Part of building a true, healthy perspective is recognizing what you have the freedom to control and what is out of your control. There are many things that we will try to control. But, in fact, there are only three things that we can control: 

  1. Our actions and choices
  2. Our attitude and perspective
  3. Whom we trust 

It’s relatively easy to cognitively affirm this truth. But it’s much more difficult to live it out, especially when we are tempted to revert back to our own controlling ways. This month, we are going to explore practical ways that you can apply the perspective of the three things you can control to different mental models and servant leadership tools, starting with the Freedom V. 

The Freedom V

The Freedom V is a mental model that helps us envision our boundaries and know how to live within the expectations set for us. 

The hard external lines of the V are boundaries. These can be anything from the laws of nature, to the laws of the government, to rules and restrictions set by your organization or leader. Consequences lie outside of the bounds of the V, and peaceful living happens when you stay inside the boundaries. 

The goal is for you to be able to set your own boundaries within those external lines to govern yourself without needing additional supervision to stay in line. You start the bottom of the Freedom V where you have tight external boundaries and little room for freedom. This is where children live as well as employees who might be new to a job or have abused their freedom in the past. As you prove yourself capable of staying inside the boundaries, you will be moved up the V and given more freedom. There you will also have more opportunity for self governance. 

Let’s now look at the Freedom V through the lens of each of the three things we can control: 

Our Actions and Choices

You cannot control the boundaries that are externally imposed on you, but you can control your actions and choices within those boundaries. You can even choose to act in a way that goes outside of the boundaries and into the land of consequence. 

Likewise, as a leader, if you are giving someone else the structure of the Freedom V, it is important to remember that you cannot control how they act within the given structure. All you can do is provide the expectations. 

However, if the expectations are not met, remember the SLY acronym before you determine an appropriate consequence: Structure, Leadership, You. 85% of the time someone fails to meet expectations, the issue has to do with Structure. 10% of the time the issue lies with Leadership. Only 5% of the time is the problem with You, or the person who didn’t meet the expectation. So, look first to see if the structure in place is sufficient or that the expectations were adequately communicated before presuming that the person willfully chose to act outside of the bounds of the V. 

Our Attitude and Perspective 

It can be frustrating to be placed lower in the Freedom V than you think you should be. Our pride tells us that we deserve to have more freedom and control that the leader has decided to give us. It takes a lot of humility to adopt a contended attitude. But the only way to move up the Freedom V is to prove yourself capable of handling what you have been given so that it’s clear you can take on more. You cannot control the expectations that have been given to you, but you can control your attitude towards them. 

In rare cases you may be placed low in the Freedom V by an overly-controlling or possibly even abusive boss. In that case, when your Here is untenable, it may be wise to make the choice to leave and find another organization with a healthy culture. 

Whom We Trust 

If you are assigning a Freedom V to someone, you are making the decision to trust them, either with a little or a lot. You cannot control what they do with that trust, but you can control whether or not you give it to them. Some might be tempted to take this information and become more stingy with their trust, placing more people at the bottom of the Freedom V in an attempt to continue to control them. But a servant leader will desire to see people thrive and relinquish their control for the greater goal of reaching a There together. 

Gracie McBride is the Content and Systems Management Coordinator for The Crossroad.