking control too far. While there may be instances where micro-management, to a degree, is warranted, it is rarely seen as positive. Control is associated with power. A leader’s ability to share it or give it to others can be just as powerful.


Wrap Up & Up Next

The confidence and willingness to decide when to keep control and when to give up control is a sign of a true leader. 


Next time we’ll examine the 28th intersection of performance, which is the Ability Intersection.

In this series of articles, we explore The Intersections of Performance, of which there are 30. The Intersections of Performance framework is based on the experience and insights of Brett Simpson, Managing Director of Elevate Simply, over his 20+ years of leadership in large and small organizations, and as an entrepreneur, advisor and investor.

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