The Dark Side Of Independence


As with all things, there is a dark side to independence.

I know. When I was kid I lost my parents. Two years apart. Same day. Independence Day. Those two events shaped my life ever since. Still do.

We all know the dark side of independence. We live those biases out daily.

Our biases live in us. 
They palpably impact and shape our lives.

We just don’t recognize it. We don’t see it for what it is. For what it creates. Isolation. Independant separation from those around us. From ourselves.

We invite bias in.
And like any parasite it accepts our opening and feed off us as host. 
Feeds on our emptiness. Hollowness. Loneliness. And fear.

The dark side of independence is separation. Lack of trust. Closure. Contraction. Shrinkage. Smallness.

As with all things, things, in and of themselves are neutral. 
Our biases color reality.

We see who and what we are – not what is.
We see what we bring. Not what's present.

We bring biases created in the past, operating in the present - affecting our future. Happens all the time.

Positive biases of independence are expressed as over-reliance. Over reliance toward what appears to be freedom but actually can act as an imprisoning invisible, translucent wall of separation from others and ourselves.

I once worked with a brilliant multi-company owner who used his independence as sexual power directed toward attracting weak willed women who mistakenly interpreted his distance as a manly expression of control. It worked. Except It backfired on him, as bias do. His continually created dependence on him which he desired but feared. The repeating dynamic kept him shut out from others. Shut inside his emptiness. Trapped in from seeing through his delusion.

I worked a while back, with a dazzlingly bright CMO who expressed a positive bias toward independence. It translated negatively to others. Those around her felt excluded by her. They were angered by her flaunted superiority and resented that she demanded more inclusion from them that she expressed for them.

Her bias impacted her ability to scale her work footprint across others. It wedged her team against her, undercutting their loyalty and engagement. Word about her team’s low moral affected performance travelled within the company.  Org changes were made. Now she reports up to the CFO who, in a land grab of territorial power, swooped in to take advantage of the deteriorating situation and marginalized her authority, power and autonomy. She lost the very transactional value that meant the most to her - her professional autonomy, independence and freedom over her role destiny.

A sharp-as-a-whip smart rising- star, fast-track project manager I worked with lost her job because she was over-reliant on her subjective judgement. I warned her not to project, that what motivated her new direct report was not at all what motivated her. She couldn’t see it. Fought it. Denied it.

When that direct report had to be re-directed to another focus she offered a reward to accelerate buy-in for the project focus change. The offered reward had value to the rising star but - none to her direct report, who shortly after the change left the company. He wasn't motivated in the right way to stay. The same situation re-occurred through her other direct reports. All left her to go elsewhere in the Enterprise.

This rising star was seen as someone who wasn’t able to grow others. She was re-purposed back to an independent contributor and was relieved of her management role. Her star trajectory - went down . . . in flames. Not able to accept her part in her downfall, she left the Enterprise and a bright future, rather than face reality.

 Negative biases are expressed as under-reliance.

When applied to independence biases like these can show up as a dependence on others to define our own identity and direction. Leaning away from independence can result in neediness, which depending on the strength of the bias can build up into resentment and devolve into resentment for and toward those we become dependent upon.

A negative bias toward independence can also show up as a positive motivation for cooperation and collaboration. A healthy reliance on mutually serving inter-dependence. When this bias is over-extended though, it can cause indecisiveness, a reliance on consensus and result in weak leadership.

Our biases distort our perception. Our perceptions inform our thinking. Disturbed thinking disturbs discernment which in turn disturbs problem solving which impacts judgement. Judgement affects decisions. And decisions affect outcomes.

The other day I sat with a self-proclaimed Guru. Life coach. Over-reliant on intuition. Under-reliant on validation. Over-reliant on saving others. Under-reliant on asking for needed help or feedback from others. Over-reliant on bringing people into greater awareness. Under-reliant on seeing how others perceive her. Over-reliant in creating need in others. Under-reliant in being vulnerable enough to admit emotional need for others. A Guru preaching unity but unable to empathetically connect, appreciate and understand others for who they individually are. Connects others but is herself disconnected. Isolated.

We want inclusion. Expect it. But do we express it?

There are many ways to slice a pizza. 
Even more ways to see how biases can slice us up
and serve our best interests well or not.

 Biases express themselves in three ways.
Positive. Negative. Or neutral.

 Understanding how biases play themselves out requires counter-intuitive reasoning. A positive bias can express itself as an over-reliance or a leaning into. A negative bias can show up as an under-reliance or a leaning away.

Positive biases are expressed as over-reliance

Over-reliance can inflate importance. Under-reliance can deflate importance. The counter intuitiveness of this can be classically seen through people who have a strong positive bias toward their abilities. Jumbo egos. “I’m it, I’m da bomb! I’m the subject matter brain here,” she or he may think. Their positive bias actually lessens their openness to new ideas, approaches, and learnings -having the negative effect of shrinking them rather than expanding them.

On the other hand, a negative bias toward self-awareness can be positive. It can reflect openness to learn and an understanding that despite what we’ve achieved there is always more to actualize our potential.

When it comes to biases, whether directed toward independence or elsewhere even-mindedness and neutrality win the day. Keep us balanced.

Being over-reliant on our emotions or under-reliant on them invites jeopardy.

Every tourist stands in awe when facing the Leaning Tower of Pisa. No one though, wants to be seen as an unstable tilting tower, by others, no matter how high we stand.

We want to be, stand and appear balanced.

“In media stat virtus” In the middle lies virtue.