Freedom and Authority in a Democratic Team

Diverse colleagues have fun talking at educational business training

Freedom and Authority in a Democratic Team

Having just celebrated Independence Day, a time when we reflect on the values of freedom and democracy, it’s worth considering how these principles apply to our workplaces. In a world where the pace of business keeps accelerating, balancing freedom and authority within a team is more important than ever. Just as our forefathers envisioned a system where freedom and authority coexist, businesses must navigate this dynamic to both ensure productivity and order, and also the rights and happiness of their people.

Since the time of the ancient Greeks, thinkers have pondered the relationship between freedom and authority. Authority is an invasion of freedom and freedom is an erosion of authority. In modern business, we often see the pendulum swing back and forth between the two. But neither is a solution on its own. We need to maximize the upside and minimize the downside of each.

  • When employees have the freedom to do their work without someone looking over their shoulder, it increases trust and fosters autonomy.
  • When leaders use their authority to define outcomes and boundaries, the team can align around a clear direction and move quickly into action.
  • When employees have the freedom to provide input on projects and utilize their strengths, it increases motivation and productivity.
  • When leaders use their authority to resolve conflicts and solve problems, it ensures quick resolutions and continued progress for the team.

But when there’s too much freedom, everyone does what they want, no one is in charge, and energy is undirected. When there’s too much authority, creativity is stifled, people become demotivated, and business growth can stall.

Freedom and authority can co-exist in a democratic team just as they do in a political system. It’s up to you to decide how you’ll manage them in your vision of a perfect union.