As a child, we may remember sitting in a swing, being pushed by our parents, and taking flight with what seemed to be the greatest of ease. Our back-and-forth sway ends, though, when our parent wearies in their work. At some point in our growth, we learn that if we move our legs just right and lean into our lift, we can swing through the air under our own self-generated power.
As a parent, we may remember the joy in which we deliver those tender pushes to our child in a swing. We hear their delight in their wonder of how this could really be happening. When we get distracted or tire in our efforts, the wonder dissipates in the breeze, and the child is off to the next thing.
It is a swing of freedom and responsibility – more freedom heightens or untethers responsibility.
- How much do we continue to guide?
- When do we own our efforts?
- When are we taking advantage of someone?
- When do we feel like we are being taken advantage of?
At any point in life, we may need a push. It is the advice on how to approach a situation. It is guidance on how to improve another’s outlook, skill, or efforts. From the viewpoint of the leader, spouse, or parent, we gladly lend a hand, a listening ear, and a word of encouragement and direction. It is what we do.
And then the point may come where we feel like the other person isn’t trying. We see the same behaviors continue. We see the same questionable choices being made. We see no progress in doing what they said they were going to do. We feel taken advantage of as the problems or issues swing back to us, and we hear the pleading stories of how this time it will be different.
There is a point of choice.
- It is our choice of when to walk away or stay.
- It is their choice of action or inaction.
In all cases, there is a consequence. There is an outcome for the giving person and the receiving one.
Walking away is a tough choice, yet it may be the only way in which another gains a footing in what they need to do. Being left to determine how to regain momentum in their life may only happen when they are at an unsupported standstill or, worse, a free-fall. Of course, the support may return, but only when the first move comes from the other’s effort.
Ignoring all forms of advice is an easy choice, yet it may be one that leads us to the full reality of its costs. The costs may add up to losing jobs, friends, a partner, and direction. Life intensifies in a downward spiral, with only us to stop it all and begin taking steps up to new ground of how to grow our life in more productive ways.
It is a pendulum of freedom and responsibility. In tandem, both keep us moving in the right direction. The swing impacts the person in the seat and the one providing the encouraging hand, voice, ear, and spirit. It is a choice of evaporating or creating momentum.
Finding the balance is the challenge for every leader, parent, spouse, partner, and friend.
Determining when to empower your own life – with the support of a community – is the challenge for everyone sitting in the seat of support.
We are all have a responsibility, but when have we gone too far or not far enough? Is there a boundary crossed when someone needs to be on their own?
Join the Conversation
A Pendulum of Freedom and Responsibility
Great post, Jon! I recently attended a leadership class and we spent an entire day on Situational Leadership. Are you familiar with the Situational Leadership model?
The basic concept of Situational Leadership is individuals are at one of four developmental levels and good leaders match one of four leadership styles to the developmental level of the individual.
The four leadership styles are directive, coaching, supportive, and delegating. As I read your post I thought about the four situational leadership styles and how individuals have different needs based on their developmental level.
I enjoyed reading your insights on this. Have a grateful day!
Chrysta, First, it is always great to attend a training course to learn something new and interact with different people! Although I am familiar with situational leadership, it is not to the degree you are.
There is similarity between those four levels and how we determine to approach more challenging situations with people. The level missing though is the one when none work… it may be a combination of leaving and waiting for an individual to realize where they are and regain their footing. At that point, it may then drive us to a coaching or supportive role again.
Great thoughts… look forward to reading a post from you on the four levels!
I’m reading this in the context of raising teenagers. I’m constantly guessing which is the better approach.
You and me, both! It is a balance, and it depends on their age, too… at least to certain degree. As they get up in their teen age, I think they may need to stumble to learn (hopefully) and take more responsibility (hopefully). My thought is it is better for them to fail while at home so there is an immediate support structure to try to assist in getting back up…
It is a tough one… We just have to keep doing our best. Thanks so much for your comment. Appreciate it. Jon
I’ve just been peripherally involved in purposely deciding to let someone go from a position they were doing. The thing was, there was much work done to really try and make it work – and to offer possible solutions to the differences. In the end, though, the best thing really was to “let go”. Your article today really helps to confirm that…thanks.
And – my family and I were just out on swings about a week ago – something I haven’t done in a very long time!
Thanks for sharing your experience, Lance. It is interesting how, sometimes, holding on is easier than letting go. Yet, letting go is what may better enable a positive change. Thanks for jumping in.
Glad you got on a swing recently… good to do and remember the freedom and power we feel in our flight!
Enjoy your day!
This hit home, Jon. I had someone who kept making promises to change, and after giving them chances and seeing the same pattern repeat. I knew I had to cut bait. It was difficult but I knew if I kept enabling the behavior, they would never find their own path to see that they needed to change on their own. We sometimes have to make these hard choices ourselves to help others make their own journey. Great post, Jon. Thank you.
Great points, Jen. Although it is a real tough thing to do, at some point, they do need to find their own path… the only way to get on the right path of real change. Thanks for your insights and for your leadership! Jon
Enjoyed this great illustration Jon. I am in between pushes with a good friend who just relapsed again into alcoholism. Trying to find the right balance of supporting but not enabling is always a challenge. He has to find his own footing but he knows I will encourage his progress. No pushing, but cheering if he gets the swing moving on his own.
That is tough, Scott, but he is fortunate to have you ready to cheer him forward when he take the first few steps. Appreciate you sharing this, as it is challenging to find the right balance… Jon
Hi Jon, thought provoking topic. Reading your article caused me to reflect on my years in as a district manager for a large direct sales company. My job was to manage operations for 4 Hawaiian Islands (nearly 1,000 reprs) and of course training was a big part of the job. One of the biggest challenges was getting those in leadership positions to understand that sometimes – no matter how much you care, no matter how much you like them, no matter how great your training is – some people are not going to do their part. Sometimes, you have to know when to walk away because for every one who isn’t willing to do the work, there are others who are anxiously looking for someone to show them the way.
Thank you, Marquita! It is a tough balance of know when to walk away or not. It is a difficult choice, but one that is necessary to make. Each situation may be a little different, but there is some final trigger that clears the way for making the tough choice. Grateful for your voice in the conversation! Jon