Directive Management

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“is a style of management that is characterized by an excessive need for control and extreme attention to even apparently trivial details”. Most professionals would accept the above definition as reasonable. At the crux of the issue is what constitutes “excessive” and “extreme.” These words, in and of themselves, bring to mind visions of police brutality, prisoner interrogation, or worse. When used to describe a management style, most envision a tyrannical boss who has made it a personal goal to make the lives of his or her direct reports miserable. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that many professionals have a visceral reaction to being micromanaged and tend to cite it as one of the worst management dysfunctions. In extreme cases, micromanagement is sometimes attributed to an underlying psychological disorder related to a need for control that is deep-seated and inherently resistant to change. While micromanagement is almost always wrong, directive management is appropriate in specific situations. More and more the label of “micromanager” is being incorrectly applied to anyone who has the audacity to direct the work of another. The great majority of so-called micromanagers are not in fact micromanaging in any objective sense of the word, but simply well-intentioned individuals who are doing their very best to lead, motivate, direct and yes, even drive their direct reports to excel and perform to the best of their ability. This is especially true when underperforming employees receive the direct, detailed instruction required to be successful. In an effort to regain some sense of control over the situation, the direct reports may lash out or whine that the superior is micromanaging rather than acknowledge and address their underlying performance issues directly. The “micromanager” label is often applied by those who do not have the perspective necessary to appreciate the overall context. I am not implying that a leader should revel in having power over...
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