Most experts agree that human beings are wired for community. Many would say social interaction with others is a fundamental and existential given—maybe not on the “must-have” order of air, water, and food, but it’s right up there with safety, esteem, and other motivations in Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Consider the power of comments like, “You’re not alone,” “We’re in this together,” or “I’ve got your back.”
Togetherness is a quality that is innately woven into the very fabric of the very teams we lead every day. But this spirit of professional camaraderie, while typically regarded as critical to corporate culture, is only one of its many virtues. There are many other valuable benefits of togetherness that we should appreciate and fold into the manner in which we show up as leaders in our organizations:
By definition, inspiration comes from outside of one’s self. Ask yourself how many times have you had an epiphany, made a breakthrough, or formed an idea that was sparked by someone else’s comment or action? Odds are you’ve lost count. Of course, there are times when we as leaders seek clarity on a challenge or issue that only solitude and quiet introspection can provide. But those times should be more the strategic exception, not the rule.
We all struggle to fully appreciate the uniquely personal points of view of others simply because we are not, nor can we become, anyone but who we are. When we struggle to solve a particular problem, seek to make sense of the world around us, or wrestle with the shortcomings of others or ourselves, we need outside perspectives to help us process our thinking, actions, and emotions unbiased by what we think we know or believe. We all have blind spots. If we could perceive them ourselves, they would simply be spots—easily seen and dealt with in tidy fashion on our own.
Okay, this one is pretty obvious. Or is it? Being in physical proximity with others doesn’t necessarily guarantee acceptance, authentic relationship, or trust. But not being present with people practically guarantees those things won’t happen. As leaders, we need to capitalize on every opportunity to foster and promote these essential qualities in our people, and that means absentee leadership styles are not a viable option if teambuilding and healthy cultures are important to us.
Some experts believe that as much as 60% – 70% of human communication is nonverbal. Is it any wonder then that misunderstandings, incorrect assumptions, and broken relationships are running roughshod over society? Why would we expect to truly hear and understand one another when the primary means of effectively communicating with other human beings has been replaced with email, text messages, online chat, and remote video images—all delivered through a hunk of cold, hard technology?
People are by nature social creatures. Even though American culture—and especially Western American culture—has historically and doggedly clung to the idea of rugged individualism as one of its defining traits, the fact is we were made for community. Not with our dog or our social network or our Peloton group, but with other human beings. Together. Live and in person. There is no online chat or videoconference substitute for a firm handshake, the heartfelt hug of long-awaited reunion, or the infectious joy manifested by an uncontrollable case of the giggles.
Point to Ponder:
What good is leadership in the absence of other people? As we are often fond of saying around CTLF, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Here’s to going the distance in the company of those we have the profound privilege of leading.