The Interdependent Nature of Things
It happened in Heathrow airport in November of 2012. I had just landed in London, excited to meet friends and colleagues at the ICF Conference. I was walking fast, pulling my two bags behind me when somebody, rushing to their flight, cut directly in front of me and I went down, hard!
The journey from then until now, 9 months later, has taught me more about systemic interdependence than I ever knew before. Interdependence within my own body system, interdependence within the medical system and health care, interdependence between all of that and day-to-day living.
See, interdependence just IS. Whether we know about it, care about it or believe in it, it impacts our lives. Injure one knee, and the rest of the system is impacted. The other knee will need to take up some of the work load. When that happens the back and the rest of body automatically compensate for the redistributed workload. And when that happens over a prolonged period of time, overall mobility begins to suffer since certain muscle groups atrophy while others become overdeveloped and strained.
I won’t ask you to accompany me on my whole rehabilitation journey. Just know that I am lucky to have access to a great medical care system that has been amazing in their patience with me. And, it would be useful to look at this experience to evaluate the non-local cost of a very localized event.
You may ask “what does this have to do with leadership and business?” I say, “everything!” We may think that when a key player on the team (knee) is struggling with something in their personal life or is in a constant state of conflict with somebody in the office (injury), that identifying the symptom and sending them for coaching (or telling them to leave their personal stuff at home), will fix it. Well, sometimes taking a pain killer helps, but it does not treat the problem!
Because of the law of interdependence, the entire system is impacted to the extent that one of its members are “incapacitated.” Unless we engage with the whole team (the other knee, back, body core) the rest of the body will fall apart. Focusing only on that one team member will be like injecting or medicating only the original injury while not providing the support and creative readjustment to the rest of the team who will need to carry a little bit more weight for a period of time.
The Systems Inspired Leader “sees” not only the injured knee; she sees an impacted body responding to a localized event. A leader like that also knows that no matter how specialized her knowledge and broad her competence, returning to full capacity is a systemic event and often needs the utilization of outside expertise. And finally, leadership that focuses on and is inspired by the system, knows that injury is part of the evolution and wisdom aging of every team member. Today it is Mary, on another day it will be John… as long as “injury” is seen as a normal life event, and “rehabilitation” (returning to its previous state of performance), is also seen as an opportunity for systemic transformation, such events can catalyze optimum team performance and cohesiveness.