Like you, I’ve worked for a variety of leaders. While every leader has their own unique style, some leaders have a way of cultivating a culture of freedom while others create a culture of fear. I don’t fare well in an environment full of fear. I bet you don’t either!
Leadership is lonely, laden with responsibility and rife with challenges. It takes being secure and confident in who you are to pull off to lead successfully. Frieda, at least that’s what I will call her, was one of those kinds of leaders. In fact, in many ways her leadership played a significant role in my future – a hallmark of great leadership. What I loved about working under her leadership was that she was quick to see my strengths and found new and innovative ways for me to actively apply them. And she gave me ownership and the space to take risks and experiment.
There was an abundance of freedom under Frieda’s leadership.
Year later, I worked under another leader who I will call Frank. He also was quick to tune into my strengths and the strengths of others under his leadership. He was also quick to give away significant levels of responsibility. Unlike Frieda, however, he piled on responsibility after responsibility in a completely unrealistic way, and raised Cain when the results he was hoping for didn’t happen. He rarely listened, just demanded. When dealing with difficult situations, he had a knack for escalating them in ways that made even those with tough skin uncomfortable.
Under Frank’s leadership there was a culture full of fear.
Let me just say, there are no perfect leaders because leaders are human. There are areas to grow and develop even for the best leaders. If you want to increase the productivity and loyalty of your people, doesn’t it make sense to make an effort to grow in the areas that will contribute to creating an environment of freedom? After all, there are very motivating reasons to take stock of the culture you’re cultivating as a leader. Did you know that when you extend freedom to the people under your leadership, they are happier and more productive? It’s true! What people desire most is autonomy according to a recent study!
Autonomy: Freedom from external control or influence; independence.
Autonomy in the workplace: How much freedom employees have to determine how they will get work done and/or when. Many organizations allow their people to set their own schedules.
The more autonomy, the more job satisfaction people experience.
When you work for the “Franks” of the world, an atmosphere of fear is created, keeping people from performing at their best. Sadly many choose to move on in hopes of finding more conducive work environment and turnover is time consuming and expensive.
On the flip side, when you work for the Friedas of the world, in an environment of freedom, you are likely to contribute more both in terms of innovative ideas and productivity. And when your team is being more productive, then the goals of the organization are more likely to be met.
What are some signs that you’ve created a freedom culture rather than a fear culture? You know you’ve been successful when your people…
1. Regularly Contribute Ideas
Yes, being creative, thinking outside the box, and proactively contributing ideas are indicators that you’ve fostered an environment of freedom
2. Willing to Take Risks
Taking risks occurs when there is an environment where it’s OK to make mistakes or experience failures. Sometimes risks pay off in substantial ways. Other times the learning that takes place is substantial. How you respond to mistakes or failures will determine whether or not they feel free enough to more risks that have the potential to lead to fabulous successes.
3. Offer Honest Feedback
When freedom reigns, your people will provide you with valuable feedback, especially if you model giving constructive feedback. Do your people feel like they can share honestly with you without repercussion?
4. Readily Admit Mistakes
When you readily admit your mistakes, it gives your people permission to do the same. How your people handle mistakes will tell you a lot about whether or not you’ve created a “freedom” culture.
5. Open Up to You
Every person on your team has dreams, hopes, fears, and a direction they would like to see their work to take them. When you’ve built trust and created an environment of freedom, your people will be inspired to share their deep desires with you on a professional level and perhaps on a personal level depending on the individual.
6. Take Ownership
Being able to take ownership of a project, specific responsibility, or task is empowering! Knowing you’re there to serve as a sounding board or coach without interfering or micromanaging is motivating. Odds are, your people will go above and beyond when they are able to take ownership. Are they able to make decisions or are there cumbersome processes in place that making it hard to fully take ownership?
7. Require Limited Supervision
People work hard when they are able to pursue work that aligns with their strengths, passions, and values. When people can pursue work that is meaningful to them combined with knowing the critical role they play in the organization increases the chances that they will thrive with little supervision.
Who doesn’t want satisfied, productive people on their team? It’s exciting to think you can have a hand in helping them get more done and enjoy their work more! Do you see signs that suggest your people are experiencing an atmosphere of freedom?
What steps will you take to minimize an atmosphere of fear and actively cultivate freedom just like Frieda was able to do? How have you experienced freedom under a leader?
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