Illusion of Control– Management in Control is an Illusion! It’s a Façade! Control Freaks Over-State Their Ability to Control Events…

‘Control’ is a concept that necessitates completeness, it cannot exist in partial terms (you cannot ‘kind of’ or ‘pretty much’ control anything), you either have control or you don’t… but sometimes leaders have an illusion of control– control that in reality does not exist…

Most leaders think they have it, management struggles to get it, workers want more of it– its power to decide, to exercise influence, to set boundaries… its power to influence, or direct people’s behavior, or dictate course of events…

According to Patrick B. McGrath; control is an illusion– most leaders are not in ‘total’ control; they may have control of some things but total control is not achievable… control doesn’t exist; you think it exists, its only an outside appearance– a coincidence of sorts in which factors that were visible appear to come together… 

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According to studies; CEOs of Fortune 500 companies routinely over-estimate their capacity to control events surrounding their companies, employees, markets… and as a result they often take-on an air of egotistical  invincibility– and outcomes are usually devastating… A study in Psychological Science; suggested that power and perceived control can literally ‘go to one’s head’, causing individuals to think they have more control over outcomes than they really do… but illusion of control is adaptive and it can help power-holders make the seemingly impossible, possible… But also the notion of simply having some level of power can lead people to grossly over-estimating their abilities to control events…

In the article Illusion of Control by Pat Weaver writes: One of the key ways of dealing with risk is accepting the reality that there are things that you simply cannot control… Under-estimating uncertainty has very serious implications for risk and management must pay special attention to what can be predicted, and what cannot be predicted…

In the book ‘Dance With Chance, Making Luck Work For You’ by Spyros Makridakis, Robin Hogarth, Anil Gaba; find that people tend to assume they can control much more than they actually can and as a consequence they under-estimate the role of chance… The authors pinpoint two kinds of risks: Subways and Coconuts– You can plan for subways but its difficult to plan for the coconuts, e.g.; on one hand, you can research and be relatively sure that the subway will be predictable most of the time (but never all of the time!)…

On other hand, you know that coconuts fall from trees, but you can’t predict when they will fall or where they will land… The authors argue that management must accept the reality that there are things they simply cannot predict, and as consequence the control of some things is simply an illusion… But management can also devise creative strategies to move forward; the authors call it ‘triple A’ strategy of— accept, assess, augment: First, ‘accept’ that there are things you cannot control… Second, ‘assess’ the uncertainties associated with things that you cannot control… Third, ‘augment’ your plans to ensure that the things you can control are managed effectively…

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In the article Illusion of Control by Seth Godin writes: It’s a very widespread belief; it motivates you; it frightens you; it drives consumer mania… It’s the idea that you are in control; that your work is so leveraged and important that through the force of ‘will’, you can ensure things will turn out as you choose… But in reality you are never really in control — everything you do is a matter of influence… and perhaps, sometimes, you can influence events and things can turn out in ways that you plan…

However, in business, more often than not it does not work that way… more often you are shrugging your shoulders and say, ‘it’s out of my control’… and more often than not your boss is saying the same thing… When the ‘illusion of control’ collides with the ‘reality of influence’, it highlights the reality that the entire ‘illusion of control’ is based on the fact that– you are responsible for what you do, you are accountable… but often you don’t have authority or control over the outcome; it’s a reality– you cannot hide from it, so embrace it and deal with it…

In the article The Illusion Of Control by David Brock writes: Let me confess; I’m a control freak– it bothers me to think that ‘being in control’ is an illusion… In business– leaders, managers… are always trying to control something, or reluctant to do something unless they are in control, but in reality there is very little total control… However, despite the lack of control leaders are still accountable for producing results– no excuses! Leaders often blames their failure to achieve results on their lack of control, or factors ‘outside their control’…

And then there are other leaders who quietly sort things out, and come-up with creative strategies to achieve for their business– they may not have total control but they still persevere and achieve; whether it’s exercising influence on people involved in the decision, or whether it’s finding ways to eliminate obstacles, or finding ways to reduce uncertainty… Control may be an illusion, but leaders are still accountable and they must find ways to achieve the desired outcomes…

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In the article Illusion of Control by Leo Babauta writes: When you think you control something you are probably wrong… It’s amazing how often you think you are in control of something when really you really are not– control is an illusion… You constantly make plans that never actually turn out the way you envisioned… You have been trained to set goals and then work on actions that achieve goals… But, how often have you tried to control a future that you cannot predict? Yet you continue to believe in the illusion of control– you face a chaotic and complex world and you seek to control it, in what ever way you can… So how do you move forward? Perhaps considering the travails of fish might help; yes fish! A fish swims in a chaotic environment, in which it cannot possibly control; much as you do…

However fish, unlike you, are under no illusion that it controls the sea or other fish in the sea. Fish do not even try to control where it ends up– it just swims, either going with the flow or dealing with the flow, as it comes. It eats, hides, mates without trying to control a thing… You are no better than that fish, yet your thinking creates need for an illusion– so let go of your illusionary thinking, and learn from the fish… Hence when you are in the midst of chaos let go of the need to control it; experience it, deal with it and go with the flow, but don’t try to control it– it’s a completely different way of thinking, once you let go of the illusion of control…

Being in control makes most people feel happy; it’s been proven in studies that having the feeling of being– ‘in control’ produces– optimism, high self-esteem… In contrast, studies have shown that the ‘absence of control’ produces– withdraw, depression… According to Iyanla VanZant; being in control is the number one human addiction… when you are in control you are on a high and things go your way… and you believe that if you continue to exert control that things will continue to go your way. As great as this may sound it’s a dangerous illusion, because the flip-side will inevitably circle back around…

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According to Daniel Kahneman; the comforting conviction that the world makes sense is based on your almost unlimited ability to ignore your ignorance… Life plays limitless hands of poker that you are even too busy to see… You know it and feel it intuitively; yet you carry the false belief that if you just– try harder, focus stronger, meet the right person, lose the extra pounds, close the elusive deal, win the mind-blowing lottery… then and only then will you gain some level of control…

The ‘illusion of control’ may be comforting, but it’s only illusion; it’s a façade; it’s fantasy built-on sense of self-importance. Hence, control is not the answer; it’s your sense of self-worth, it’s confidence in your ability to achieve, it’s your determination to be relevant... that’s what really matters. So don’t try harder, try different!