Original Publish Date: September 9, 2020
My dad, a lifelong Republican, was a B-17 pilot and POW in WWII. He was shot down over Berlin on his 12th mission. He was captured by the Nazis and was held as POW in Stalag Luft One. He didn’t know if he would survive and he didn’t know from day to day if the war would end. During the 9 months of his captivity, he lost 70 pounds. He was covered in lice and his feet were frozen. But one day, he awakened at dawn and stood up to listen. He could not believe his ears. He was hearing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” our national anthem, being sung by prisoners, an act punishable by death. At first it was 100 voices, then 1,000 voices, and soon 8,000 POWs were singing the American National Anthem. That is how my dad knew WWII was over and that the Germans had abandoned post. He, with other POWs, were rescued and he came home to marry my mom and raise a family of six children, including me. He risked his life to protect American lives and to fight for the freedom of a country he loved.
As a junior-high aged girl, I was asked to write an essay on how Thomas Jefferson was able to write the Declaration of Independence. Knowing how much my dad valued peace and freedom, I asked him what he thought. My dad sat down and began describing what he believed inspired Thomas Jefferson’s passion and compelling vision to write this influential and inspiring document. I can vividly remember writing down my dad’s words and ideas that day. He described qualities of courage, integrity, compassion, and most of all, the vision of creating a nation with liberty and justice for all, a country of democracy and respect for all people.
My dad served in WWII because he loved America. He fought for all Americans. He did not fight for just Republicans. He did not fight for some Americans. He fought to preserve our freedom and to protect us all from tyranny from foreign governments. He staked his life on it.
Today our country is in a crisis—a hot, divisive mess. If my dad were still alive, I wonder what he would say and think about the lack of compassion, unity, and patriotism. I believe he probably would not recognize the chaotic and horrific state of our country—the nation he was so proud of. Like all of you, I live with hope that the soul of our country can be restored. For this to be done, we need leaders in government and businesses to operate from the soul—with integrity, compassion, trust, and patriotism.
Freedom in the Workplace, Communities, Families, Nations—It’s All Related
Our country has been the face of freedom in the world, a nation admired and respected, and a place where so many others from around the world have wanted to come. And now we find ourselves living in a divisive culture of strongly opposing views, political battles, and shocking behavior. This is happening on the streets, in communities, in families, and in the workplace. If we are going to restore our country to the nation that was formed on the ideals of freedom, we need to be individuals operating at a level of personal freedom and respect for one another.
Resolving conflicts and reconciling ideas are the paths to peace and freedom. But the need to be right, to blame and attack, to defend and protect— reactions and counter-reactions escalate the dissension. While the political, economic, social, and international structures are stretched to the maximum, the pandemic has caused people to feel more constrained than ever.
Business leaders and managers can alleviate some of the stress and angst by creating work environments with as much freedom as possible. Demonstrating trust can help counter the other confinements most everyone is experiencing. Leaders who operate and act from their own personal freedom are role models. They inspire others, build loyalty, commitment, and find innovative ways to accomplish the desired goals.
Freedom Is First a State of Mind
Freedom is first a state of mind. What is not within us cannot be found outside of us. Being a great leader means having the courage to take down the walls of self-protection to reveal inner frailties or weaknesses. The irony is that the walls we believe protect us are actually self-imposed prisons that lock us in our own confinement, and also alienate others. The good news is that we hold the key to opening the door and allowing a light to shine on our fears and weaknesses. It takes immense courage to look deeply within but that is exactly what the leaders who have changed the world have been able to do. Until you can face your own inner fears, you cannot be free to lead others. You will only seek “yes” people and you will miss all the possibilities coming from other viewpoints.
I believe we all want freedom, but it begins with each one of us. It is a time to find personal freedom and mastery of our own spiritual consciousness. Only through this restorative process can anyone be truly free. As you restore yourself to your true self, your inner spiritual greatness, you free others to do the same. And that is how we restore freedom in our families, communities, businesses, and nations.
The Inner Path to Personal Freedom and Enlightened Leadership
The actual steps to personal freedom are simple but most people resist them in an unconscious strategy of self-protection. If you sincerely want to be an enlightened leader, here is the inner path:
When we can take off the masks of our ego-defined roles, we will finally see our oneness. We will see our fellow human beings, whom we had mistakenly identified as the enemy, as more like us than different. What a blessed day, when one by one, we give up our grievances, lay down our blame, and support our friends, co-workers, family members, fellow citizens, and people across the globe.
My dad, along with millions of others throughout history, valued and fought for freedom. We each have a responsibility and privilege of being a component of the beautiful and worthy ideal of freedom. The state of our country and our world is a reflection of all of us.
Danna Beal, M.Ed., lives in the Seattle, WA area where she is an international speaker, author, retreat/workshop leader, and executive coach. She has spoken to thousands of businesses and conferences and has been on countless radio shows, podcasts, and webinars discussing “Enlightened Leadership” and “Workplace Culture” based on her book, “The Extraordinary Workplace: Replacing Fear with Trust and Compassion.” Her audiences and clients have included: Seattle Science Foundation--Spine Surgeons Grand Rounds, Swedish Hospital and Medical Groups, Kaiser Permanente Grand Rounds, Oakland, CA, AHRA, Orlando, FL, Federal Aviation Administration, Overlake Hospital Perioperative Conference, Radia, numerous physician practices and hospitals. Her website is www.dannabeal.com.