Making your people feel Enabled around Constraints

Tom McCallum
2 min readJan 7, 2021

A core “why” for my daily writing is to share learnings, so, yesterday I had an inspiring conversation with a business leader in the USA, who had come across a post I wrote called: “Enabling Constraint” and was intrigued by the idea embedded in the term.

One thought I articulated on our call was fresh to me and drawn out of me by listening to their thoughts.

I expressed first that the two words are contradictory from an etymylogical standpoint, ie the origins of the words are directly in opposition.

See these etymologies, bold highlights are mine :)

constrain (v.) “to exert force, physical or moral, upon, either in urging to action or restraining from it,” early 14c., constreyen, from stem of Old French constreindre (Modern French contraindre) “restrain, control,” from Latin constringere “to bind together, tie tightly, fetter, shackle, chain,” from assimilated form of com “with, together” (see con-) + stringere “to draw tight” (see strain (v.)). Related: Constrained; constraining.


enable (v.) early 15c., “to make fit;” mid-15c., “to make able to,” from en- (1) “make, put in” + able. Related: Enabled; enabling. An enabling act (1684) is so called because it empowers a body or person to take certain action.



Tom McCallum

Sounding Board for Visionary Leaders ready to make a Massive Impact. Daily posts here, or