"If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well..." ~Franklin Delano Roosevelt (First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933)
If you've been around me at all over the last month or so, you've probably heard me go off on a somewhat of a tangent about how I believe that the ideal of independence that we have in the West, particularly in the United States, is an unrealistic goal. If everyone in the world intends to live as independent people, unions, corporations, or any other entity, we will leave a vast number of needs, interests, and dreams of others behind.
At this point in my life, I believe that the more productive theory would be one of interdependence. This theory of interdependence aims at working with our own strengths and passions in an effort to aid others in doing the same. It involves knowing one's limits, yet still having the courage and humility to continue to be an academic of life.
I saw a quote a while back, though I can't remember who said it or exactly how it went but it was something like this: "Leaders are like cream foam in coffee, there comes a time when we have to sweep them off the top and start afresh." Though the quote wasn't exactly like that, it had a similar idea. I think it was a George Orwell quote, but I could be wrong.
Anyway, this is the type of interdependent leadership that I believe in. I am convinced that it is a part of human nature that if any one person, party, corporation, government, idea, etc. is in power for too long, the person or people involved will have so convinced themselves that they will not be willing to relinquish the power that was trustingly given to them.
Here, I would like to employ a ground rule that was employed in a class on multicultural practice in social work that I took this past spring. The rule simply stated, Step in and step back. It is quite fascinating how four small words can make such a huge difference. During the class we were often engaged in very meaningful conversation surround identity and culture and the ways those two concepts (and the myriad domains within them) intersect like a spiderweb tracing constellations on a clear night. Such conversations required each person in the class (the professor included) have an equal opportunity at participating. Therefore, the rule encouraged those (like myself) who may really like to talk sometimes to step in and step back, keeping in mind that I was not the only person with an idea or opinion on the subject being discussed.
I believe that this step in and step back idea is something that could really make for gains in politics, nonprofit work, all the way down to individual therapy sessions, and beyond. If we can go into any scenario remembering that we are not the only ones with interests, hopes, dreams, and even needs. There is a whole world out there. If we are not cognizant of others, we will wind up stepping on them or shutting them in a windowless closet perhaps unintentionally or maybe we were completely aware.
As I'm writing this I found another quote, this time by Mark Twain, that alludes to my point, "Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason."
The world that we are living in is in many ways, much like the world in which FDR delivered his first inaugural address. As in 1933, the world has been recovering from numerous economic crises. True, the stock market hasn't crashed like it did on Black Friday in 1929, but many world economies are still recovering from a global market that is beginning to find a way to the surface water. That being said, in many ways the world is also much different than it was back in the early 1930s. The recession we experienced over the last decade is nothing when compared with the depression of the 1930s. However, a global economy that is increasingly becoming more interconnected between countries, continents, and corporations can often mean that when one economy falls, it will not be a lonely tree in the forest.
Despite what may appear to be a negative consequence of interdependence, the interconnectedness and interdependence of all people can actually be very advantageous. True interdependence implies that sometimes we must serve, lift up, sacrifice, and give others. It also means that at other times we will be on the receiving end of all of that. However, it should be noted that the motives of our service and sacrifice should not be a desire to be served and pampered ourselves because that will only bring us back to the flawed ideas of selfish independence.
With interdependence we welcome sacrifice because we desire to see each other succeed. We give out of what we have because we recognize that when others are able to move passed just surviving, we all get closer to truly thriving. Interdependent leaders recognize that compromise is not a bad word. Instead, it is dangerous selfish ambition that is truly toxic for the sustainable development of this world.
I'm not an economist and I don't claim to be. I'm just a writer with thoughts that are sometimes just aching to spill somewhere other than my journal. If I ever get to a point where instead of stepping in and stepping back, I step up and push back, please reprimand me, but please do so in love. For if you just tell me I'm wrong or that I have failed, I may believe you. However, I too am a stubborn human who answers positively to the right approach.