Foundational Principle #3: Our need for connection

Women in Law Perth

The following post is an excerpt from “Eve of Influence: Keys to unlocking exceptional leadership in women”. In this book, Leadership Zone Founder and Director Liz McCoy provides a practical guide to increasing leadership expertise and how to foster the development of compassionate, kind and connected workplaces. Eve of Influence is for the women who are fully committed to their leadership journey.  For women who are willing to go deep, and work on themselves for the betterment of those they influence and guide.

In this post, Liz breaks down the importance of understanding emotional drivers – the third of the three foundational principles. In it, Liz discusses the challenges we all currently face with disconnection and how as humans, we all long for deep connection.

If you would like to read the entire book, I invited you to download it here.


According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in five Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any given year. That is, nearly 5 million people in this country.

The most common mental illnesses are depressive, anxiety and substance use disorders. The most common theme in each is social isolation and disconnection. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that depression carries the third highest burden of all diseases in Australia.

Depression ranks slightly behind cardiovascular disease and stroke, and is higher than smoking related diseases – and cancer – when it comes to healthy life lost. This is in fact a global problem. The World Health Organisation estimates that depression will be the number one health concern in both the developed and developing nations by 2030.

Here is something even more alarming…

Dr Jean Twenge is an American psychologist and very popular public speaker. She has been researching and publishing on generational differences for the last 25 years. In a recent interview on CNN, she reports seeing something that scared her to her core.

In 2011-2012, the number of people having iPhones went over the 50% mark. This was also the year that more kids started to say that they felt sad, hopeless, useless …that they couldn’t do anything right. That they felt ‘left out’ and lonely.

The correlations between increasing depression and the release of the iPhone are frightening.  There is no doubt that we are in the midst of the worst mental health crisis this planet has ever seen … and projected to get worse!

So what is going on? In a supposedly intelligent and hyper-connected world, why are people experiencing profound disconnection?

Brene Brown in ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ provides the most fabulous description of connection:

Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

We all want, need and long for deep human connection – it is part of our DNA.

We are pack animals after all. I also personally love that connection is energy.  It is something tangible – we can obviously measure energy – not the kind of energy that exists between people (yet) – but energy is measurable – it is a tangible thing.

I am a regular walker of the Perth bridges. I set out at 5:40am nearly every Friday with a gorgeous friend. As happens with ladies walking we chat about, you know – everything. J One of things we sometimes chat about is the people who greet us with a good morning versus the people who don’t. What influences other walkers’ engagement with us? Is it us? Is it them?

We do know that if I wear my crazy teapot-cosy beanie, more people say good morning.

Like everything in life, it is multi-faceted. But we also know this – if we make an effort to make eye contact and say good morning, it is reciprocated and we connect with them, just for a moment in time.

So, connection happens energetically in an indefinable space between people, and it is absolutely influenced by what we decide to add or withhold from that space.

So now, the question to ask ourselves is: What are we, with deliberate intent and volition as leaders, adding to that space?

When I first started my coaching journey in 2014, one of the first things I learnt is that awareness is 90% of the journey. Once you are aware that connection happens energetically in an indefinable space between people, and is influenced by what you decide to contribute or withhold from that space, you have a choice – to prioritise connection in your life – or not.

Believe it or not, many people choose not!

Why so? Because it creates an identity crisis. Because it is painful and confronting – all self-development journeys are, and it’s the reason why so many choose to rather not create meaningful connection with others!

By virtue of the fact that you are still here reading tells me that you have chosen to push through. Congratulations and welcome to the 10%.

An invitation into the yin …

So since you’re still with me, lets commit to do this – and do it well. Let’s strengthen our yin, prioritise connection and play to our natural strengths. After all, we are each being called to be a better leader. Let’s collectively respond to that call for the benefit of those we lead.

As I suggested earlier, my hope is that you can use this book as a practical guide as you consciously set about rewiring your own neural networks – self directed neuroplasticity if you like. A word of warning: expect the world around you to appear differently …it is a natural consequence of thinking differently.

What follows next is the identification and exploration of three core emotional states which promote relationship orientated leadership and greater human connection.

Our role as leaders is to master the ability to stir up each emotional state in ourselves and in others. In this way we become a source of belonging, significance and contribution for those we lead; we create the space for others to excel; and we build the foundations of deeply connected relationships.