Are You a Freedom-Centered Leader?

Are you a freedom-centered leader or a fear-based leader – or maybe somewhere in between?

For almost two decades I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most freedom-centered leaders in the world. Companies such as Zappos, Menlo Innovations, DaVita, WD-40, Propellernet, NixonMcInnes, Mindvalley and many others are all are led by extraordinary, freedom-centered leaders who I’ve come to know and learn from over the years.

The challenge for many organizations around the world, however, is that most leadership today is still based on power, fear, control, greed, and a winner-takes-all mentality. Increasingly, this style of leadership, largely prevalent in the Industrial Age, is no longer a strategy for success in today’s Democratic Age. What’s needed instead is a totally different model of leadership – freedom-centered leadership.

The path to leading others from a mind-set of freedom rather than manipulating people into action through fear and control isn’t always easy – or natural. And if you’re like me, I usually move in between the two – freedom and fear — multiple times on any given day! The question, “Am I being a freedom-centered or fear-based leader?” has inspired tremendous growth and introspection in me over the years.

Unfortunately, most of the time fear tries to rue the day – if only to a subtle degree. More than likely our role models throughout life have been fear-based parents, teachers and managers who have negatively influenced the way we now lead.

While some people believe a fear-based leadership style can be a great way to motivate others (and let’s face it, many people revel in feeling like their colleagues or subordinates are just a little bit afraid of them), according to the Academy of Management Review, fear — and the silence that results when employees operate within a fear-based culture — is the biggest roadblock to innovation, engagement and growth.

Changing our workplaces starts with changing ourselves, so what exactly does it take to be a freedom-centered leader?

According to the research we’ve done at WorldBlu, there are three things all freedom-centered leaders do well:

  1. They have high self-worth. This means that the leader truly embraces who they are – foibles and all. It doesn’t mean they’re arrogant or egotistical. On the contrary, they humbly value themselves and what they have to bring the world and therefore are more likely to value others’ contribution, perspective and insights as well.
  2. They have a high degree of self-knowledge. Freedom-centered leaders know who they are. They understand their strengths and weakness. They know what their purpose is in life and they live it each day. They know what their talents and unique contributions are to the world and they cultivate this understanding within themselves over the course of a lifetime.
  3. They are able to self-govern. A freedom-centered leader doesn’t need someone to tell them what to do because they can discover it for themselves. They are self-growers, which means they have the reasoning and critical thinking skills to know what questions to ask themselves to discover the answers they need to keep progressing forward.

These three areas – self-worth, self-knowledge and self-governance, lay the foundation for becoming a true freedom-centered leader. And anyone – regardless of title or position – can become a freedom-centered leader because freedom-centered leadership starts with being able to lead yourself.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com and a client of ours had this to say about freedom-centered leadership:

Freedom-centered leadership drives the distribution of power, encourages innovation, and helps attract the best talent. It is important that any employee, from our call center to executive team, have the ability to make changes that impact how the organization operates, develops, and grows. Our call center employees are not required to read from scripts because we want to empower them to service our customer in the best way they can – in a way that is suited for that customer. We want to see employees at all levels make decisions without having to get a manager or supervisor involved. Running the organization with a lot of freedom offers our employees the time to collaborate and get work done but have fun doing it.

So how can we all become better freedom-centered leaders?

This was the question we asked at WorldBlu and as a result we developed a timely leadership program based on extensive research and real-world experience.

It’s a program that pairs experiential learning with gamification principles (this means it works like a game where you earn digital badges and “level up” along the way) to cultivate the mind-set, skills and attributes needed to develop world-class, freedom-centered leaders and CEOs.

The content for the program is based on decades of research and work with freedom-centered leaders worldwide.

We call our leadership program the WorldBlu Freedom-Centered Leader™ and the Freedom-Centered CEO™ program and it’s available to anyone committed to making a difference in the world by embarking on a meaningful and transformational leadership journey.

We’ve culled through the best case studies, books, videos and activities and combined them into an experience that will spark introspection and invite you out of your comfort zone and into new ways of thinking and being in the world.

The entire program takes place online, maximizing peer-to-peer learning and connecting you with a global community.

We’re currently accepting applications for the program now. Space is limited and the early-admissions deadline is 31 October 2013. Learn more here and feel free to reach out to us – we’d love to have a conversation with you about it.

Fear-based leadership isn’t the path to a successful or happy life – freedom-centered leadership is.

Traci Fenton is the founder and CEO of WorldBlu, a global learning and development company committed to unleashing freedom-centered leadership in individuals and organizations worldwide. She has appeared in The Financial Times, BBC, Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes and Fast Company and dozens more media outlets and has addressed individuals from over 100 counties worldwide.

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