Here in the United States, the 46th President has just been sworn into office. Alongside him, a new Vice President – and this time the first-ever woman, first-ever person of color to hold that national office. As I have witnessed – and been a part of —heated debates the past four years about the performance of the 45th President, I have been looking at these historic events through the lens of the Positive Intelligence mental fitness model.
To be a leader in the Office of the President – to be a leader in any role where you have decision-making power over human resources, monetary resources, and the position to lift up or destroy the livelihoods and dreams of others – is a profound responsibility. It is critical that you know you are human – not a robot – and that means you have imperfections, just like anyone, that can influence your decisions.
A very common mental saboteur for leaders – including for someone in the Office of the President – is the Controller. To learn more about how you can evaluate the performance of any leader (including yourself AND the leader of a country) through this lens, I invite you to read on.
As I’ve learned from my teacher Shirzad Chamine, a saboteur is the price we pay for the overuse and abuse of our greatest strengths. And for many leaders in positions of authority, those strengths are as follows:
- Being action-oriented, decisive, willful and persistent.
- Challenging oneself and challenging others.
- Being able to do the right thing, even when the course of action is unpopular.
- Seeing possibilities that others may not see.
- Activating oneself and others to take action in support of a desired outcome.
As you read the list above, bring to mind a leader you admire: in what ways do they exhibit these strengths?
Next, bring to mind a leader you do not admire: even if you do not agree with or like them, can you still recall situations in which they have exhibited one or more of these strengths?
Now, look at yourself: which of these strengths do you possess and in what types of situations do you utilize these strengths?
When used strategically, selectively, and from a place of wisdom, your strengths are powerful, positive and can have incredible impact. You can think of this list of strengths as the light side of you –that convert you into a power for good.
However – and this is where I come back to the importance of knowing that you as a leader also have imperfections – it’s important to understand that there is a dark side of your strengths – the saboteur side. When you use your strengths too often, in the wrong situations, with the wrong people, at the wrong time, those strengths come back to harm you and those around you.
The harmful side of any saboteur motivates you through negative emotions and most often accompany periods of stress and anxiety. In this case, the Controller saboteur has an “anxiety-based need to take charge and control situations and people’s actions to one’s own will.”* And when that is not possible, the Controller exhibits an extremely high level of anxiety, and can even be angry and intimidating when others don’t go along. The Controller gets impatient with others’ feelings and different styles, and often feels hurt and rejected (though will rarely admit it).
How can you catch the negative side of the Controller when it takes hold of you? How can you spot the same in a leader you know personally or in the public eye? Read each of these descriptions below and ask yourself: when have I seen this characteristic at play? And then ask: what might be the underlying lie that is at the heart of the sabotage? And, how might this saboteur behavior negatively impact you and others around you?
Characteristics of the Controller Saboteur: What to Watch Out For
- Has very strong energy and an equally strong need to control and take charge of situations.
- Connects with others through competition, challenge, physicality, or conflict rather than softer emotions.
- Its nature is willful and confrontational
- Its most common style of communication is a straight talker; and its in-your-face communication is often interpreted by others as anger or criticism.
- Likes to push people beyond their comfort zone.
- Comes alive when doing the impossible and beating the odds.
- Often stimulated by conflict, and even connects with others through conflict.
- Surprised when others’ feelings get hurt.
- Intimidates others, both intentionally and unintentionally.
If you see aspects of your own behavior in these characteristics, I welcome you to the club. Every single human being has saboteurs – your parents, your siblings, your friends, your colleagues, your neighbors, your employees, your vendors – everyone. Even the President of the United States. E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E. And, as mentioned above, the Controller saboteur is very common among leaders in formal positions of authority.
As the weeks and months of the new year unfold, keep a watchful eye on yourself, the President, and other leaders you know: when do you see the positive strength side of the Controller in play? And when do you see signs of the negative characteristics wreaking havoc on relationships, performance, and health?
If you’d like to determine how strong the Controller saboteur is in you, I invite you to meet with me for a Saboteur Diagnosis session. LEARN MORE HERE
*Source: Shirzad Chamine and his Positive Intelligence mental fitness model. Erin completed her certification with Shirzad and Positive Intelligence, Inc. in the spring of 2021 and is now a Certified Positive Intelligence mental fitness coach (CPQC).