Saturday, November 22, 2003

Freedom in Limitations

I know it seems self-evident when you look at things with hindsight but part of the job of leadership is to give people boundaries. Boundaries are what creates safety and freedom.

Freedom? I recently talked with a teenage boy about his lifestyle... drugs and such... in a very introspective moment he said "I wish my Mom would give me some rules because without them I'm trapped in this lifestyle." He had hit on something most people don't understand.... freedom isn't the ability to do anything you want... true freedom is based in security... I am free when I know the boundaries within which I can act in safety.

Have you ever worked at a job where you didn't have any real direction? I had positions where I never got feedback, good or bad! I didn't know if I was doing well or not... I thought I was doing what I should but I could never find out what my supervisors thought. In the end I quit in frustration... always feeling like I needed to look over my shoulder. Between the lack of feedback and my own insecurities I created an environment that I couldn't work under.

In the church we must tell people what is expected... how far they can go and how well they are doing. These simple measure will eliminate most conflicts. My last two church related conflicts occurred solely because the parties involved were never told the boundaries. I recently wrote that "knowing the expectations is our key to unity and peace. We owe it to the volunteers to give detailed guidelines... otherwise we owe them carte blanc access to the hearts and minds of the body because we have given away our right to criticize and direct. "

We have a misconception that putting too many rules on people cripples their creativity. In some ways it may but for the most part the narrowed focus will increase their useful creativity and will inspire by virtue of its directed nature. Give people directions... give them vision... give them purpose... and give them scope. When they know what is expected of them there is almost never a place for conflict and resentment to reside. Conflict is caused by inconsistent or unexpected reactions.

Another cause of conflict comes when we are less than honest. In our attempts to be gentle with people we often fail to actually critique them honestly. When someone is performing in a way that is unsatisfactory or worse, counter to the vision, then leadership owes it to all parties to be direct and honest. People hear what they want to hear and if you mask criticism in too much honey the message is lost. The leader believes correction has been given and the receiver believes they received approval and license.

There is safety and freedom in strong leadership that places clear boundaries and provides true critique.