Leading with Freedom and Choice

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Freedom and choice are essential to being a great leader, but the common leadership approach uses control 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 and even see crumbs flying out of the bowl.

Leading with Freedom and Choice

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 Values People

Freedom and choice are similar to the dog and skunk story when leading. Of course, this does not mean 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 and pursuing their best to develop them. Misused, 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 Are Great for Leading

When freedom and choice are applied to leadership, it emphasizes the critical truth that everyone can 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. Unfortunately, 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 piñata 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.

Decide 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.

To learn more about this fantastic way to lead, check out course 6 - Engage Excellence with Freedom and Self-governance. You can also take a look at other posts here that will give you more insight. Type "freedom" in the Search box above to see how many GR8 Leaders posts appear.


control, freedom and choice, freedom V, invitational leading, lead differently, manipulate or dominate, reality of choices, use freedom constructively

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