Leading with Freedom and Choice

Freedom and choice are essential to being a great leader, but the common approach to leadership uses control either through manipulation or domination.

Imagine a large dog trotting eagerly toward the house. He has been out chasing rabbits, and has worked up quite an appetite. As he approaches the porch where his food bowl sits, he slows to a halt. A black-and-white-striped creature with a fluffy tail is munching on his food. The dog slowly comes nearer, careful not to disturb the little thief. The food is tantalizingly near. He can smell it – he can even see crumbs flying out of the bowl.

He is at least ten times bigger than the skunk. Of course, he could make the skunk leave. But he doesn’t. Instead, he is wise and patient. He knows that he could whip the skunk in a fight, but is it worth putting up with the smell that will remain after the fight?

Freedom and Choice

Freedom and Choice Values People

When leading, freedom and choice is similar to the dog and skunk story. Of course, this does not mean that leaders are like dogs and followers are like skunks!

What it does mean, leadership understands that freedom and choice, even irresponsible freedom and bad choices, are part of life. When someone is not doing what you want, manipulating or dominating to try to get them to change seems like the right thing, but it is the unwise, impatient path that will leave a “smell” that lingers.

Freedom is one of the most crucial principles for leadership, but it is easy to misapply or misunderstand. So, let’s start with some basics.

Used correctly, it works perfectly with valuing people, pursuing their best to develop them. Used incorrectly, it ignores valuing people. It can transform your emotions for any action from dread to delight. That is the benefit of freedom and choice.

Freedom Defined

Before we move too quickly, how would you define freedom? Two definitions from Webster’s Dictionary that might help are: 

  • Freedom – Absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action; independence; quality of being frank, open, or outspoken 
  • Free – Not subject to the control or domination of another; not determined by anything beyond its own nature or being; choosing or capable of choosing for itself

Making it easier to remember, the GR8 Leaders working definition is –

FREEDOM – acting without force or manipulation (or acting without controlling or being controlled)

Freedom and Choice is Great for Leading

When freedom and choice is applied to leadership, it emphasizes the critical truth that everyone has the ability to make their own choices. Everyone is responsible for their own decisions. When you accept freedom and choice as you lead, you aren't controlled by the people you lead or the choices they make. It is strange that most people think leadership works better when controlling instead of applying freedom and responsibility!

Does your life demonstrate freedom and choice for you and others? Most likely not, at least as much as you think. Most of us follow the path of least resistance to flashing our ME and trying to control people around us.

Freedom is about the reality of choices available to you, instead of controlling or being controlled.

As simple as it sounds, freedom used correctly in leadership is a radically different way to lead. Instead of accepting the reality of choices, you react to situations like a pinata whacked by a bat. And, just as important, you forget that other people have choices too. When you forget or ignore their freedom, you will try to force or manipulate others to choose what you want. That is the more natural way to lead.

Make a decision to lead differently. Use the invitational model of leadership. Learn how to develop others and teach them how to use their freedom constructively. And, make sure there are consequences for the times that people are irresponsible with their freedom. That is why you want to use the Freedom V - you will learn about that in upcoming communications.

If you want to learn more about this amazing way to lead, check out course 6 - Engage Excellence with Freedom and Self-governance. You can also check out other posts here that will provide you more insight. Just type "freedom" in the Search box above to see how many GR8 Leaders posts show up.

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