DesignIntelligence Media Group

The Way Of Authentic Leadership

Celebrating Interdependence as a Cultural Differentiator


Authentic, effective leaders are front and center when it comes to functional collaboration. They lead from a collaborative posture, inviting multiple voices into the decisioning process. They welcome input, being postured as always approachable, always receptive. 

Though we take great pride in the idea of independence, the positive dynamic of the entrepreneurial spirit, the celebration of individual success, the once popular principle of self-effort detached from hand-outs and governmental assistance . . . like anything lived-out in imbalance our greatest strength becomes our greatest weakness. Perhaps the most sustainable value factor of authentic American success is interdependence. 

The U.S. economy, which has been the standard of wealth and success for over a hundred years, is based on the fundamental principle of interdependence. Business goods and services offered to the consuming public are impossible outside the context of interdependence. Business owners work within an ecosystem of interdependence: 

• Banks 

• Material Suppliers 

• Infrastructure Providers (Electricity, Telephone, Internet, Water, Sewage, etc.) 

• Security Services 

• Insurers 

• Staffing Firms 

• Compliance Coaches 

• Shipping & Freight Providers 

• Suppliers in Various Sorts and Sizes. 

• And more . . . 

The poet John Donne captured the spirit of Interdependence over 400 years ago: 

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe 
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as 
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine 
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
it tolls for thee.”

For the American Industry to sustain, grow, and lead, it will have to sustain and embrace this fundamental principle of interdependence. Differentiation only occurs when interdependence expresses itself in new and creative models, new and creative win-win working relationships. Functional collaboration is the heart and soul of interdependence which acknowledges that we are better together than alone. 

Navigating Between Opportunity and Distraction 

I suppose it’s a matter of perspective. What one sees as an opportunity another might see as a distraction. An objective gauge to judge between the two is a defined strategic plan that articulates the boundaries for forward progress and targeted achievement. Without a “roadmap” to guide the business, the distinction between opportunities and distractions becomes blurred. In this ambiguous and foggy place, the business wastes time and resources chasing non-essentials while neglecting fundamentals. 

Authentic, effective leaders own the responsibility of looking forward and planning well. Actually, they take it as essential to their stewardship of leading organizations, not allowing neglect or indifference to mar the firm. 

Have you articulated the clear and navigable points of achievement you desire to take your business? Have you defined the boundaries of do’s and don’ts to manage the energy and motivation of your teams? Have you formulated a decisioning process whereby you can properly judge between an opportunity and distraction? 

Far too many firm leaders are making off-the-cuff, emotionally oriented, and subjective gut decisions about their businesses. I suppose that their experiences of success and failure have taught them the intuitive gut check methodology of decisioning and this, in its proper place, is essential to sustainable forward movement. But going by gut alone is a “roll of the dice”, especially as a business grows and the stakes get higher. 

Frankly, it’s easier to navigate by how one feels. It’s immediate, assuages a degree of anxiety, and requires little effort. And with a never-ending stream of decisions to make on a daily basis, expedience seems the best way to go. But it’s unmeasurable, leaving it unmanageable. As the saying goes, “You can only manage what you can measure.” 

By the way, this goes for any genre of corporate entity; companywide, business unit, department, team, or individual contributor. Every decision-making entity needs a framework to ensure focus, accountability, and a standard for progressive achievement. 

So, what’s the plan? Can you point to it? Articulate it? Define its boundaries? Measure it? If you will take the time, make the investment to get it down on paper, and allow it to speak back to you, it might just save you, your firm, and your place in the wide marketplace. 

Dave Gilmore is the president & CEO of DesignIntelligence.