Leadership Freedom

Gerwig 2014-07-02

In a few days, the 4th of July will be celebrated in the United States. As you most likely know, the 4th of July (1776) is the date when we declared our independence using a document called, appropriately, the Declaration of Independence. From what or whom did we declare our independence? The rule of Great Britain.

Many nations around the world have a similar date, a date that signifies independence from another nation (often a colonial power, like Great Britain or Spain, but not always). In the US, we celebrate this national holiday with things like fireworks, cookouts (hotdogs and hamburgers), watermelon, baseball games, car races, parades, and family gatherings. Many homes and towns prominently display the American flag during the weeks leading up to the 4th of July. We have two at our house sticking out of flower pots on the front porch. July 4th is one of my favorite holidays. For me, it ranks up there with Christmas and Thanksgiving, not because of any spiritual significance, but because it symbolizes, for me, family and freedom.

If you’ve been fortunate, like me, to be born into freedom, you may take it for granted. Please don’t. It’s a true privilege. As a US citizen, I enjoy many freedoms. Freedom of speech and freedom of travel just to name a couple. I don’t have to ask someone permission to travel abroad. If I’m a citizen in good standing, I simply get a passport and go (assuming I have the funds to buy a ticket). Did you know it’s not this simple in many parts of the world? Regardless of the freedoms you have, recognize and appreciate them.

What about other freedoms? Freedom to worship? Freedom to marry whom you want? Freedom to pick up and move to another part of the country. I can go to the store and choose what groceries to buy. I can choose which church I attend to worship. I can choose what town to live in. What books I read. Etc. Etc. Etc. I could go on and on about the benefits and value of freedoms. Can’t you?

Anyone who knows me will quickly tell you that I love freedom. I love independence. I love choices, options. But, yes, there are times when there are positive benefits of limiting freedom. For example, a seatbelt is a physical restraint system that limits freedom but can, and does, save lives. Rules limit our freedom but are often beneficial. For example, I’m glad there is an age requirement on getting a driver’s license and driving in the US. I don’t want to be on the road with a bunch of 8 year olds. Do you?

I’m also glad there are constraints that limit personal freedom at times. For example, I believe spending limits on credit cards are generally a good thing and help people (without discipline) control their spending. I’m glad the US government has checks and balances that keep the 3 branches (executive, legislative, and judicial) in control. Aren’t you?

So while I’m generally a VERY strong believe in personal, corporate, and national freedom, I believe some limitations, some rules/laws, and some constraints are beneficial. In fact, limiting one freedom often protects another. A local noise restraint limits one’s freedom to make too much noise while, at the same time, protecting the freedom another has to enjoy peace and quiet.

While this is not a long treatise on freedom, a few things came to mind this week leading up to the 4th of July that I want to share:

  1. There are different arenas of freedom: Personal, corporate, national, etc.
  2. Leaders and people in power have the ability to limit or protect, via laws, the freedom of others. If you’re in such a position, don’t abuse this power. Wield it carefully.
  3. In addition to the different arenas of freedom, there are different types of freedom: Physical, spiritual, and emotional. You can be free in one area but a “slave” in another.

While there are positive reasons to restrain freedom (e.g. seat belts), there are negative consequences to restraints as well. You can find yourself a slave to an idea, a thing or to another (a type of dysfunctional emotional bondage). And the sad thing is that many times, we’re to blame. We limit ourselves because we’re afraid. We’re afraid of a person, an ideology, or personal ridicule. We limit our own freedom and put ourselves under bondage to another (whether person on object). Have you ever done this?

As the 4th of July comes upon us, regardless of your nationality, use it as inspiration to set yourself free from negative restraints. Don’t allow yourself to stay in emotional bondage to another. Get help if needed. Want to be truly free? Jesus said He can set you free. Don’t limit yourself because of fear. Believe in yourself. Develop confidence. Seek others who will encourage you.

I recognize that some freedoms are difficult to achieve. If you live in a country that restricts your freedoms, there’s nothing this article can do to change those laws. But you still have freedoms. For example, only you can choose what you think about and what will shape your thoughts. No one can take or restrict those without your permission.

Finally, if you’re in a leadership position in the corporate world, at home, in church, or in the government, think carefully before implementing or changing policy that limits freedoms. Weigh out the positive and negative consequences.

And for all of us, let’s celebrate the freedoms we enjoy today, whether physical, emotional, spiritual or all the above.

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.


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