Power and oppositional behavioural styles are the aggressive defensive behaviours that many people show in dealing with others.  They are the need to feel in control or the need to be critical, judgemental or defensive.

The underlying cause of this behaviour from my experience comes from people who don’t trust others.  They are sceptical of peoples intent and expect trust to be earned. This means they tend to micro manage, they feel they need to be across everything, they struggle to let go and they spend time and energy checking up on others.  They are also hard to impress and often very critical or judgemental.  They assume the worst in people until proven otherwise.

The underlying issue here is that the lack of trust that we show becomes self-fulfilling.  If we play in this space our lack of trust in others, translates back that they do not trust in us.  If I cannot trust in you, then why would you trust in me.  The sub-conscious response by others then further re-enforces the trust issues that managers in this space have and in their eyes further justifies their need to command and control.

This is one of the most dangerous situations for a manager as the natural power imbalance between a manager and their staff will mean that when a manager plays in the command and control space it will result in a master servant culture within the team where the staff are there to serve the leader rather than focus on outcomes for the client.

In a master servant environment managers take pleasure in being in control, and they act as if being on time and on budget, getting things done under pressure, working hard and having perfect systems and processes is a badge of honour. 

In a master servant environment staff seek comfort in that they are not held accountable for outcomes, and all they need to do is keep the boss happy. They learn what the boss likes and dislikes, and learn to comply with his or her expectations. They may see the boss as a good leader because they are strong and give direction.

However master servant teams rarely perform well on the broader outcomes. They may get stuff done, but they rarely perform well in influencing outcomes or the achievement of outcomes comes at a very high cost.  They are rarely client centric or relationship focused, but rather they are internally focused and task focused.

The best way to change this is to ensure that the right metrics and right rewards are in place across your organisation.  Metrics are critical in driving performance, and designing the right metrics is critical in promoting a client centric approach.  Get the metrics right and monitor performance trends and you will start to see which leaders who are outcome and client focused vs. those who are command and control focused.  In fact I suspect your perception of who are the strong performers in your organisation will take a very rapid shift.