Are You Micromanaging or Just Really Committed to Excellence?

Emma Sharma

by Emma Sharma


A colleague was facing an employee retention crisis in her team. In the prior 6 weeks, 7 extremely talented members of her team had resigned; some without another job lined up. Rumors were rife that at least 3 more teammates were ‘very actively seeking’ new positions.
Exit interviews were consistent in confirming that this colleague’s leadership style was driving the ‘churn and burn’. Her teammates were simply unwilling to continue working in an environment where they felt “choked with micromanagement”. My colleague was stunned: she did not think she had been “micromanaging”. She thought she was leading the team towards excellence. How could she—and we—tell the difference?

Command and Control

Leadership is hard and there are absolutely moments, especially when leading a complex project, that directing every action or ordering people around seems to make sense. However, that’s not the leadership model that God lays out for us in the Garden of Eden. Having created man and woman, He simply empowers them to “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.” (Genesis 1:28) God gave them everything they needed to be successful, cast the vision and left them to get on with it.

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‘But’ I hear some of you cry, ‘that leaves room for mistakes!’ Yes, it does; and the whole of humanity has lived with the consequences of the worst possible first wrong decision. However, even then, God didn’t leap in and rescue us with a ‘Now you’ve screwed that up, just do what I say, and we’ll all be fine’ mentality. No; the greatest rescue strategy of all time still depends upon each one of us exercising our God-given free will in understanding our need to be rescued and saying ‘yes’ to Him.

In looking to God for leadership lessons, this one is profound: ‘Command and Control’ has little place in the playbook of a Jesus-loving leader. Why

Jesus’ Model of Leadership

Control is an illusion, especially in workplaces. When can anything that we do guarantee the outcome in any situation? If total control was possible, every project would be completed on budget, on time and executed exactly as planned, no deviation from script. Would control be so bad if it was possible? Yes, I think it would be: How else would we learn so much more from the journey than by arriving at the destination? How would we practice agility, discover multiple ways to get to an outcome, find better outcomes, innovate, refine, improve, and GROW?

Controlling behavior is not a force multiplier; the very point of hiring teams is that the output of the group is exponentially greater than if everyone did their best working alone. When we insist on managing each step of a process, output is limited to what we can oversee and approve. We become a bottleneck and reduce what is possible. Worse, a ‘my way or the highway’ approach does not allow for ideas of others that might be far more effective than your own. Innovation dries up in a sea of arrogance and fear that someone might outperform you or that a project might fail unless tightly managed.

Jesus himself rebuked the disciples who complained that a man who “isn’t in our group” was casting out demons (Luke 9:49-50). While the disciples wanted to keep a tight grip on this type of activity, Jesus was more interested in seeing essential ministry happen than micromanaging everyone doing it! What the impact might be if we were all entrusted to use our spiritual giftings and anointings free of too many restrictions?

Both Biblical and Business-Savvy

Back to my former colleague’s predicament. Even prior to the ‘Great Resignation’, strong leaders knew that retaining good talent was critical to optimizing business success. Most often employees leave because they work for a bad manager and micromanagement is one of the most complained-of traits. While most people are replaceable in the long term, doing so is expensive due to recruitment costs, lost productivity, and missed opportunities. Leadership styles that reflect God’s empowerment of humans in their workplace are not just biblical, they also make great business sense.




Emma Sharma is the Founder and Principal of Swallowtail Group and a global business executive known for her entrepreneurship, strong empathetic leadership style and willingness to go where ‘Angels fear to tread’. She is also a passionate advocate on mental health issues that impact the workforce, especially at executive leadership levels. A corporate attorney and executive for over 25 years, Emma is passionate about seeing the Kingdom of God invade the marketplace. She is a devoted wife and mom to two young children and lives in Northern Virginia.