Interconnected Leadership for Integrity, Sustainability and Collaboration


Leo Sonneveld from the Netherlands is chairman of the Interconnectedness Foundation whose purpose is to stimulate an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling and socially just human presence worldwide, mainly by increasing and connecting the awareness of interconnectedness.

He opened by suggesting there were two thought systems – Separateness, involving ego, was often at the expense of others whereas Interconnectedness was more inclusive being for the good of all. The core is that we are predominantly living and acting from a paradigm of separateness instead of living and acting from a paradigm of interconnectedness. He suggested this was the reason for the variety of crises: financial crises, ecological crises, social crises and spiritual crises all screaming for our attention and inviting us to discover the root cause and take appropriate action.

How integrity and sustainability are interrelated and how interconnected leadership may be an answer to the global collaboration our world needs.

Leo described the meaning of integrity, sustainability and collaborative organizing and how these are interrelated, then introduced two thoughts of separateness and interconnectedness and described how, derived from this, interconnected leadership can provide an answer in terms of global collaboration.

Leo saw the actual meaning of integrity is whole, undamaged and pure. It is also related to virtues like honesty, trustworthiness, reliability and using one’s moral compass. This is the individual dimension.

The collective dimension of integrity relates to social interaction, implicit rules, role models, explicit procedures and controls, community, ecology and in fact the world at large. All of this is based on individual and shared values, principles and mental models. In other words our personal and collective paradigm.

Acting with integrity requires being in touch with wisdom and essence (spirit of the law) thus going beyond knowledge and compliance. Integrity manifests itself in the taking of responsibility, openness, transparency and dialogue.

Leo then discussed sustainability, noting many different interpretations. It varies from Ecological Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility, triple bottom-line (People, Planet, Profit) to ‘good for the whole’ and simply another word for enduring effects.

He mentioned some broadly adopted definitions of sustainable development:

• “Sustainable development is meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” Brundtland- Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (1987)

• “Sustainability is the possibility that human and other forms of life will flourish on the earth forever” John Ehrenfeld, International Society for Industrial Ecology

• “Sustainable development is a dynamic process which enables all people to realize their potential and to improve their quality of life in ways that simultaneously protect and enhance the Earth’s life support systems.”

Leo suggested that a product, process, enterprise, organisation, economy, ecology or humanity is unsustainable in the long term when it functions at the expense of something (planet, climate) or someone (burn out, poverty, illness, child labour). In the end, the negative side effects (externalization of negative impact and costs) will put growth on halt. Sustainable businesses take full responsibility for all effects of their decisions and actions and consciously choose for open dialogue with (representatives) of all stakeholders. Adequate feedback mechanisms within the (sub) system where a business operates, allow for becoming aware of unintended side effects. It begins however with the willingness to see truth and leave a state of denial behind.

He then described collaborative organizing as a process of aiming at what is valuable for all, connecting all people involved, moving forward towards goals in a positive way by doing what is necessary and gratefully enjoying sustainable results. The deepest intention or aim is to do good for all stakeholders.

Three aspects provide the foundation for healthy growth and fulfilling collaboration:

1. The process of connecting which generates commitment and facilitates the taking of responsibility

2. The connection and alignment of personal goals and ambitions with the groups’ mission, vision and goals that intrinsically matter (i.e. are good for the whole)

3. The actual realization and manifestation of these goals through collaboration.

This approach of collaborative organizing makes people happy and grateful for the results, for the experienced process and for their participation in it.

Leo then explained the connection between sustainability, integrity and collaborative organizing. Sustainability can be a result of collaborative organizing, because the deepest intention of this process is to do good for the whole, to do good for all stakeholders. This ensures that, in the long term, an organisation will not function at the expense of something or someone and therefore is sustainable.

Organisations acting with integrity in the original meaning of the word, will feel connected and committed to sustainability because the underlying intention and principle is the same – leaving whole, undamaged. The last similarity is taking responsibility. Taking responsibility for the effects of your own discernment and choices. The effects on yourself, on your colleagues, on the organisation, on the community and on the world.

This means that integrity is imperative for sustainability. Sustainability cannot do without integrity. Integrity on a micro level could do without sustainability. Therefore we can see sustainability as an integral application of integrity. Collaborative organizing is a way to achieve this.

