I conducted a quick survey asking people what type of dysfunctional leadership behavior bothers them the most. The options were: micro-manager, dictator, controller, or yeller. The number one answer was Dictator, but not far behind was micro-manager and yeller.
In my book, Leadership Qualities People Crave, I call Dictators “Demanding Dans.” They are large and in charge and want everyone to know it. They are inflexible and want things to be done their way and only their way.
Demanding Dans want to make all the decisions and be the center of attention. Everything is about them. Any success is attributed to them. They give out orders and edicts and tell everyone what to do. They propagate fear and hold things over people’s heads. They give out ultimatums like “my way or the highway.”
When a Demanding Dan is in charge people work out of obligation rather than joy or desire. They just want to keep their jobs. In a Demanding Dan culture, everyone becomes a machine, a robot, just carrying out the commands of the leader. The attitude of culture becomes one of “let’s do what we’re told and get out of here.”
The supposed antidote for being a Demanding Dan is delegation. But delegation is tricky for Demanding Dans. It’s tricky because they give someone a project or assignment and yet they can’t let go of it. They think they’re delegating but they’re not.
The real antidote is trust. In the hundreds of times, I’ve given my seminar called S-Factor Leadership at one point in the session I hand out a checklist of 12 different “dysfunctional” leadership traits. I ask the participants to be open, honest, and vulnerable when filling it out. The number one trait that thousands of managers have checked is: “I have difficulty trusting people.”
It is impossible to delegate something to someone you do not trust.
If we are going to break free from being a Demanding Dan we must learn to trust. We must learn to let go.
So, how do you learn to trust? Reverse accountability. Try this scary exercise next time you hand something off to someone: Tell them you have a problem with letting go and that you respect them and want to trust better. Give them the right to hold you accountable for your interference. Ask them to say, John, you gave this for me to do now let me do it. And then thank them and back off. Or, allow them to say, “John, you’re being a Demanding Dan,” whenever they start being too bossy.
When you dare to do this, the people who work for you will begin to respect you more and enjoy working in your organization. It will turn into a culture of empowerment and joy. Trust me.