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  • Nadia

Liberty versus fraternity in leadership

Updated: Feb 6, 2020

I just love Vicktor E. Frankl’s quote «I recommend that the Statue of Liberty be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast ». For me it summarizes nicely the idea that if we are to live in balance, we cannot have one without the other. In the sphere of self-leadership, I believe this is key.

Having fought for our freedoms over the space of centuries, most of us perhaps quite rightly are not willing to give them up, nor to envisage the possibility that we auto-limit these liberties in future. Having said that, if I had to choose between liberty and fraternity, I would undoubtedly always veer towards fraternity. Human beings have an essential need to belong.

As individuals we sometimes appear to be so caught up in defending our own rights, ensuring our own voices are heard and all the associated fears of losing either of these liberties, that we sometimes fail to see how little they really matter if we are no better off collectively. What if there was noone to share those freedoms with ?

In his book about Deepening Community, Paul Born states that fear-based communities give rise to beliefs such as « we are stronger when they are weaker » or that in some way we « believe ‘we’ have a greater right to life (happiness) than ‘they’ do ». Substitute happiness for resources, decision-making or freedoms and the same applies. When we fail to see the impact of our actions on others and ignore our interdependencies, then we miss the opportunity to build deeper communities which foster a sense of belonging. A strong community can be seen as a parallel to a more caring and inclusive corporate leadership culture, the benefit of which is the ability to federate teams and develop resilience.

Denying an individual the possibility to feel like a respected and accepted part of a collective will essentially put him/her into an unconscious pattern of attempting to satisfy this deep need to belong in alternative ways. In traditional non-inclusive corporate structures, people can spend a huge amount of their time absorbed in such unconscious activities, wasting amazing quantities of time and energy.

But are we sure we’re ready for both sides of the equation, Liberty and Fraternity ? With fraternity comes responsibility as Vicktor Franckl very cleverly reminds us. And responsibility isn’t easy. It’s fairly natural for most leaders to take on yet another responsibility of ‘doing’ or ‘deciding’ something. Traditional leadership practices put us just where we like to be, ‘in charge’. But how do we measure up when it comes to responsibility for our reactions ? For the outcomes in our lives ? For our health ? For our beliefs ? Too often these are areas where we can sometimes feel that its out of our sphere of control, where we aren’t always willing to go the extra mile to understand how we created our current reality, or to look honestly at how the resulting outcomes impact others. If we don’t do that then essentially we don’t retain our power to create a better reality for ourselves and perhaps also one that makes other’s lives easier too. The notion of responsibility in self-leadership needs us to do this.

An inclusive leadership model, underpinned by practices such as non-violent communication (NVC), support and indeed celebrate, the inherent interdependence that exists between us. NVC encourages us to look to the needs of both (or multiple) sides of any discussion to find outcomes that are appropriate to all parties. Simply taking the time to reach out to try to understand each other’s stories helps us to build better solutions together.

The future of leadership requires both liberty, in the sense of allowing for the expression of autonomy, authenticity and diversity; and fraternity, in terms of ensuring that each member of the team feels they belong, can contribute and can count on the engagement of others to navigate interdependencies and difficult external times.

An inclusive leadership model, underpinned by practices such as non-violent communication (NVC), support and indeed celebrate, the inherent interdependence that exists between us.

Non-violent communication is a method developed by Marshall B. Rosenberg in the 1960’s to share the possibility that we can operate more authentically by recognising our own needs and those of others during our everyday interactons. For more information :

Deepening Community : Finding Joy Together in Chaotic Times, Paul Born, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc 2014.

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