Freedom is the highest form of responsibility

Freedom (I won’t let you down)
Freedom (I will not give you up)
Freedom (Gotta have some faith in the sound)
You’ve got to give what you take (It’s the one good thing that I’ve got)
Freedom (I won’t let you down)
Freedom (So please don’t give me up)
Freedom (‘Cause I would really)
You’ve got to give what you take (really love to stick around) – Freedom!’90 by George Michael

The above lyrics came to my mind when last week at a conference I heard someone say – ‘ freedom is the highest form of responsibility.’ It got me thinking. How many of us view freedom at work as a sign of being responsible and giving our best?

Empowerment. Autonomy. Freedom. These three words are interchangeable. The more empowered you are, the more responsible you will be.

When you own the project, you also own the end result. As a true professional it means doing your best. That is because you are in the end accountable for your idea and its execution. You are answerable for the success as well as the not so successful outcome of your idea.

Freedom and responsibility

Freedom means to be fully responsible for your actions and the consequences of those actions. According to Sigmund Freud, “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”

Herein lies the whole paradox! People crave freedom. But not everyone wants to take the responsibility! Responsibility is the price one pays for freedom. Does more freedom mean more fulfilment? May not be true for those who view responsibility as a burden and are always ready to pass on the buck!

Can we view freedom as a powerful tool to unleash the potential of employees? Can providing autonomy and freedom to employees result in innovative ideas?

Real work situations hardly function like that. One of the most common complaint heard is that there is no clear job description of roles. When the role itself is blurred, how can freedom at work be part of it? The other harsh reality is that organisations consist of different kinds of people. Amidst the responsible employees are also those who find it safer to play a limited role and then absolve themselves from the outcome of the work. These are certainly not top performers. But all teams have a mix of people, each with their own pace and ways of doing things. The task is to get going with everyone in it.

According to Laura Morgan Roberts, a Frank M. Sands Sr. Associate Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, organisations need to ensure that employees experience four kinds of freedom at work. They are: the freedom to be, the freedom to become, the freedom to fade, and the freedom to fail.

The freedom to be – creating conditions that allows employees to feel safe and open up

The freedom to become – providing opportunities to explore your full potential

The freedom to fade – having flexible policies that helps employees take breaks

The freedom to fail – allowing employees to make mistakes and celebrating failures

A workforce that has the freedom to thrive and grow will always act responsibly and be accountable for its actions. A satisfying work life is one wherein you have the freedom to choose your responsibilities.

Ask yourself where you stand in your relationship with freedom and responsibility. What can you do to enhance your productivity and unleash your potential?

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

Be the first to comment on "Freedom is the highest form of responsibility"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.