Are You Leading with “Freedom From” or “Freedom To?”

Susan S Freeman Blog

This week’s Step Up Leader Tips is inspired by Leading Blog, as I often hear from clients “How things will be better or different when I am free from….”. The problem with that approach is that although we think we would be better off if our obstacles were removed, the evidence suggests the contrary.

FREDPMTOCHANGEMichael Fullan writes in Freedom to Change that “Freedom From” does not consider the changes that liberation from obstacles requires for success. For instance what do I do with my new found freedoms?

When thinking about change we should look at “freedom to” solutions. Both approaches lead to freedom, but “freedom from” is a negative freedom and can lead to new problems. It’s like replacing a negative with nothing. “Freedom to” is a positive freedom. The question is “How to create freedom to?” The answer lies in our connection with others.

Creating Freedom

Here are four factors he suggests to help maximize integration within a team or group:

[well type=””]Autonomy and Cooperation: “Being our own person and being connected,” says Fullan, “is the core tension and challenge of living meaningfully.” We need both autonomy and cooperation. It’s not a choice. Organizations can give more autonomy in exchange for commitments to cooperate.

Feedback: Between acceptance of others and learning choose learning. “Within strong collaborative cultures, an enormous amount of feedback occurs naturally through daily focused interactions.” Feedback can be a powerful tool for positive “freedom to” change if seen properly. Fullan advises to be a learner under all circumstances.

[notification type=”alert-info” close=”false” class=”half-width float-right”]In the “freedom to” world you need to connect with others, especially peers.[/notification]

Accountability: External accountability schemes do not work because they tell us that the system is not performing, but not how to fix the situation. Dislodging top-down accountability is extremely difficult but by building widespread internal accountability, it actually furthers the organizational goals. “The more internal accountability thrives, the greater the responsiveness to external requirements, and the less the external body has to do—there’s less need to resort to carrots and sticks to incite the system to act responsibly.” In the “freedom to” world you need to connect with others—especially peers. “It is in your own self-interest to promote a greater accountability with those around you.”

Diffusion (by interacting more widely): Lead from the middle. “Work with peers to strengthen the middle, get more done, and become better partners upwards and downwards.” Loosen up hierarchical structure so that they are more amenable to individual and small-group initiative.[/well]

In the work I do with leaders and teams, I’ve observed the importance of the following to creating high-performing teams; strategy is foundational, without that the teams flounder without direction and purpose. Once that is established, leaders need to facilitate a caring connection. As teams foster team play, learning through conversation with one another, they develop and honor commitments with one another. “Freedom to” creates engagement, collaboration and trust.

I invite you to post your comments here. For more information on how you can become a “freedom to” kind of team, I invite you to apply for a Leadership Effectiveness Breakthrough Session.

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