Command & Control — Why it’s OK, and Not OK

Mental Model Dōjō pre-session video

Takeshi Yoshida

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Transcript

On Feb 21, 2024, hence the Lunar New Year décor in the background in case you’re wondering, at our Mental Model Dōjō session we’re discussing, or if you’re watching this video after the session, we’ve discussed the topic of how to make the shift from “instructing” leadership, which I describe as a polite form of command and control leadership, to a more coaching and facilitative style of leadership. The concept of “instructing leadership” looks like my own creation as it doesn’t come up on Google, so I thought I’d provide some context ahead of the session.

First, let’s take a step back and look at “command & control”. In modern leadership education, command and control is assumed as a vice, a necessary evil, a not a good thing. Hmm, is that really so?

Here’s my position, and I’ll do so by distinguishing control and command as separate things.

On control; as a state, as a result, it’s good to have things under control. So, control as a noun is a good thing.

But control as a verb, applied to people, is the trouble. I consider that there are three patterns of responses we get from people when they are exposed to controlling behavior by someone else: resentment, deference and indifference.

  • The first response is “I don’t like being told what to do”. When someone displays controlling behavior to us, we react, right? That’s because our agency, the desire and sense of control we like to have over our own life, is violated. When our agency is acutely deprived, we feel strong resentment against the controller.
  • The second response sounds counterintuitive but is actually “I like being told what to do”. Maybe it’s easier to imagine the situation of when we feel to the other, “Just tell me what to do”. Decision making is energy consuming, and when someone else makes the decision for us, our brains get to rest. And one more thing, if that someone else’s decision doesn’t work out, it’s not our fault! Controlling behavior that results in deference induces cognitive laziness, and avoidance of risk and responsibility. Hmm… “Be…

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Takeshi Yoshida

Chief Coach, Agile Organization Development (agile-od.com) — we are a tribe of change, transformation, innovation experts