In my mind two of the most fundamental attributes of a culture of freedom are permission and feedback.
In a command and control culture people spend a lot of time and energy looking for permission and a lot of momentum is lost as people continually look over their shoulder for reassurance that they are not contravening any cultural conventions. Individuals are rewarded for conforming not performing. In this culture leadership succession is characterised by leaders as law makers and followers as rule keepers with today’s best rule keepers becoming tomorrow’s law makers.
In a culture of freedom much less time and energy is expended looking for permission. It’s something of a cliche but in a culture of freedom people ask forgiveness not permission. That’s because in a culture of freedom permission is implicit. People don’t look over their shoulder because they’re not afraid of making a mistake and they know even if they do, experience tells them mistakes are treated as opportunities to learn not punish. In a culture of freedom people are rewarded for trying not complying. In this culture leadership succession is characterised by leaders as coaches and followers as learners with today’s best learners becoming tomorrow’s coaches.
So in a culture of freedom permission is granted to everyone to turn up, to be loved, free and powerful, to be who they are in glorious technicolor. You might imagine this could have interesting results and you’d probably be right which is where the other side of this post comes in – feedback!
I believe that one of the signs of life and one of the key attributes of a culture of freedom is feedback – the ability to give and receive feedback – to catch people doing really good things and encourage them and to be honest and constructively critical when they’re not. In recent years there has been much talk about a culture of honour. To me a culture of honour is as much as anything else a culture of “honour-sty”.
I’ll sign off by encouraging you not to look for permission to be who you are but at the same time look for and invite feedback it’s a key to personal growth and cultural transformation. It takes courage to give and receive feedback. It’s also best given by people who love and best received by those who know they are loved.