7 differences between a Leader and a Control Freak


Often times we come across people/leaders who push too much or take charge more than needed. They come out very aggressive.  They always seem to know the best way of doing things.

On the other side, we also see leaders who give too much off leeway and are self-perceived as being patient. Both of these are extreme traits of a leader. There is a very narrow difference between being a leader and a control freak. Leaders do need to direct others when needed, but too often and too many times makes one a control freak.


Great leaders know when to give control and when to take control.

Here are the 7 differences between a leader and a control freak.

  1. Fear of failure
    • People who have a tendency to control are often are dealing with their own anxiety and controlling other people is a means to alleviate it. They fear failure and when the project/situation seems out of control, they freak out, get anxious and start to take over and control others around.
    • Good leaders are not afraid of failure. They do not panic and they master controlling their emotions. They maintain their cool which lets them think out of the box and provide solutions to problems without being too pushy. They give their team the flexibility to fail and to learn. They see failure as a step closer to success.
  2. Need to know it all
    • Control freaks have the need to know everything. They panic when they do not know all the details.
    • Leaders realize that it is okay to not know everything. They know how to get things done in spite of not knowing everything.
  3. Micromanage
    • Control freaks tend to micromanage. They want to know and control each and every detail of the project
    • Good leaders do not micromanage. They trust their team and team’s capabilities and they know when to get involved.
  4. High expectations of others
    • Control freaks have high expectations and standards for others. These are set based on their own beliefs and strengths. They fail to realize and recognize the strengths of others.
    • Good Leaders set expectations for others to succeed. They look for ways to make others successful by setting their goals and expectations by each of their strengths and competencies.
  5. Lack of trust, sense of superiority complex.
    • Control freaks have difficulty trusting others and hence tend to control others actions. They also perceive themselves as superior being and others as inferior to them. This lets them believe that others cannot do as best as they can do and so they try to “help” others by telling them their way of doing things.
    • Good Leaders build and maintain relationships with the team based on trust. They trust their team and give them freedom to perform tasks in their way. This leads to great team spirit and creativity comes out with leads to excellence in performance.
  6. Personal agenda
    • As discussed above, Control Freaks often have their own personal agenda and fear failing to meet that which lets them push others and take control over others activities.
    • Good leaders have well communicated vision for the team and inspire others to meet their goals which is a win-win situation.
  7. Delegation issue
    • Control Freaks trust issues and superiority issues result in their inability to delegate effectively and efficiently to others. They over burden themselves and get overwhelmed resulting in their control behavior.
    • Great leaders are good delegators. They know when, what and how to delete to their team.


Any leadership trait at the extreme end does not lead to success. Leadership style should be flexible and should be adopted based on the situation. Leaders should evaluate themselves from time to time if they are behaving in an extreme way. Anyone can become good to great leaders, with experience.

How do you identify and differentiate a good leader and a control freak?