The underlying source for acting with integrity, sustainability and collaborative organizing is a thought system of oneness or interconnectedness instead of ego and separateness.

The thought system determines the level of purity of intention behind the goals and ambitions at an individual, organisational, regional, national or worldwide level. So it is the quality of the deepest (often unconscious) intention that determines the end-results. This finds its source in the underlying thought system or paradigm. The effective answer to all crises therefore requires a paradigm mind shift to interconnectedness.

Leo then suggested interconnected leadership and collaboration was the next necessary step including for global collaboration. He used a circlar diagram similar to an eye to suggest when we take Jungian psychology as a starting point we know that the real Self resides beyond persona and shadow layers of one’s personality.

The outer persona layer comprises characteristics that we are proud of and like to show, such as our successes or impressive results. The traits we accept from ourselves, value in others and hope will result in acceptance of us by others. This masks however who we really are, our Self. The deepest layer of our personality, without conditioning, where we feel whole, complete and interconnected. Leo called this our ‘Interconnected-Self’ 

Leo suggested that Integrity comes from this ‘Interconnected-Self’ which in turn allows for interconnected collaboration. Between our core and our persona we find many layers of conditioning, one of which is called our shadow. This layer represents what we want to hide, our failures, our mistakes, the reasons that fuel our fear to be rejected, the source of blaming and shaming. Persona and shadow together can be seen as our ‘separate-self’.

An interconnected leader has developed full discernment from which part of his/her personality thoughts and impulses come from: our separate-self or Interconnected-Self. Being, doing, living, leading from our deployment of full integrity. The verification point here is whether an action is expected to be good for the whole and life affirming. Working from this Interconnected Self can therefore be seen as a basis for the global collaboration which is needed to provide solutions for the crises we face.

Living from your Interconnected-Self invokes a process of purification of shadow and persona. This results in leading oneself and others in an authentic, serving and interconnected way.

Commitment to a continuous process of personal development usually results in developing fuller discernment from which part of our personality, thoughts and impulses come from: our separate-self or our Interconnected-Self. We always have a split second to act on an impulse or not.

The Interconnected leader develops discernment of Self – personal leadership and mastery,  does not act on impulses from the persona or shadow but goes deeper, acting on impulses from the interconnected self, conscious of the inclusive impact that is good for all.

The World Day of Interconnectedness involved people from Asia Pacific to Europe and from USA to Canada who made it happen. On 09.09.09 the work culminated in 48 different events with participants in 84 countries and further days are planned for 10.10.10, 11.11.11 and 12.12.12.

Leo said the World Day of Interconnectedness Initiative was an example of interconnected leadership and collaborative organizing on a global scale. It emerged without formal consent from any organisation or leader, without funding, purely based on passionate people collaborating towards a shared vision. The process of collaborative organizing has been put into practice. The shared intention was to feed a global mind shift from I-llness to WE-llness. Moving towards a world that works for all life. With an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling and socially just human presence on this planet. A shared dream, good for the whole.

Leo hoped that working and living sustainably together from an awareness that all is interconnected, will increasingly dominate the world’s agenda, businesses included, although he  did not expect this to happen overnight. But when individual people who are awake and aware show interconnected leadership and organize themselves collaboratively, we will witness results faster than anyone can ever imagine. A collaborative interconnected grass-roots movement is unstoppable.

Leo summarised by saying personal development – beyond ego – allows for Interconnected Leadership, resulting in integrity and sustainability. Organisations facilitate this process by investing continuously in personal development to practice Interconnected Leadership – if they want to be trusted.

Interconnected Leadership recognises the constant flow between the Individual and Collective, the Interior/Invisible and Exterior/Visible and the interrelationships between friendship, ownership, wisdom and leadership.

His final slide ‘doing well by doing good’ showed an iceberg with most of its mass below the surface suggesting invisible drive, inclusiveness, interconnectedness and thinking. Above the surface signified behaviour or ‘doing’ where sustainability and integrity were more visible.

However he noted that one of the challenges in the current economic crisis is that too few organisations show continued interest for and focus on maintaining and developing integrity, or investing in sustainability or personal development. It is simply not a priority. They seem too busy moving the furniture while the house is on fire…


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