Whether we see our interdependence in the system we live in – or not – it is there, influencing the dynamics of all the other parts. Our ability to recognize our connectivity is important to the effectiveness of our leadership. When something in our organization is present but unnoticed, our strategies can be misaligned because we aren’t reading the system accurately. If we see the world as separate rather than interdependent, we ignore the connections that shape the world we are trying to influence.

The folly of trying to influence change from a separate point of view

As positional leaders, we often attempt to initiate change with the mindset that it is something others need to do. We rarely reflect on how our own behaviors may be creating the problem or hindering the solution we hope to create. If we are experiencing an issue, there is always an outside source that we can blame for what is happening. In this limited worldview, we try to change “others” as if we aren’t connected to them or their behaviors. We see ourselves outside the events, people and systems we are trying to change. If we continue to see ourselves as separate, we limit data and feedback that help us decide on strategies.

Interdependence changes everything

Interdependence invites us to look at things differently. It’s an understanding that change in one part of the system affects other parts of the system in ways both seen and unseen. If we are all connected, then our systems, the people in our organizations, and our communities are interconnected – in a nutshell, we are part of the system we are trying to influence. When we embrace an outlook of interdependence as leaders, we realize that we become part of the problems we face and part of the solutions we want to create.

Here are some ways to refresh your thinking about change, with interdependence in mind:

  1. I recognize I am part of the system, not a separate actor who exists outside of the system.
  2. As part of the system, I realize that I am holding onto the behaviors and mindsets that must change in order to solve the problem.
  3. I must accept and acknowledge ways that I might be contributing to this problem.
  4. I need to reflect on what I need to change in my behavior to facilitate this change.
  5. I need to determine if I must “show up” differently than my current default.
  6. I need to take time to notice how shifts in my behavior influence changes in others and the system.

Interdependence inspires change

I highly recommend a book titled Gentle Action (2008) by David Peat, which looks at change starting with the assumption that all systems are interdependent. The book challenges many of our defaults on how we change. It dismisses the push for change from a view of separation, where power, resources and position are necessary. Instead, Peat suggests starting form interdependence, where everyone can influence change because they are part of a connected system. An individual action in an interdependent system has the capacity to influence the who system. This means that we don’t have to wait for positional leaders at the top of the organization, society or country to generate change. We all have the capacity to influence systems we are part of. We just have to recognize our interdependence and show up differently to influence the people, events and organizations we care about.

Peat, F.D. (2008). Gentle Action: Bringing creative change to a turbulent world. Grosseto, Italy: Pari Publishing Sas.