The Power of Alliance
Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist, believed in community. Her vivid, accessible writing and strong public presence provoked a robust conversation about how difference and alignment play out in social life and lead to specific outcomes.
In her body of work, Mead implicitly asks all of us to consider how we each have been shaped by our own societal influences. As importantly, if we all are formed by the societies in which we live, how do we then help make that society the best it can be? In short, what does it mean to be part of a group and how does creating alliances with others enhance our ability to make an impact.
I’ve kept a framed copy of one of my favorites of Mead’s quotes in every office I’ve ever occupied:
Never doubt that a small group of committed, thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
I first read Margaret Mead in college and have grown to love this particular idea even more as I’ve continually seen its wisdom validated again and again. I’ve seen so many leaders, accomplished and impressive on their own, whose deepest impact is felt only when they realize and demonstrate that they are part of a larger whole. When we include those with different experiences and areas of expertise and seek to truly understand perspectives other than our own, conversations become richer. And the solutions we create become more likely to work, because those impacted are included in the process. “Nothing about us without us,” is a common maxim in community change efforts.
Mead approached every new experience with openness and curiosity. She was hopeful about our possibilities as human beings and believed that we have an obligation to our shared world and to one another. She was not asked to speak but she spoke anyway—emphasizing how we are all interconnected and reliant on one another for meaning.
Emphasizing connection and alliance as leaders, both within our organization and in the larger community, create vectors of meaning and identity. Shared vision leads to shared effort. We need this as we all walk on. The load is lighter when we carry it together.