Command and Control Just Won’t Die

by Jennifer Miller on January 25, 2012

in Leadership

For nearly two decades, management gurus have been heralding the death of the “command and control” mentality in Corporate America. Personally, I think it’s very much alive. Over a year ago, I wrote that the so-called “death” of command and control management is nothing but an urban legend.

Now, a recent article on the site breathes yet more life into this supposedly dying management philosophy.  The article’s main point was to question the relevance of “vanity” titles like Chief Diversity Officer in corporations.  As part of building the story’s premise, a marketing consultant is quoted as saying, “the only ‘C’s’ with ‘real’ power are the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer and, occasionally, Chief Operating Officer.”

I strongly disagree with that statement and decided to post a response on the character-based leadership site The Lead Change Group.  See my thoughts on leading from who you are, not with your title in Do CEO’s Really Have All the Power?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Art Petty January 25, 2012 at 11:10 am

Jennifer, we share similar views on the state of command and control (C&C). With apologies to Mark Twain, rumors of its death are greatly exaggerated.

In spite of the torrent of talk and writing on different approaches to leadership, I see C&C in play in nearly every organization I encounter. And while I’m willing to admit that there are places and times where strong and direct are appropriate, the incarnation of C&C that is coupled with big egos and lack of respect for the individuals in the organization is a style that cannot die too soon. Sadly, I see these types regularly. The fault lies squarely with the boards that have a false view on what a successful leader looks like. Thanks for this and for your post at Lead Change! -Art

Jennifer January 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm


Isn’t it amazing how we continue to come up against a philosophy that so many agree is counterproductive?

I agree that the problem is made worse by overblown egos. That’s where the notion that c-level titles are the ones with the “true” power.

Ah, well. . .we can continue to work to change this, right?

Jeannie February 22, 2012 at 11:49 am

I have been working as a sales associate on Michigan Ave in Chicago because I love the nature of the business, the outdoors, the quality of the product, it is a block away from where I live, the interaction with the customer is my own unique interaction and I need the money. That said I have been turned down for so many promotionsat this store, I have given up trying and just try to focus on the positive aspects of the job. They won’t say the specific reasons but it is because I am too well educated, much older and experienced. So who are the assistant store managers 2 levels above me, 22 year olds and they focus on this “command and control” style using every moment to show that they are in charge and they are much more comfortable hiring 19 year olds who they “know more than”. I have to believe that the corporate office in the Bay area in California is more enlightened. What is sad, is that these 22 year old managers are unethusiastic, don’t realize what a great product it is, look at being on the sales floor as ” doing time” but what really gets me disheartened is when they use this “command and control” behavior because they can. There inexperience, etc. comes out but because they are the assistant manager they suddenly become “smarter” than an Ivy League graduate and they can flex their muscles and show their control. The best experience in the store has been with customers, my worst experience is the lack of respect and belittling by these 22 year old managers. My strategy is to rise above it, ignore it and be as positive as possible but it really is disheartening and sad when I think about it. Particularly when this company through its literature tries to show that it is an enlightened company when the retail division and stores is back in the dark ages.

Jennifer Miller February 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm


Thanks for sharing your story and I applaud you for working to rise above your challenging work conditions.

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