Deepening human connection is at the heart of the evolutionary leadership framework. It is a response to our times. It understands that the species is at a choice point. That we are on the fast track to an evolutionary crash. And that we need to take an evolutionary leap. A leap at the level of consciousness and culture. A leap away from the narcissism of our day. And towards the possibility of a new “We.”We can only grow in this direction by coming closer to each other.
My friend Danielle Coates-Connor wrote a beautiful post on “Being Close.” It is an open hearted, vulnerable reflection. And it set off a flood of thoughts on the power and the need for human connection.
Cultural conditioning around intimacy… has us believing that being close entails possession, privacy, and obligation... These conditions are hostile towards curiosity and joy. I wonder how life would be if fostering intimacy was one of the society’s treasured design principles... The task is practicing ways of being that allow us to explore boundaries with safety, which requires listening and adaptation. It requires being home in ourselves.
Her words reminded me of Jeremy Rifkin. Who says that the story of human evolution moves towards greater and greater empathy. This is different from an idea of civilization that makes us smaller and smaller. One that is about the individual. About property. About possession, privacy and obligation. It is a very different understanding of what it takes for us to survive and thrive.
It is only a move towards empathic connection. Towards greater intimacy. That can get us out of this hole.
I see it work over and over again. I see the way we become stronger when we come closer to each other. I see how a well nurtured web of relationship makes us more resilient. And better able to turn towards life.Curtis Ogden, another friend of mine, recently wrote that “Connection is Fundamental: Networks for Life, Learning and Livelihood.” He points us in the same direction.
Connection = Survival
Connection is how we are meant to live and to thrive. This network science seems new, and in many ways it is, but it is also ancient. It is the only way that we could make it this far.
Curtis challenges our understanding of network theory and its application. He calls out the way in which we want to move as networks without doing the deep work. The work of intimacy that Danielle is lifting up. This is a challenge I understand. I’ve been married for almost eight years. I love my wife. We both come into this journey with significant emotional intelligence. And with a deep commitment to doing our own work. Yet it is here, in the most personal of spaces, that I come up right against the challenge of true intimacy. It is here that I have to choose courage over and over again. And it is here that I can most experience myself shying away from depth.
We long to connect. We are terrified of connection. It is the fear of what can happen when we truly open the heart. It demands that we depend upon each other.I worked with Curtis and Danielle at the Interaction Institute for Social Change. “Interaction” being the operative word. We are obsessed with the power of what happens when people really come together. But we too often reduce collaboration to the simpler process of moving an agenda forward. We might allow more voices in. But the process remains transactional. It is not transformational. And it is not how we leap.We have reached the point in human history that risks civilization coming apart. Climate catastrophe, hoarding capitalism, and the breakdown of western democracy. It is a cocktail for total destruction. The people that will survive will be the ones who dare to lean upon each other. To come much, much closer together than we have been trained to do in the past.
But let’s say you are not looking that far out. Let’s say that this apocalyptic outlook is not for you. Let’s say that you are just trying to win in the marketplace. Or that you are looking to win a political race. Let’s imagine you want to be part of a strong, resilient organization. Or that you want to be part of a a leader-full movement.
The truth still applies to you. Only those of us who master the art of authentic connection. Only those of us who have the courage to get close will actually have what it takes to win, to survive and to thrive in our day.