Are you free?

Freedom is important to me. It’s probably more important to me than, say democracy though I once thought that one followed the other. When you travel through the airport of a democratic country you can wonder.

There’s only one political party in China – the other one went to Taiwan and has stayed there ever since. For many years China wasn’t a free place and that was synonymous with not being democratic. Even now if you step over the line, break the rules it’s a pretty big whack that’s coming your way. It’s still not democratic, but I’m not sure that worries too many people there, because they are free.

No need to be foggy. Name the behaviour.

Work often isn’t democratic either. I don’t get to vote on many aspects of life at AUT, but I can have input of course where it’s relevant. But I’m pretty free. While I run a commercial operation there is freedom that accompanies that responsibility and commitment. One thing I’ve noticed in many people who have difficulties with leaders is punishment. Toxic leaders punish those around them. Of course it’s not called that, but it should be. If someone says untrue things to those important to you or subtly removes a right or privilege without proper consultation or reason, that’s called punishment.

Come to think of it the incident I laughed about with a friend the other day and mentioned in my last blog was a post-employment attempt at punishment. I’ve seen more than enough of that to see it for what it is. Some so-called leaders, having failed at re-wiring their team-member to behave as they want them to, resort to punishment to, well punish! I guess that’s all they know about.

Authentic leaders don’t feel the need or want to re-wire their team. In fact such a proposition is oxymoronic to authenticity. Authenticity is allowing strengths to grow, embracing what we all bring to achieve the business or other outcome.

In China yesterday a young man living in New Zealand from China, Xiao Zhen, was found guilty of killing taxi driver and father Hiren Mohini in Auckland. This was a very unusual case as the crime was committed in New Zealand but the trial was in China. China agreed that if he was found guilty Zhen wouldn’t be executed and so New Zealand and China agreed to conduct the trial in Shanghai. China respected that we don’t execute criminals and we respected the Chinese system of justice.

Zhen has begun his punishment, properly deserved and China proved that it might not be democratic but it exhibits characteristics I think are a step in the right direction. If you visit China it hardly feels different than in the west for freedom. Maybe more so in parts.

So how’s all this connected? Leaders want freedom for themselves. There’s a pretty good chance that those around you in your team also want it. Even the government of China has worked that out (and that it can lead to economic prosperity like I’m working at too). If you’re a leader who embraces the freedom for yourself but seeks to rewire and punish those who won’t play, go and read Animal Farm. It’s about you more than say China!

Stephen

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