Forget Independence!

I broke my foot when I was hiking recently. My foot is in a walking boot, which is better than a cast because I can remove it when I want. However, the doctor said that if I want my foot to heal, I have to stay off it. Thus, I cannot do myriad activities that I used to take for granted – mowing the lawn and other house maintenance chores, walking (which I really enjoy), etc. To keep from putting weight on my foot, I use a knee scooter, which is MUCH better than crutches! But it has zero sideways mobility, which is really frustrating the kitchen, because I can’t just turn around and get something.

Net/net: I now have to ASK people to do things for me, which I never had to do before. And I am grateful for handicapped parking spaces and elevators, which I never used to use.

How does this relate to leadership? Like most other executives, I still have the underlying mantra of self-sufficiency: “I can do it myself”. My ability to do things independently has been a source of pride. I am now learning a lesson in INTERdependence. A truly effective leader is willing to let, or even ask, others to do things for them.

There are 3 stages of social maturity:

· Dependence (when we’re children)

· Independence (as we move through our teen years into adulthood), and

· Interdependence (when we finally realize that we can’t do it alone).

An Ubuntu saying summarizes interdependence quite nicely: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” John Donne echoed that thought 400 years ago: “No man is an island…” The attitude of interdependence fundamentally contradicts our culture – and most of our ideas about leadership. It is diametrically opposed to “management” – in which the boss tells the subordinate what to do and how to do it. Interdependence fosters effective teamwork, and it supported by facilitative leadership.

One other thought, this time about the old maxim: “Tis better to give than receive”. If we only give, or tell, and we don’t allow others to give to us, we’re depriving them of the ability to use their gifts, to make their contributions, to feel really good about who they are. In this way, the practice of being in control is actually selfish. It lets us feel good and powerful and productive at the expense of others.

What do you think? Does this sound reasonable? Or do you disagree? I’d truly enjoy hearing your thoughts and experiences.

Gary Langenwalter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s