Freedom, Leadership, Responsibility & Humanism

Why is leading people so darned hard? Freedom.

There is a joke in Humanist communities. Leading Humanists is like herding cats.  They all have their own ideas.  The hallmark of a good leader is that they can herd cats.

One of the ways you do this is by feeding them. The same is true of humans. If we are hungry, we will pretty much do anything for the person who offers us food (or money so that we can buy food).

But what has this got to do with freedom?  

Everyone you meet has autonomy, meaning, they are free to choose their actions, for the most part. There are limitations on individual autonomy (freedom) having to do with brain chemistry and conditioning, but it’s pretty clear that free will is something most of us experience.

For leaders, this means recognizing that the individuals on your team, or those you want to recruit to your team have a choice.  They don’t have to do what you say. You can entice them with benefits (money, food and so on). But enticements will only get you so far, especially if other leaders are also enticing those same individuals with benefits. With competition, comes choice.

Why promote responsibility? 

Freedom is related to responsibility. Sure, you are free to act however you want, but your actions have consequences. Most of us understand this instinctively. Responsibility is more than just understanding and accepting consequences.  It’s a choice.

People who chose to be responsible do so because they understand that freedom is bought with responsibility. To gain control over your life, you have to choose your behaviors to maximize the good and minimize the harm.

People also choose to be responsible because it feels good. To be responsible is to respect other people and the impact you have on them. Being responsible helps us feel connected to other people precisely because it causes us to accept their existence as real.

Great Leaders and Freedom

Great leaders are the ones who don’t just simply entice their team, they engage them.  What purpose the engagement takes determines how engaged the team is.  It’s about motivation. And freedom is one heck of a motivator.

To be free, one must not only have autonomy, they must not be restrained.  If you don’t have food to eat, you aren’t free. If you don’t have transportation, you aren’t really free.  Freedom isn’t just about whether there are laws restricting you. It is also about whether the conditions of your existence restrict you.

Why Humanism? 

This is why Humanistic management and leadership is so important as we as a society try to move forward. Humanistic responsibility focuses our efforts on others and on ourselves. If we can create the conditions where the basic standard of living for everyone is good enough that no one is restrained by extreme privation, we are creating the conditions in which we ourselves can thrive.

When a leader engages people in a task this important, they can motivate their team to work together to do great things. Our why is freedom. Our how is responsibility.

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