How Leaders Know When it’s Time to MicroManage

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Originally posted October 28, 2013

Is it really true that leaders should not be micromanagers?


Sort of.

Most of the time.

But there are times when it is absolutely necessary.

The challenge for many leaders is that in some cases they believe that the alternative to micromanaging is to abdicate altogether. After all, if to micromanage is to be overly involved in the execution of a staff person’s duties, then to some it would seem that the better way is to disengage from operational leadership altogether.

But that is usually no better.

The fact is, effective leadership must walk a delicate tightrope between the two extremes of abdication and micromanagement. Leaders must discern when it’s appropriate to release the reins, and when it’s time for a hands-on approach.

How can you know which way to lean your leadership?

The following can serve as a guideline.

Lean your leadership in the direction of a hands-on approach when…

  •   You have a young or inexperienced person taking on new responsibilities

One of the worst things you can do is to take the “sink or swim” approach to a less experienced staff person. Show them the ropes and set them up for success.

  •   You have an under-performing staff person.

To get someone back on track you must sometimes increase your time investment and closely monitor not only their results, but also their methods.

Lean your leadership in the direction of loosening the reins when…

  • You have a rising leader who is “hitting it out of the park”

Someone who is achieving great results usually needs nothing more than to be pointed in the right direction, and released to keep doing what they’ve been doing. Feedback is still important, but give them lots of runway.

  •  You want to test someone’s capacity

When developing talent, sometimes you need to back away and see what someone can do with a little less supervision. There’s often no better way to grow another leader than to gradually remove the safety net.

As you look at the people on your team, simply recognize that when it comes to micromanagement, abdication, and points in between, there is no “one style fits all” approach.

Know your team, and understand how your leadership must lean to get the most out of each one.

And don’t be afraid of a little micromanagement along the way.

How do you know when to be more of a ‘hands-on’ leader?


the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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