I have written about freedom before, but, as Rousseau said, man is born free and everywhere is in chains. It is a topic that bears repeated discussion.
In business and in life, too many people want to think that they own other people. Other ‘resources’ or whatever they may call these people. These owners might be managers, generals, admirals, spouses or brothers.
The more correct attitude should be as a manager or as a person: “Thank you for graciously allowing me to work (or live) with you.”
No one owes us anything.
Yes, I know it is hard to accept, but there is no amount of anything that we ‘gave’ them that makes them our slave.
Not an employee, not a spouse, not a friend, not a child, not anyone. They always have the choice to work (or live) with us or not. We never, in any way, own or command them.
Yes, perhaps in wartime, it may be useful for the commander-in-chief to command from time to time, but always, according to good military ideas, it is setting a mission rather than commanding a specific action. Cf. Maneuver Warfare in Wikipedia, as one example. Thus, even in this situation, there is much scope for freedom. Few are the successful generals who lead troops that do not choose (freely) to accomplish the mission.
Least of all should we contravene their freedom for their own benefit — for our view of the ‘benefit’ for these employees (except perhaps for children who are 17 or younger).
We have to respect that God, in his infinite wisdom, has given them their freedom (and given us our freedom). Allow them to make mistakes (and us to make our mistakes). We have no right to control what God has made free.
Now, this does not mean we can not give our friends advice or our employees (or others) advice, but real soon, if they don’t take the advice, we have to let them be free. Leave them alone, as we say.
“People are remarkably good at doing what they want to do.” —Little’s Second Law
Meaning: They will do what they want, and they won’t do what they do not want to do (what we wish to ‘force’ them to do).
It may seem like a traffic wreck to us, sometimes, but let them do it. Often we (who think we are so smart) are wrong. It does not become a traffic wreck at all. Sometimes we are right, that it does become a traffic wreck of some proportion. Even that actually ends up good — they learn from that. Far better learning than what would have come from our so-called brilliant advice.
So, if your team trusts you, from your actions in removing their impediments perhaps, trusts that you actually care, then, surprisingly, they may actually listen to your advice more. Accept, as a manager, that it MUST be only advice, and not a command.
Sorry! It seems so much harder than just commanding.
In fact, it is so much better. (So, the ‘sorry’ is retracted.) Even for you as a manager.
Many are the men who bob their heads, saying by that action that they believe in freedom, perhaps even that their lives are dedicated to freedom, and then in the next hour they try to abridge the freedom of another. “As you from sins would pardoned be, let your indulgence set me free.” I, too, of course have made this error; and so I can forgive.
P.S. Not only is freedom still to be learned by those who wish to command. Equally we who continue to be commanded must learn that we really are free, and we cannot put up with abridgments of our freedom. This is the path that humanity has been on for only a millennium or perhaps two, so we still have far to go.
P.S.S. As soon as we talk about freedom, we must immediately speak of responsibility. It seems paradoxical, but it is not. On that topic next.