In a UAE-based multi-national company, two arch-rival senior leaders found themselves in an all-out fist fight that ended only through police intervention.   One Egyptian man, typically known for his soft-spoken relationship-orientation, felt he had been pushed too far by his hard-driving, task-oriented Palestinian opposite.  Neither man cared that their inverse perspectives had the potential for bringing amazing synergistic solutions.  In the moment, all that mattered was being right and defending the only position that made sense from each of their perspective. 

In so many ways, this experience is a metaphor for one of the greatest business challenges of our day.  There is a duel of sorts that plays out every day in organizations around the globe.  It is a struggle between task and relationship orientation, and the ever-present challenge to balance these competing forces.  Neither focus is wrong or bad.  Either task or relationship orientation, without the positive synergy created through the other, will implode your business.  You’ve likely seen it with your own eyes. 

Over-Emphasis on Task or Relationship

Consider what the task-relationship imbalance looks like.  Here are some of the outcomes that will surely emerge when there is too much importance placed on one side of the equation or the other:

Too Much Task-Orientation Leads To: Too Much Relationship-Orientation Creates:
Employee exhaustion, stress, burn-outHigh toxicity and blameDeep disengagement and disconnectionPoor retention (employees who become depleted or feel under-valued leave)Diminished productivityNegative financial impact InefficiencyAll-talk-no-action syndromeFailure to hit goals in a timely wayBlame and frustration (toxicity)Turnover (high achievers who get sick of falling short of targets leave)Negative financial performance

As you study the outcomes, you can see how the task-relationship imbalance leads to frustration, depletion, poor performance, and delivering a half-hearted effort.  In a day when one in five employees leave the organization on average (see infographic below), and 91% of all Millennials expect to vacate their jobs in less than two years, business leaders must become expert at not just finding the right task-relationship balance, but learning how to multiply the unique powers associated with each.[1] 

Leaders who fail to master this balancing act between task and relationship are doomed to repeat the destructive patterns that permeate many businesses today across the globe.  This includes things like high toxicity and blame and the kind of perpetual disengagement that destroy businesses, spills over into families, and drastically hurts our economy. [2]  Learning to effectively balance task and relationship has become an urgent necessity in order to win the hearts and minds of people and succeed in this new economy.

Interdependent Leadership: The Best Kept Leadership Secret

Interdependent Leadership is defined as, “an emerging approach to leadership that evolves and completes foundational leadership competencies by redesigning the task/relationship dynamic.” It builds upon and expands the positive impact of leaders’ strategy, decision-making, execution, and influencing to increase competitive advantage, improve performance and relationships, and win the hearts and minds of people. 

Imagine that you could multiply the power of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Crucial Conversations, and Strengths-Based and Situational Leadership all at the same time.  What would it look like to see these applied and operating together?  You would see new behaviors and skills like Unconditional Curiosity replacing judgment, ICU Acknowledgement instead of blame, and Feedforward rather than demoralizing feedback.  You would see more Confident Vulnerability and measurable increases in Work Joy, Proactive Accountability, and the kind of Team Connection that ignites optimal team and organizational performance.  Interdependent leadership heals people as well as the bottom line. 

Julie Simpkins, a one-time COO for a Midwest-based healthcare company, described it like this: “The experience of growing from Independence to Interdependence has been both the most challenging and meaningful leadership leaps I have ever made.  Interdependent Leadership has transformed how I show up as a leader and our company will never be the same.” 

Truly, Interdependent Leadership is the best kept leadership secret of our day.

This article has been written by DeAnna Murphy – the founder and CEO of People Acuity and principal author of Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living and Choose to See You – in collaboration with People Acuity co-thought leaders, Lisa Gregory and Steve Jeffs. DeAnna is a Top 100 Global Coaching Leader who has provided keynotes and leadership development experiences in 32 countries.  Learn more about Interdependent Leadership and download the new Interdependent Leadership eBook – at

[1] Sources: Forbes, Compdata, SHRM, OC Tanner, and Deloitte.

[2] Sources: InfoPro Learning, Gallup, People Acuity, Scoro, Udemy