“She’s a micromanager! Fifteen years and she is still looking over my shoulder checking up on me. She still doesn’t trust me!”

Micromanaging? Some say this is a trust issue. That may be what it looks like from the outside. But, inside the micromanager the issue is often plain old-fashioned fear.


The Root – Fear of Failure

Many micromanagers are scared of failure. The idea of something going wrong on their watch prevents them from letting go of the details. They spend all their time in mistake prevention mode instead of proactively leading.

Fear prevents most of us from reaching our potential. A leader who is scared of failure will not only fall short of her own potential, but she will also stifle the potential of everyone on her team.

The micromanager believes that if she knows everything that goes on, she can make sure nothing bad happens. If she can prevent bad things from happening, she believes she is doing her job.

The problem is she is rarely doing her job. She is usually doing other people’s jobs.

The Courage To Let Go

Most leaders know how people should do a job because they did it in the past. It can be very easy in this case to stay involved in the part of the business the leader did well before being promoted.

We must have the Courage to step away and spend time focused on areas where we have not already proven our expertise. We already proved we could do that job.  Fear of failing in the other areas can keep us too involved in the areas we know best. We must let go and stop doing the job we were promoted out of.

The Courage To Delegate

When we delegate, we hand over control to others. The idea of other people doing something we believe we can do will turn many of us into micromanagers. The downside of delegating is that someone may accomplish the task in a different way than we would have. What they do might not be wrong, it is just different.  We should not act like they are wrong.

When we delegate, we need to have the Courage to let others do it their way. It may not be our way. It may not be the most efficient way the first time they do it either. But, instead of stepping in front of them and taking over, we need to let them gain the experience and coach them so they can learn and grow.

The Courage To Let Others Grow

If we never let my people do things without our help, they will never grow. They will become dependent on us. When we delegate, we are actually doing the job of a leader – developing others.

It may be more efficient for us to do it ourselves in the short term, but in the long term if they never learn, we become the bottleneck that is slowing down our team. If every task or decision needs to be filtered through us, then our fear is bogging us all down.

The Bottom Line:

A micromanager is someone who has allowed her fears to take over. The micromanager becomes more concerned about the processes being done the way she wants them to be done than she is about the growth of the people she is responsible for leading.

It is interesting that we call her a micromanager and not a microleader. Maybe that is because a real leader is not more worried about processes than she is about her people. Maybe it is because a real leader will not allow her fear of failure prevent her from giving others the opportunity to grow.

Maybe it is as simple as a real leader is not controlled by her fears.


What other character weaknesses create micromanagers?