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Why leaders who control do not succeed?

Control is defined as the process of identifying the differences between target and actual performances and taking corrective actions such that the actual performance is in line with target performance (Atwater and Yammarino 1989). While control helps people get things done from others, leadership which is one of the essential elements of effective management is not a form of control. Leaders who try to exercise control in general do not succeed

Amateur leaders feel that they could improve organizational performance through control. However, there is no such thing called, ‘control’. It is just an illusion. Rather, influence is all that matters in leadership. No individual has either the power or ability to control other individuals. Nothing can be achieved by forcing anybody. The same applies to leadership too. Leaders are people who get things done from others not by forcing them but by inspiring and influencing them (Tejeda, Scandura and Pillai, 2001). Great leaders like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, George Washington and many more have managed to accomplish their mission exclusively by influencing them and not by exercising control or enforcing rules over them. The values, thoughts and principles have been and will be remembered for centuries because of the approach they adopted to influence followers.  On the other hand, the world has also witnessed cruel leaders like Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein. These leaders made many people follow them out of their autocratic behavior and control. However, their values and vision all criticized by everyone till date.

This shows that leadership exercising control will not last long and will create a negative impact on people. Right from historical times to today’s dynamic environment, influence plays a major role in creating leaders and definitely, not control. Control is instructing people whereas leadership is influencing people.

This makes clear that successful leadership is not exercising control and good leaders never make use of control as a tool to achieve what they want. True leadership lies in transforming lives of individuals and efficient leaders strive to create differences in the life of their followers.


  1. Tejeda M J, Scandura T A and Pillai R (2001), The MLQ revisited: Psychometric managerial practices?, Group and Organization Management, pp 220-236, USA.
  2. Atwater L E and Yammarino F J (1989), Power, Transformational and Transactional leadership, State University of New York, New York.

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