Like many of you, I have seen quite a bit on the news lately. I often reflect back on past experiences to better understand the application for today:
My mom moved my younger brother and me to a small town in North Louisiana when I was about ten years old. My parents had just divorced and dad was not really in the picture any more. We moved into a two bedroom apartment, would qualify as poor on any scale you looked at, but I was blessed with opportunities to play sports almost year around.
One thing I noticed early on that was so different to me (based on where we moved from in Texas) was that the youth sports leagues were segregated. There was a predominantly white league for all the sports and a predominantly black league for the same sports. They were run by the same city director, would compete at times in various district tournaments, but were separate throughout the year. In Jr. High School, we came together and played on the same team and had outstanding success in football and basketball. That success would continue together all the way through high school.
In baseball, we didn’t come together on one team until our 10th grade year. Both leagues had good all-star teams each year, but I don’t recall either league ever winning a district tournament, much less a state tournament. But you know what, when we came together as one team in high school, we would go on and win three consecutive state championships. What we could not do apart, we achieved together. Something special happened when we came together!
It seems so ironic, that a group of kids could come together with a common purpose and achieve so much. You see, when we were in that huddle in a football game, the race of that guy next to you didn’t matter. All that mattered was that we worked together. When we were on the diamond and needed a big out to win a key game, it didn’t matter what league we had played in growing up. We just needed to find a way together to make a play!
I don’t have all the answers for what has gone on in our country over the years nor what is going on now. One thing that experience has taught me though is that special things happen when a group is unified! We worked through things at times, but stayed focused on the team. When a group comes together with a common cause, special things can happen.
For those leading people today, consider these key thoughts:
1. Humility precedes unity. When we humble ourselves and look to the interests of others first, unity can occur. That’s servant leadership at its best. Asking what can I do for those that I lead! Team success is above personal recognition.
2. Common purpose is essential. You saw that in the above story. Leaders have to engage their teams in a common purpose that all value.
3. Be a good teammate. Leaders have to also recognize that not everyone has the same background or outside influences in their life. The old adage of be quick to listen and slow to speak can come in handy for a leader when things are not clear.
4. Seek something great. Don’t limit expectations or just get by with what you have in the past. Leaders provide vision and hope. The acronym for TEAM is so relevant right now – Together Everyone Achieves More!
If a bunch of high school kids back in the early 80’s could figure this out, surely folks can figure this out today. Ya, I know it was just a bunch of kids just trying to win games, but those kids grow up to win much more important things in life.
Special things can happen when people are unified!