There is no place for individualists in this day and age of collaborative economy. Today’s business culture is moving from an “I” to a “We” perspective which speaks so much of the desire to include everyone in the process of a creative economy. It’s a concept that links social responsibility, corporate performance, and business excellence altogether. It’s an idea that values teamwork over self-interest as the driver of business models and economic systems.
We vs. I
Just how powerful is our choice of words in the way we deal with others and build personal and business relationships? Well, it’s powerful enough to make or break our success. Our choice of words is powerful enough to change views, opinions, actions, and situations. Take the power of “we” for example. Choosing “we” over “I” can prove to be one of the most crucial factors in creating a positive, creative, and productive workforce. In fact, there’s even a study suggesting that people who use pronouns such as “I,” “my,” and “me” tend to have an inward focus of their thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Meanwhile, those who used “we,” “us,” and “you” showed an outward focus and considered the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of others. Furthermore, the study revealed that people with lower status were more inclined to use the pronoun “I” compared to individuals with higher status who tended to use the pronoun “we”. The “I” perspective not only promotes selfishness, but it also lowers the morale of individuals, and disregards the efforts of others. The “we” perspective, on the other hand, creates a harmonious relationship among individuals and avoids unhealthy competitions brought about by self-centeredness. Admit it or not, partnerships, trust, and collaborations are as crucial or even more crucial factors than salaries and perks in any organizational setup. A lot of individuals, no matter how high-paying their jobs are, quit when work becomes too individualistic and competitions abound. This also speaks true for some people who, despite having a lower-paying job than their high-paying counterparts, remain committed to their work because they are engaged and their efforts are being acknowledged. Now, what does this study say about leadership? Or what does this even have to do with leadership?
Leader vs. Boss
Would you rather be a leader of a boss? If you think you’re the type of person who tends to use or apply the “I,” “me,” or “my” concept a lot, then you’re likely to be identified as a boss. On the other hand, if you’re the type of person who always considers others in your decisions or actions, then you’re likely to be called a leader. A leader empowers and serves others while a boss wants power and demands to be followed. A boss instructs while a leader mentors others hands-on. A leader inspires while a boss uses fear or authority for people to comply. Why do these things matter? Truth is, the more that we engage others in our endeavors, the more that we become effective and productive. By being a leader and bringing out the best in others instead of focusing only on your own goals and growth, everyone is given the opportunity to rise, grow, succeed, and discover their potentials that would not have been possible if teamwork did not exist.
Raising a “We” Culture
Just imagine how fulfilling it is to be able to contribute to your organization, more so on a greater scale. So, how do we create a “we” culture? As the leader, how do you shift from an “I” to a “we” perspective if you’re the “I-centric” type? As a team member, how do you embrace collaboration if ever you’re not used to it?
Today, more and more individuals and teams are shifting their work paradigms from an individual-focused culture to a team-oriented one. The Power of We Consortium (PWC), for instance, is providing the residents of Michigan’s Ingham County a model for organizing and leveraging resources using the power of communication, collaboration, and accountability. The PWC believes in the interrelatedness of issues facing communities and thus, collaboration and engaging all community resources are the only means of solving the challenges effectively. Isn’t it amazing how the power of “we” can create a self-sustainable community? But what’s more remarkable is the fact that we’re able to discover a lot of hidden skills and talents, and maximize the resources we have.
Alternative business schools are also changing the academic landscape by molding learners to be more socially, economically, and environmentally responsible individuals. Take Knowmads for example. More than teaching about the technical aspects of businesses and economies, they encourage individuals to think beyond themselves. They ask questions that make students think deeply and conscientiously. Questions that let these learners create projects or models that impact positive changes to societies. Again, we can see how the “we” perspective, the others-centered mindset can make a huge difference in the world.
In gist, what these two organizations are telling us is that we can cultivate a “we” culture by learning about others – what their strengths and weaknesses are, what they are passionate about, what they can contribute to the group – and integrating the things we’ve learned from others with the things we know about ourselves. Cultivating a “we” culture starts when we stop thinking about ourselves.
Patrick Roupin is an expert in innovation, design, strategy & entrepreneurship.
Ashrefunisa Shaik is an expert in organizational transformation & sustainability.