Albert Einstein once wrote, "All that is truly great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom." There's just one problem with Einstein's dictum: most people don't labor in freedom each day; they labor in fear. According to a Zogby International/Workplace Democracy Association poll, 1 out of every 4 Americans today feel like they work in a dictatorship. Contrast that with a whopping 80 percent of American workers who feel that if they had more freedom at work they could do a better job.
For the past several years, I have had the good fortune to know Traci Fenton--founder and CEO of WorldBlu. WorldBlu is an organization dedicated to spreading the idea of freedom-centered leadership, and moving from businesses that are fear based to businesses that are freedom centered. In addition, each year WorldBlu publishes its list of Most Democratic Workplaces.
The role of a leader in a freedom-centered workplace is to be a visionary, coach, guide and facilitator of people, ideas, and talent. Freedom-centered leaders must themselves cultivate a mindset of freedom and make sure that their organization's overall environment stays freedom-centered as well. They must be vigilant about daily finding ways to eliminate fear and uncertainty, as best they can, so that employees will feel they can work in freedom, with an expansive sense of possibility, which will ultimately impact the company an the bottom-line.
So how does your company measure up? Here are WorldBlu's 10 Principles of Organizational Democracy:
1. Purpose and Vision
A democratic organization is clear about why it exists (its purpose) and where it is headed and what it hopes to achieve (its vision). These act as its true North, offering guidance and discipline to the organization's direction.
Say goodbye to the "secret society" mentality. Democratic organizations are transparent and open with employees about the financial health, strategy, and agenda of the organization.
3. Dialogue + Listening
Instead of the top-down monologue or dysfunctional silence that characterizes most workplaces, democratic organizations are committed to having conversations that bring out new levels of meaning and connection.
4. Fairness + Dignity
Democratic organizations are committed to fairness and dignity, not treating some people like "somebodies" and other people like "nobodies."
Democratic organizations point fingers, not in a blaming way but in a liberating way. They are crystal clear about who is accountable to whom and for what.
6. Individual + Collective
In democratic organizations, the individual is just as important as the whole, meaning employees are valued for their individual contribution as well as for what they do to help achieve the collective goals of the organization.
Democratic organizations thrive on giving employees meaningful choices.
Integrity is the name of the game, and democratic companies have a lot of it. They understand that freedom takes discipline and also doing what is morally and ethically right.
Democratic organizations make sure power is appropriately shared and distributed among people throughout the organization.
10. Reflection + Evaluation
Democratic organizations are committed to continuous feedback and development and are willing to learn from the past and apply lessons to improve the future.
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