I was 21 years old the first time I handed my passport to an armed guard at a checkpoint and entered what the UN calls an Occupied Territory. It was the summer of ’95 and I was driving into the Gaza Strip.
Over the next few weeks, oppression and I became good friends.
Old Kahlid, after treating me to lunch in his house made from scrap and rubble, showed me the deed for his home in Tel Aviv—a document that meant nothing the day the soldiers came and forced him out. Yet he still clings to it.
8-year-old Mohammed, a bright, young soccer player, reminded me of myself at his age. Except, of course, I had just completed my engineering degree and was 6,000 miles from home while he was prohibited from studying engineering or traveling more than 30 miles from where he was born.
Last week I shared my 3 core values as a leader, the first of which is Freedom. I believe it’s my job to free people & organizations to be their best. My experiences in Gaza kindled my hatred of oppression as well as my passion for helping set others free.
What I’ve learned since then: You don’t have to go to Gaza to find oppressed people. They’re everywhere. Sometimes the oppression is on the surface, other times the shackles are deep inside.
Here are 4 types of freedom you can fight for in those you lead. As you go down the list, the oppression grows stronger, but the potential freedom grows more powerful as well.
1. Physical Freedom. Are your followers free to work where, when and how they want? Do they have a degree of autonomy that corresponds to their abilities and responsibility?
2. Intellectual Freedom. Do your constituents have permission to think outside the conventional way of doing things? Are you encouraging them to stretch themselves mentally?
4. Spiritual Freedom. Do they see and believe the truth about themselves, their leaders, and their organization—or are they bound up by lies? Do they have hope? Can they see a better future?
We were made to be free. And the more you free someone, the more alive they become. Which, by the way, is exactly what our organization needs!
Have you ever been set free by a leader? How do you set your people free?