As a Leader, Are You Free?
By: Randy Wolken, President & CEO

We often have an odd definition of freedom.  We like to think freedom is the ability to do what we want, when we want.  Is that the kind of freedom that best serves a leader?  I don’t think so.  The longer I am a leader the more I believe that the best freedom for leaders is to be free from their need to serve themselves.  Unless your first question is something other than “What do I want?” or “What do I prefer?” or “What pleases me?” we are not really truly free as a leader. In the great scheme of things, it really does not matter what I want. We are not free at all until we are free from ourselves. It is that simple – and that hard.

Leaders are consistently confronted with decisions that require them to make choices – often times between multiple good opportunities and not-so-good opportunities.  In doing so, it is important that they go beyond their personal agenda.  Can we, as leaders, get past our own needs?

As we know, as leaders, our decisions and actions are scrutinized.  We know that if these decisions are primarily about us – and not our organization’s mission and the people who work with us – they will be either resisted or not taken very seriously.  Our “why” is critical.  If our “why” is “us as leaders,” we will more likely come up short.

As a leader, we need to ensure that our actions and decisions are not primarily about us, but are decided based on the freedom to do what is best for others.  Then, as a leader, we are truly free to make the best decisions – and for our teams to perceive them that way.

It is tough to be a leader today.  In our social media conscious environment, we can be criticized or called out whenever others disagree with us.  This makes it even more necessary to act on behalf of our teams and organizations. Doing so can make us truly free as a leader.

Soon we will celebrate a remarkable event – Independence Day.  On July 4th, 1776, our nation’s leaders declared the nation free from Great Britain – the most powerful country in the world at the time.  To do so, they needed to put the nation’s needs ahead of their own. As Ben Franklin, a great leader, remarked at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “we must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”  Putting the interest of others ahead of your own is what leadership is about.  They needed to in order to create this great nation.

So, are you free from yourself and needing to serve yourself?  Can you serve a greater cause? If not, how might you take the steps necessary to put the other stakeholders’ needs ahead of your own needs?  Something to ponder on this weekend before our nation celebrates its Independence Day!