With the July 4th holiday still fresh in our minds, I began thinking about freedom and what it means to feel free. To be free in the sense of our Founding Fathers was the desire to be free of British rule. The most quoted passage from the Declaration of Independence states, “we hold these Truths to be self evident that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Those gallant leaders embody courage, bravery and activism when making such a stand, and during this time of year most Americans feel a sense of patriotism and liberty in their own lives.
But I began thinking about freedom in the context of leadership, and a question came to mind. How do you know that your leadership inspires freedom in your people? It’s an interesting subject to address.
I believe leadership should enable others to express their intelligence and creativity in a way that propels them to be the best versions of themselves. Leadership should allow them to have the autonomy, and freedom, to make rational decisions in order to operate at their highest potential as part of a unique and agile team. Through diligent focus in allowing others to navigate in different ways towards your end goal, you can create a free team of people, with multiple ideas, that can then work interdependently to create adaptable solutions in response to the always changing, complex business environment of the modern age.
In order to foster an environment of freedom in your people and your team, consider these behaviors:
Be Trustworthy – the ability to be relied on in an honest and truthful way. Your people need to know that you’ve created a safe environment that allows them to make rational decisions without the fear that they will be penalized. They also need to trust that you will back up their decisions and protect them from outside deterrents. If adjustments need to be made, they want to be able to rely on you to give them guidance, and they need faith that their hard work is not only to benefit you in your role.
Be Respectful – feeling or showing deference and respect. Your team needs to know that you honestly consider and hold their opinions and ideas in the highest regard. To invest in your people is to allow them to drive some of their agendas. Make them feel like leaders over important decisions, and showcase their abilities to the wider business. In doing this, you are expressing your admiration for their talents and skills.
Be Open – not closed or barred. Invite your people into the fold by sharing important and appropriate information with them. Be transparent so they feel they can make decisions based on accurate and complete knowledge. This allows them to consider the wants and needs of the business when generating ideas. Also, by being open about your feelings, your team won’t wonder what your reactions will be or how to approach certain situations. Through this authenticity, they will understand your priorities and your methods for success.
Be Accessible – able to be reached and approachable. Make time for your people. Listen to their full thought before insinuating your opinion. Let them feel like they can come to you no matter what the concern. We’re all too busy, but making 5 minutes for someone can empower them to feel like their needs matter and their opinion counts. If possible, promote face-to-face conversations instead of written communication so that they can see that you are taking their ideas or concerns seriously.
Be Clear – articulate in a way that is very easy to understand. Creating freedom in your team does not mean freedom from responsibility or accountability. Actually it’s quite the opposite. It’s important to set clear expectations around each person’s role. Freedom exists when they are able to have free reign, according to their best judgment, within those boundaries that you’ve set forth. You can be confident that your team is producing high quality outputs when they are fully aware of the situation or task, and the role they play in getting there.
Allow Autonomy – you can excel at a number of the above leadership behaviors, but if you over manage people, freedom will never flourish. Setting clear expectations should allow people to run with their job and do it to the best of their ability. By delegating whole pieces instead of simply tasks and activities you are allowing others to learn for themselves. Remember, you aren’t the only one that can accomplish an end result. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
Although this is not an exhaustive list, these tips can put you on a path towards creating a culture of liberty. Freedom comes when you decide to take leadership action and empower your team to do the same. Inspire leadership and freedom in your people, and see Life, Liberty and Happiness thrive within your teams.
Sarah Le Page is an Account and Marketing Manager at Impact Americas.