Embracing Interdependence as a Leader with Lorna Davis – Virtual Gathering Recap

On October 7, 2022, Lorna Davis, former CEO of Danone and Global Ambassador for B Lab, whose TED Talk on collaborative leadership has amassed more than two million views, joined us for a candid conversation with Timothy Henry, co-author of the Conscious Capitalism Field Guide, to discuss her view on the current state of leadership, the importance of interdependence and collaboration, and more.

Here are our takeaways from this open and honest conversation between longtime friends and conscious business leaders.

Embracing the good and the bad

The conversation opened with a very vulnerable moment for Lorna as she shared that her dog is very ill before stepping off camera for a moment to care for her pet.

When she returned, she transitioned right into the importance of leaders embracing the good and the bad aspects of life, not only at work, but in their personal lives, as well.

“Accepting the pain and the challenges of life, at the same time as the joy and magnificence, is really the journey that I’m on right now,” she shared with Timothy.

She continued on to explain that part of being human is learning to evolve, but that oftentimes, especially in Western cultures, we try to cherrypick our experiences to create an ideal journey, which only becomes a detriment to our growth.

“One of the things I have seen is that the Western world is very keen to try to pretend that we can kind of push away the things we don’t like and grab the things we do like and that we can have a selective journey in this world,” Lorna said, “The reality is we can’t—not in our businesses, not in our families, not in our bodies, not in our lives.”

Leaning into connection and interdependence

A large part of what has gotten Lorna through difficult times, and something she encourages leaders to lean into as well, is connection and interdependence. She sees these areas as universal truths for human beings and things that we all need not only to be people-first leaders, but to also be good friends and fellow citizens:

The truth of life is that we are interconnected … this made up ‘chopped-up-ness’ is the thing that isn’t real—that’s the fake.

“The truth of life is that we are interconnected … this made up ‘chopped-up-ness’ is the thing that isn’t real—that’s the fake. So when people say to me, ‘How can I live in a more connected way?’ or ‘How can I lead with love?’ I rather simplistically say, ‘Stop trying to pretend we aren’t connected and stop cutting your love off.’”

Rather than focusing on the things that divide us and make us different, Lorna’s call to others regardless of their status or rank was to find opportunities to connect. When leaders make this a priority in their workplaces, it also creates a new lens to rethink things that make a difference for employees at work.

“When you … stop thinking about [employees] as FTEs and you stop shutting out their humanity … as a result you do different things around everything, from salaries to benefits to working hours to the way you meet with people,” Lorna explained.

Using your power and influence for good

When Timothy asked about some of the experiences that have influenced Lorna’s leadership journey, she reflected back on a time where an employee challenged her to rethink and acknowledge her position of power. The conversation that resulted from that confrontation changed Lorna’s outlook on leadership.

She shared with Timothy a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., on the balance between power and love: “Power without love is abusive and reckless; and love without power is anemic and sentimental.”

She went on to say, “I really love this quote because it brings a very important element to this conversation of needing to understand power and I notice that often when we’re in this conversation about connectedness or vulnerability [with senior leaders] …  there can be a fake-ness in the lack of acknowledgement of power.” When leading from that position of power and understanding the impact of acknowledging that to her team, Lorna’s found that she’s been better able to embrace vulnerability, connection, and collaboration.

There is a difference between delegation and collaboration, a big difference.

On the topic of collaboration, she also reflected on the impact of the power-versus-love balance on a leader’s ability to work with others, noting the difference between collaboration and delegation:

“There is a difference between delegation and collaboration, a big difference. Often, my conversations with senior people kind of enter this territory … acknowledging where power lies and the role of power and love in the solving of many of the problems that the world faces today is a very rich conversation.”

Finding ways to make a meaningful impact on the world

Timothy and Lorna closed out their conversation on the topic of making an impact and finding broken areas most in the world that are most meaningful to you.

Offering a quote from Glennon Doyle, Lorna encouraged leaders to “Go where your heart breaks.”

She often asks leaders where they feel they can make the biggest impact. For Lorna, she simply looks around at the travesties happening today and connects to the things that conjur profound feelings in her:

“There are so many things that happen in the world that don’t touch us … And then there are other things that just break my heart. And that is the place for me to act, that is the place of power … the question for everyone on this call is, ‘Where does your heart break?’ because that’s the clue to where you act or where you belong.”

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