Each of us views the world through a lens shaped by our own personality and experiences. For leaders, it takes a great deal of awareness and thought not to get caught up in the be like me syndrome. This is especially true when you are a Freedom Fighter, one of seven characters we have been looking at in our series on some of the ways good managers get it wrong.
How do you know if you ‘re someone who has a need for freedom? People in the know are laughing right now, because this need tends to make itself known fairly early in life. For everyone else, here are some telltale signs.
Understanding the Freedom Fighter
Freedom Fighters are entrepreneurs. If they haven’t yet started their own business, they are the ones coming up with all the new ideas and initiatives in their company or department. They chafe at being told what to do unless they have 100% respect for the mastery of the person telling them. They get their work done, but in their own way and on their own time. Punching the clock or being chained to a desk is their idea of hell. They tend to beg for forgiveness after the fact instead of asking for permission in advance. They have good ideas, inspire people, and get things done. They get in trouble for their sense of humor and the occasional inappropriate outburst. They have trouble sitting still.
The Freedom Fighter as Leader
If this is you, you have spent a great deal of your adult life both learning how to self-regulate to fit in and also finding a culture that supports—or at least tolerates—your need for freedom. But when you’re the boss, that need of yours can become a problem if you are oblivious to the fact that most of your employees are nothing like you. Sure, you may have one or two employees who have as a high a need for freedom as you—but the rest will need you to behave in ways that you would never want a boss to behave.
For example, you’ll need to tell people exactly what is needed and how you think it should be done. You’ll need to plan for ample time to check in with people, hear the details of what they are up to, and provide feedback. Now of course, this won’t be true all the time, but—especially on new tasks or goals—you’ll be surprised at how much direction people will want. And even though you will feel like your worst nightmare of a micromanager, you’ll be meeting your people’s needs.
Yes, when you have the freedom you want, you forge ahead, make mistakes, learn fast, and figure it out—but when people who are not like you get too much freedom they may freeze up, do nothing, and end up feeling frustrated and angry.
The role of a leader is to provide direction and support that helps people achieve goals faster and more effectively than they could on their own. As a Freedom Fighter, that may feel alien to you and you will need to stretch into the discomfort of it—but I’ll bet you’re up for the challenge.
About the author
Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Her posts appear every Saturday as a part of a series for well-intentioned managers.
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