How Do You Define Freedom?

How Do You Define Freedom?

When you hear or read the word “freedom,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? In the US, the 4th of July marks the anniversary of thirteen colonies declaring independence from Britain. They gained their freedom from British rule and government. In contrast, Canada Day, celebrated on the 1st of July, marks the anniversary of four separate colonies uniting into a single dominion with the British Empire. They gained their freedom to. Both holidays celebrate freedom, but from very different perspectives. One is freedom from, and the other, freedom to. But is it really a matter of perspective? The words freedom, free will, and liberty are frequently used interchangeably. However, according to Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Ph.D, author of Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT, 2006), there is significant difference: Liberty is linked to human subjectivity; people have (or have not) liberty. Free will is the quality of being free from control. Freedom can exist within a state of liberty: a person can be liberated but not experience freedom. Just as control differs from discipline, freedom differs from liberty. And then there is the matter of negative liberty (or negative rights) and positive liberty (or positive rights.) In Two Concepts of Liberty, Isaiah Berlin wrote that “I am slave to no man,” as an example of negative liberty, and “I am my own master,” as an example of positive liberty.   How do you experience freedom and liberty? Are you your own master? Defining Freedom Consider how you may have defined freedom pre-pandemic. Was it a feeling? Was it an...
Make Way for Happiness

Make Way for Happiness

As we move into the pandemic recovery process, how do you make way for happiness? Let me ask: do you find yourself less happy than you anticipated? An answer of “yes” to the latter question is not uncommon. What we think will make us happy is often off-base. It might sound like: I’ll be so happy when businesses re-open to full capacity. I’ll be so happy when we get a vaccine. I’ll be so happy when we can return to “normal.” While these things are wonderful, and for many, a great relief, we commonly overestimate the impact they have on our happiness. If you were somehow spared a personal loss or trauma during the pandemic, you are still part of the collective trauma. A perpetual fight or flight mode has an impact on our emotional, mental, and physical being. As a result, happiness can elude us. Stressors, Stress, and Happiness Consider how we respond to stressors. Our brains function to protect and serve: our primitive brain reacts to protect us from real or perceived threats and our modern brain serves in conscious thought and logic. For example, the danger of contracting a potentially deadly virus triggers our fear. When we sense a threat (real or perceived), our brain reacts in hyper-drive, bypassing information processing sequences. Typically, the modern brain engages a moment later to gather more information, analyze the threat, and modulate our behavior. However, when our primitive brain remains engaged too frequently, or strongly, survival-based emotions become the norm. This lives little room for happiness. The factors that influence our happiness are easily misunderstood. Eliminating or changing stressors...
Leadership, Trauma, and Recovery

Leadership, Trauma, and Recovery

The way we live and work has changed dramatically the past year, upending our routines, our identities, and for many, our sense of security. The trauma of job insecurity, health insecurity, major intergenerational loss, and culture assaults leave us reeling and impact our productivity. Leaders are concerned about their employee’s well-being and safety. Traditionally, when employees share or demonstrate a need for assistance, we rely on our human resources department (or representative) to step in. However, leaders and managers who are able to work with HR and their employees through trauma recovery are of greater help to those they lead —and their entire organization. The Catalyst for Change It’s no wonder that reports of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are on the rise. Experiencing violence (as a victim or witness), a serious illness, or the death of a loved one can trigger post-traumatic stress. Unfortunately, fear, misunderstanding, and lack of trust prevent many employees from seeking assistance or even reporting events. Trauma can impact anyone. Great leaders recognize this. They understand that how we manage trauma can define our life. The best leaders share openly about their own struggles, how they manage uncertainty, and are able to engage others to share their story. Why? Individual wellbeing matters in every organization, small or large. When leaders and managers are equipped to treat everyone with care and compassion, everyone benefits. In Posttraumatic Growth: Theory, Research, and Applications, (Routledge, 2018), authors Richard G. Tedeschi, Jane Shakespeare-Finch, Kanako Taku, and Lawrence G. Calhoun share their research on trauma and how leaders can help traumatized people recover. According to Tedeschi, “…despite the misery...
Inspirational Leadership

Inspirational Leadership

What does inspirational leadership look like in your organization? Let me ask: what impact do inspiring leaders have on performance, both organizationally, and at an individual level? Consider this: while an employee’s mindset is important to their overall performance, without support from their leadership, even the most committed and motivated employee may not reach their potential. This became very clear during the pandemic, as studies now find. When uncertainty and anxiety are high, employees must have clear expectations and emotional support. Unfortunately, some leaders have risen to the top through marketing or hype. They sway others to do as they ask (or command) with a lack of genuine concern for their well-being. As a result, there is a large degree of distrust and reluctance. Conversely, inspiring leaders take action because of their care and concern for others. You see, inspirational leadership is not about being in charge, it’s about taking care of those in our charge. While rank or title may indicate leadership authority, they are not indicators of leadership ability. Inspirational Leadership Can Be Developed Inspiring leaders are often described by their innate traits, strengths, or title. Fundamentally, inspirational leadership is the ability to positively influence and/or motivate others. In today’s world, inspirational leadership is about connection: connecting with those you lead in ways that are meaningful to them. You see, the relationships you create determine your abilities as an influencer. If you build trust and practice empathy in your relationships, you’ll create higher-quality connections. This may sound simple, but it poses certain challenges that require nuance and practice. Fortunately, we can develop inspirational leadership. At the core...
Your Heroic Journey

Your Heroic Journey

Where are you in your heroic journey? This is not a rhetorical question. Nor should it be answered flippantly. Certainly, it has taken many years (and experiences) to become who you are today. And it hasn’t been easy. However, out of our setbacks, and even failures, we have been afforded the opportunity to develop our grit: by encountering difficulty and learning to cope with it. This has made us stronger and more masterful. If you take the time to think about it, your journey as a hero began with a call that you just couldn’t ignore. This calling required that you put aside outmoded ways of being. It required facing unknown challenges. To move forward into the unknown the hero questions everything, including self. You see, at the core of your heroic journey is your acceptance of your true self: through self-assessment, reflection, and often times painful exploration of insufficiencies. This requires brutal honesty. If you think you haven’t begun your journey, know that denial can only last so long. Going back is not an option. Stagnation leads to decay, and eventually death. Instead, you can take a step forward. The Heroic Journey Guidebook The heroic journey doesn’t have a final destination, per se. It does, however, require careful attention, focus, and even vigilance to assess where you are and how to become your best self. Consider Doug Conant. He turned around the once struggling Campbell Soup Company, and went on to successfully lead Nabisco Foods. What is really remarkable is how he overcame being fired without warning, and considers this to be “the best thing that ever happened...