How to Survive a Micromanaging Leader

To work under a leader who is a micromanager can be very difficult. I have found that the only way to survive a micromanaging leader is to understand why they do what they do.

Here are some of the most common reasons leaders resort to micromanaging—and what you can do to alleviate the pressure:

Power. Unfortunately, this is probably the most common reason for micromanagement. Some leaders relish the idea of holding on to power. To maintain their sense of authority, they use their position to lead from commands rather than leading from empowerment. If this is true, let your leader know you know who is in charge and you find their wisdom valuable. Reassure them that you’ll come to them immediately if you need assistance.

Control. A related trait in many leaders is wanting to always be in control of everything—not just the big picture but every detail. Sadly, this means everything you do, even the smallest task, falls under their micromanagement. To survive a control freak, make sure you always keep them in the loop so they are aware of everything that is going on.

Insecurity. No confident leader would think of telling you what to do and how to do it. But insecure leaders get stuck in the weeds. When this happens, the best approach is to feed their ego a bit. Let know them in detail what you’re doing and how. Over time, their confidence in your ability may grow.

Anxiety. An anxious leader is a chaotic leader. Everything is urgent and a source of fretfulness and worry. Being anxious makes them constantly apprehensive. This kind of leader needs to be calmed down and placated. Ask in advance how they like things done and then make sure you’re giving them what they need .

Fear. Fear comes in all shapes and sizes, and fearful leaders can be the worst micromanagers. They’re afraid that people will do things wrong, and even when things go right they’re afraid someone else will get the credit. They try to keep their hands on every situation and circumstance because they are fearful for themselves. This kind of leader is often the hardest to deal with, because everything alarms them. But the more you can address their fears, the less threatening they will find you.

Distrust. When a leader doesn’t trust you, they’re more likely to micromanage you in ways that make you uncomfortable. Try to remember that their distrust says more about them than about you. In practical terms, it means you have to work especially hard to earn, and keep, your leader’s trust.

The most important thing when you’re dealing with a micromanager is not to give up hope. If you’re aware of the problem and understand why it is happening, you’re already taken the first steps toward making the situation better.

Lead from within: Micromanagers tell people what to do; great leaders ask what they’re doing and then do everything they can to support without crossing the line.



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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. WK Taylor

    26. Jul, 2019

    A quote on this subject comes to mind that clearly describes the constructive power of ‘right-nurturing/managing’ good/productive people… as opposed to the destructive power of ‘micromanaging’…
    Great leaders – and great gardeners – resist the temptation to micromanage. They know that flowers cannot grow if you keep jerking them out of the ground to check the roots.” –Rodger Dean Duncan, author and business consultant

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  2. Jenny

    26. Jul, 2019

    WK Taylor, first time hearing that one. Nevertheless, I love it!

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