Last week I posted an article reflecting on the Latin phrase e pluribus unum. I observed that organizations and the people of our country are rich with diversity, but we do not effectively leverage that diversity toward becoming greater together. I wrote that article after first-hand observation of typical congressional shenanigans from my perch in the U.S. senate gallery. A few days later, I was treated to a poignant reminder of the power of e pluribus unum in, of all places, a pizza shop.
We The Pizza is a fantastic pizza shop on Pennsylvania Avenue near the U.S. Capitol. Prices are good and the pizza is great. On a nice day, you can sit at a sidewalk table and people watch. One evening while waiting for our order, I noticed some rather large printing on the wall. At first glance, I mentally dismissed it as typical restaurant marketing phrases (that have no effect on how the food actually tastes or how the service is provided). Then I took a second look and actually read it. Here it is:
“We” is powerful. “We” is strong. “We” is where “I” meets “you” and “us” meets “them” and change happens. “We” means togetherness, unity, peace and good will. “We” will never be alone. “We” is selfless, because there is no “self” in “we.”
“We” is community and family. “We” is belonging. “We” is no one place or thing or idea. “We” is an ideal. “We” is the promise of better days and brighter futures and the opportunity to finally be ourselves because together, “we” are one. “We” are all. There is no separation or exclusion with “we.”
Smells are richer. Sights are more beautiful. Sounds are clearer and tastes more glorious with “we.” “We” brings meaning to the mundane. When “we” joins together and puts another before “I” and “me,” the world becomes a better place.
And “we” are all in this together. Welcome to “We.”
WE, THE PIZZA.
We. Unum. Our diverse individuality is important, and can be made into true greatness, but only to the degree that it supports the whole, the “we.” I am NOT promoting collectivism, or suggesting that everyone should be made equal. Regarding collectivism, the truth is that that is perhaps the fastest way to destroy individual productivity and thus undermine collectivist goals. Regarding equality, the truth is that everyone has equal intrinsic human worth and value, but not everyone has equal skills or potential.
If we are to truly realize the potential of e pluribus unum and the power of “we,” the mandate for leaders is threefold:
- They must discern the unique contributions and potential of each individual, then
- They must determine how that can be leveraged to support the organization, and finally
- They must develop a culture that focuses on “we” (see “We The Pizza” above).
Similarly, the mandate for followers is also threefold:
- They must discern their own unique contributions and potential, then
- They must work to communicate, promote, and use these in support of the organization, and finally
- They must focus their attention on “we” (again, see “We The Pizza” above).
Please take a moment to re-read the “We The Pizza” credo above. Grade your own attitude and actions as a leader and as a follower according to this ideal. You are probably more likely to fall into “I” mode when the pressure is on. However, times when you are under pressure are the very times that “we” is more important than “I.” What about the overall culture of your organization? Depending on your particular position you have more or less power over development of that culture, but everyone has the ability to influence it.
What are you doing to promote “we”?