The Myth of Control

By Leo Bottary

I’ll make this short, but I was talking to some friends about the concept of control. People commonly refer to being in control of the message, having control over people or an organization. In our conversation, we came to two conclusions: 1) We don’t “control” very much, at least not for very long. 2) When we attempt to exercise control, the default position for many people is to go about it the wrong way.

Let me offer the example of holding a ping pong ball. You can either lay it flat in your hand or hold it gently between your fingertips. That ping ball isn’t going anywhere. Inevitably, someone gets the bright idea that they REALLY want to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere, so they squeeze it more tightly. The tighter the grip, the greater the hold, the more control, right? Well, if you’ve ever tried this little experiment, continuing to squeeze the ball will bring you one of two results: You’ll either crush the ball (rendering it forever useless) or it will squirt out of your hands faster than you can say “squirt.”

While we can’t always depend on gravity to give us what we want in every situation, we’d be wise to trust the various forms of it much more frequently. Defying the laws of nature usually works out badly for everyone. As leaders, we will serve our people and our aspirations better, if we tried it less often.
Originally published: Aug 11, 2011

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