Businessman With Chains on WristsYou know that feeling: you just don’t feel right about a decision. Here’s a simple leadership test to validate the decision: does it seek to serve or control your stakeholders?

Naturally, you’d never seek to control control your customer, investor or employees, you say. But wait, there are nuances to these differences that may surprise you.


A decision may seek to control your stakeholders if it brings about a result that makes you or your team look good, with little or no benefit to stakeholders. Another control indicator is when you make decisions that drive short-term results at long-term costs. A decision may also be controlling when all costs are not transparent to stakeholders.


To determine if your decision serves your stakeholders, just give it the Robert K. Greenleaf test:

Do those being served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will she or he benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived? – Robert K. Greenleaf

So the next time you have an important decision, ask yourself, does the solution seek to control or serve the stakeholders? The answer will help you decide but it also may surprise you.