July 16, 2021
This week, we took my son, Will, who will soon start his last year of high school, on a couple of college visits. One of the schools we visited was the University of Dayton, where Will’s sister, Chick, graduated from a year ago. Dayton is a Catholic university run by the Marianist Fathers, the same cats that are in charge at Notre Dame. As, I watched the recruitment video, I was reminded again of the importance of community to this school and to the Marianist order. Now, before you say, “All schools talk about community,” I will tell you, that I suspect all schools talk about community, smaller ones anyway. I know that the school we visited a couple days before did. But, this school – Dayton – lives it. If you don’t like other people, you’re going to be miserable at UD. The school has found the secret to ensuring student interaction, not only at the school, but in and around the town of Dayton as well, where the Marianists are also highly visible and active. And it continues after school with one of the strongest alumni networks in the business. What Dayton has figured out is that stronger communities are winning communities, and that members of strong communities are happier. In fact, year in and year out, Dayton ranks among the top schools in the country for happiest student body. They also have a 93% success rate for placing students after graduation. The correlation between community and winning is undeniable.
And that’s the point for the week.
Leaders who create a strong sense of community win more often. It’s that simple. Any organization has the potential to be a simple collection of disconnected human beings or a community, either or. The leader will determine which. And that choice will largely determine whether that organization is successful – or not.
People want to belong to something bigger than themselves. It’s the way that we were made. We are largely social creatures. We do not do well on our own. Even those of us that sometimes like to be left alone, do not like to be alone (there is a vast difference between the two). We thrive when we are part of a larger community, of a group of people who share our goals, our dreams, our interests, and who cheer our victories and pick us up on the days when life doesn’t go the way we planned.
Community is different than teamwork. Teamwork is tactical. It’s mechanical. It’s more like scripted choreography where everyone knows and does their part, performs their role, and repeats their lines. Teamwork leaves plenty of room for selfishness; just ask LeBron James. But community involves emotion and feeling. Community requires commitment. Community requires investment of not only one’s mind and body but one’s heart and soul. With teamwork, rarely are plays written for what to do when the person next to you loses something they value or suffers some other form of personal setback. In communities, people reflexively offer comfort to those who hurt; they automatically celebrate the achievements of others; they instinctively offer aid to those who are down.
Where there is community, teams prosper because the whole becomes far greater than the sum of its parts. In community, the gifts of all are combined and multiplied. In community, when one part slumps, the other part does more to overcome the shortfall. In communities, individuals are able to achieve that which they never dreamed possible. In communities, the lives of everyone are improved – because everyone gives a damn about everyone else. It’s no more complicated than that.
So, build community.
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