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Vince Lombardi, the legendary Green Bay Packer’s coach, is often quoted for his memorable phrases. One specific quote is “The achievement of an organization are the results of the combined efforts of each individual.”  Lombardi coached the Packers to 5 NFL Championships, specifically Super Bowls I and II. In his tough-minded personality, Lombardi stressed the importance of teamwork and dedication to the purpose of the organization.

The lesson is very simple. The effort of one individual will never sum to the efforts of a team. Or, in other words, success is always the sum of many parts. This applies to individuals and organizations, as each pursues great outcomes.

Dr. Rutland, president of Oral Roberts University and former president of Southeastern University, once said at a graduation ceremony, “If you see a turtle on a fence post, you must realize that he did not get there on his own.” Individual success is the sum of individual effort and the dedication of a person’s family, friends, coworkers, etc. A person should never postulate that they are the sole reason for their success; that is simply inappropriate and prideful. The same applies to organizational achievement.

Great organizations are the result of the combined efforts of many individuals. CEOs would be remiss to consider the success of their organization a result of their own efforts and abilities. Sure, they may have played a critical role. But, the honor should always trickle down to those in the trenches. That is difficult in a society that attributes success to top executives; but, executive should find meaningful and realistic ways to spotlight the efforts of his/her followers.

In view of this discussion, we must also look to the wisdom of Paul in his instruction to the church in Corinth. In his attempt to discourage schisms, he encourages the church to consider the diversity of gifts. He states in 1 Corinthians 12:20-25, “20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” In short, everyone is important to the body or organization.

Similar analogies are used to describe the human body. Sure, the heart by itself is powerful, but without the brain, the heart is worthless and incapable of surviving. Even the less-significant organs, when cut out, significantly impair the holistic well-being of an individual. I could continue to list similar illustration, but each would point to the same reality–excellence is always the sum of many parts.

So, what do we say to these things?

  1. We should never assume that we are greater by ourselves. Wisdom and strength is in numbers.
  2. Mavericks or lone wolfs may have short-term success, but long-term success takes a team.
  3. Never underestimate the weaker parts of the system; their role is necessary.
  4. Reflect on and appreciate those who pushed you to the top.
  5. Honor and protect those in the trenches.
  6. Live each day with the reality that it is God who causes men to triumph.