"Egoless Community Organizing"

December 30, 2008   

In the past, I've spoken about "egoless community organizing" -- and nearly every time I do, people (even those I respect and listen to closely) scoff at the concept. "It's naive," they say.

Not so.

The concept of "egoless community organizing" borrows from two proven -- and initially ridiculed -- principals from the Obama campaign:

The first, the idea of an egoless organization, is one actually rooted in valuing competence over politics. In TIME's Person of the Year interview with Barack Obama, the President-Elect talked about how he created his organization's effective and winning culture from the top down.

I don't think I've got some magic trick here. I think I've got a good nose for talent, so I hire really good people. And I've got a pretty healthy ego, so I'm not scared of hiring the smartest people, even when they're smarter than me. And I have a low tolerance of nonsense and turf battles and game-playing, and I send that message very clearly. And so over time, I think, people start trusting each other, and they stay focused on the mission, as opposed to personal ambition or grievance. If you've got really smart people who are all focused on the same mission, then usually you can get some things done. [emphasis mine]

I'll do what TIME's editors did and recommend that you read those last words again.

I've long believed that the Hope of Barack Obama is the hope of competence; and in those words, Obama unveils an invaluable key to producing Change:

Whether your organizing the New York tech industry, activists against Prop 8, a soccer team or employees in a startup, creating a culture where people "stay focused on the mission, as opposed to personal ambition" -- egoless, if I may -- is the secret.

If you can do that, the Community Organizing part -- the work in the field -- will come that much easier; because, as Barack Obama says in the understatement of the year, "then you can get some things done."

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