Today, we want to offer you a powerful African proverb:
If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.
You will notice that this proverb doesn’t say that one or the other is right. Instead it suggests that the more you can make a conscious choice about how you move in the world, the more likely you are to get where you want to go.
There are thousands of books released each year telling us how to lead, manage, succeed, collaborate, etc. Yet, in this simple proverb, there is almost as much guidance as in all of those books.
Despite all of the talk about teams and collaboration in our culture, we are still pretty fierce individualists who like to go it alone. As described in the proverb, there are times when speed and efficiency are the most important variable – when doing things alone is, in fact, the wisest choice. But, to build successful, scalable and sustainable organizations you need to “go together” and that takes more time. We often coach our executive clients to slow down just enough to build engagement and create shared influence. This is because we have seen that the only way to create long-term, deep success is when the whole organization is aligned behind the vision and committed to moving together to create success.
As you consider something that you are trying to achieve as a leader – whether in your family, in your community or in your work – think about the critical goal and ask yourself whether you need to get it done fast or whether you need to build something that will go far. If you’re aiming for efficiency, then work on it alone, but if you are aiming for long-term, satisfying success, consider who needs to join you in moving forward.
An excellent example of this type of thinking follows:
In 2011, we spent nearly a month in Rwanda visiting Linda’s daughter who was there working for a healthcare NGO. While in Rwanda, we learned that most Rwandans are subsistence farmers, and as such, they struggle daily to stay ahead of starvation. When we returned to the U.S., the abundance in our lives seemed glaring, so we went in search of an organization that was working with African villages in ways that honored their existing cultures yet helped them to move beyond mere subsistence.
We were quite surprised to discover a Portland based non-profit that was having tremendous success supporting African villages to create economic independence through farming co-ops. Africa Bridge has a successful 5-year program going into Tanzanian villages and listening closely to the needs of the villagers. Then through a simple but elegant process they help the villagers establish farming co-ops.
These co-ops create dramatic changes especially in the lives of the most vulnerable children and the families that care for them, and the village as a whole. At the end of 5 years, the villagers are prepared to continue their co-ops and care for children without Africa Bridge’s help. Then to share the wisdom that is gained, several of the villagers join Africa Bridge in bringing the model and their experience to the next village.
They have learned that by going together, they have the power to sustain the lives of many more than they could if they went alone.