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A month ago I asked you, my awesome readers, what was the biggest leadership struggle you are struggling with right now.  This week, I am posting (with permission and name removed) one of those questions and my response.
Here is the email:
I am going to answer your question, but first– I have thoroughly enjoyed receiving your emails and the intentionality in which you write and work. However, I can’t remember how I ended up on your mailing list? Do you have time to tell me? Even though I can’t remember, I haven’t opted out of your emails, because I find your writing genuine and accessible for the working world.
The biggest challenge I find in leadership is the tension between control and grace. I will be the first to own that I have a natural tendency to control. I am aware of this and have worked on being less controlling for years. However, I also think as a woman men (and women) can be sensitive to feeling controlled by me. I often feel I am struggling to decide when I need to step in and direct or confront people; and when I need to stay back, trust, or have grace for people. That’s my biggest challenge. 
Thanks for listening:)

I think both of KB’s questions are questions some of you may have, so here is my response.

In answer to the first question, you got on my email list because at some point, we had an email interaction.  It could have been through Legacy Clinical Consultants, Ready To Focus, or even through a third party that we both know or something. I have a program that collects every email address that comes through my inbox and I have both you and spouse. What happened was that when I was starting The Human Leader, I accidentally combined every email address I had ever received into one large group.  Because I didn’t know how to fix it, I just put everyone on the initial emails with a request to opt out!  Not quite the most ethically appropriate thing to do and I wouldn’t do it again, but what’s done is done.  (This is where an emoji of embarrassment would go).

As to your challenge, I love this one!  First, I want to validate that women have to struggle with this more than men. While we definitely have individual bents or biases, we are more forgiving toward controlling men. Or if not more forgiving, at least less harsh in our judgements. AND, as a general rule, men and women are more sensitive to being controlled by a woman. I don’t have the exact study at hand where this was demonstrated, but I seem to remember that there is one.

Often, when we struggle with control, it is arising out of a place of insecurity or fear. Initially we will justify it with an internal response that we “just want to make sure it is done well, or correctly, or whatever.”  Yet, if we dig a little deeper, we find there is something else there too.  Perhaps a lack of trust in those around us?  And yes, I am going where all good psychologists go, perhaps there was something in our past that causes that difficulty in trusting?   While this may not be your specific case, it would be something to explore.  Our issues come from our brokenness, and ultimately, although we can resolve issues, we must heal brokenness.

So, when you are next struggling with this, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of here?  What keeps me from trusting that this person will meet my expectations?” If the answer isn’t about their knowledge, competence or general trustworthiness, try digging a little deeper and see what comes up, or dig a little deeper with a good therapist.

I hope this helps.

Take care,

Dr. Jeff Van Meter

There is something else I would add to this.  Digging a little deeper is about examining your internal responses.  When does this urge to control arise? What are the primary emotions behind the need or desire to control?

One of the most powerful things to do when you are reviewing the situation is to identify those core emotions and then thinking back to the very first time you remember feeling the same way.  Typically, this will be in our childhood or adolescence.  This early memory (or set of memories) gives us a strong clue of why we are responding with control rather than grace.  Early experiences set the stage of our automatic responses to the world around us. When we have an emotional response that is out of proportion to the situation, or out of synch with how we view ourselves, it is likely being triggered by an early experience.

To help you with some core emotions and give you some words to describe your feelings beyond mad, glad, sad and afraid, here is link to a great summary of emotional words (Parrot, 2001).

I would love to explore more questions like this with you.  You can email me at jeff@drjeffvanmeter(dot)com, or preferably, [reminder]

Until next time!

Dr. Jeff Van Meter

P.S. If, unlike KB, you don’t think I write with intentionality or don’t find me genuine and accessible, you can opt out below.

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