Leadership lessons: When Freedom isn’t Enough

Abhishek Paul
2 min readJul 27, 2020

A lot has been said about giving employees autonomy, freedom and/or empowering them. But as a company that has been quite high on this right from inception, we at Kissflow realized that freedom was a necessary but not sufficient condition for a great culture. It isn’t enough for a leader/manager to set his people free (so to speak), because that could lead to individuals to drift along and/or not push themselves. We would end up with a good, maybe comfortable culture with nice people but not a great culture that aspires and does great things.

So the word that best captures our approach to people is not “freedom” or “empowerment” but “unleash”. This is freedom on steroids where folks are not just given a play area to experiment, but also a turbo powered diesel truck and fireworks to literally have a blast! Sounds scary, crazy?? Great — that’s exactly the kind of people we want to be working with. Discovering and getting the best out of such outrageously talented people is the primary responsibility of a leader at Kissflow.

To build a culture like this requires a leader to balance multiple forces:

a) Pushing the individual to take on challenges that are bigger than he thinks possible, earlier than he thinks is prudent. You are a catalyst, you jumpstart their potential not manage it.

b) Have the mindset/approach of a coach than a buddy/father figure. This means you push for success through failure rather than protect them from failure or set them up for success initially. You pick them up when they fall but don’t catch them as they fall. You know he might scrape his knee but will not die.

c) Inspire them through explicit confidence in them while guiding them through required expertise. It is not enough to make them feel good, clarity/course correction needs to be provided when needed. You are not a motivational guru but a go to expert in the domain first.

Note: This is a series that brings out the evolving clarity that we at Kissflow are gaining on what it truly means to develop people (individuals, manager and leaders). A lot of it has come through conversations with Suresh Sambandam and might be of value to you as well. Do share your inputs in the comments if you think you can help us on this journey.

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