The Victory of Virtue

I had the pleasure of seeing the musical “Evita” at the Fox Theater in Atlanta yesterday and though I had seen it before, one particular scene stood out to me. The musical tells the story of Eva Perón, an influential figure in Argentine culture and politics, who died at the age of 33, albeit after a whirlwind life.

The scene I mentioned, “The Art of the Possible” occurs in Act I. It depicts the power struggle between General Perón (Eva’s future husband) and other military figures. The Broadway show employs a game of musical chairs as the metaphor, while this particular performance in Atlanta used a progressive wrestling match (in the form of a dance) between each military figure. In the end in both cases, Perón establishes himself as the victor, by virtue of his superior political strategy and cunning.

The scene summarized much of human experience. These power struggles work out between people in romantic relationships, between employees in companies, between hopeful political candidates as well as between established political bosses. No matter where you look, the wrestling match is playing out. Must it be so? Just because it has been so for a very long time, must we accept it and play by those rules? Or is there another way?

As the CEO of several small companies, I have the opportunity to shape our corporate culture in ways that go far beyond simply making the companies more efficient or competitive. While I do not deny that those two factors are important, I do think there is much more that can be done through the corporate vehicles we have at our disposal in the world today. Companies eat up a lot of man’s time on earth right now, and they are enormously influential on the way the world works, so what not use them to make the world a better place while we’re at it?

Rather than encouraging, rewarding, and praising competitive behaviors in the workplace, why not emphasize cooperation? The competitive spirit is strong, but it must be directed, otherwise it will eventually end up destroying the very fabric of the relationships in a company. I worked as a stock broker early in my professional life and I can assure you that there is nothing appealing about a work environment in which competition reigns supreme. Sure a lot gets done. Sure people will go to almost unbelievable extremes to be the best. But at what cost. Quality of life, happiness, and fulfillment are typically the first three qualities to go, qualities which, I might add, would otherwise thrive in a corporate environment were the individuals who made up the whole to complement rather than exploit one another.

Realizing that this is a social and entrepreneurial experiment, there are risks in taking this approach as there are with any approach. But the results so far are quite encouraging. When people are inspired to work together, to support one another, to balance one another, the cooperative spirit quickly takes hold and takes on a life of its own. I love seeing managers helping one another across might typically be barriers designed to protect a departmental silo. I am thrilled to see interns working on equal footing with full time employees, all of whom are seeking to do anything within their power to make the others around them shine. It’s reassuring that people not only can but prefer to work together in this way. And from a personal standpoint, it’s what makes me smile as I head into work on any given day.

My father-in-law made the comment that sometimes the best stories are the true ones. The story of Eva Duarte de Perón is truly a great one, but wouldn’t it be wonderful were there more stories told about the victory of virtue, because they worked out on that basis through real people, like you and me, facing real challenges together?

6 thoughts on “The Victory of Virtue

  1. Lady Leo

    I absolutely agree! True stories of cooperation and shared virtue inspire me and even better, is being a part of them. Three times I’ve also had the thrill of working in a business environment with a handful of others supporting each other and together pioneering a particular industry or method; reaching new levels of success and then progressing into uncharted applications. It is truly thrilling and creates a daily experience of brotherhood that enriches the participants and those affected by the business. It is our lives we are discussing here and the significance of them is always in our own hands beginning with where we are right now. When the change comes in one heart, to bring virtue into daily living, today, that becomes a catalyst for those around you. They will be compelled or repelled; their choice. I have found there are ample amounts of people looking for a cooperative team that brings out the best in each other while accomplishing something of value for eternity. Wonderful post! It is possible!!

  2. Isabelle

    I remember seeing this musical as a child and it was quite impactful. It’s exciting to know that there is a company that is focusing on a corporate culture of cooperation!

  3. Ernest

    I remember hearing a summary of what does one need to be successful and it is the following quote “it’s not about you”. That little phrase has been something that I think about often as I go about my day, both in business and in my personal life as well. What is meant by this is that it is not about “you” in the sense of what you can receive or get out of any given situation, but instead of course it is about you when it comes to contribution and cooperation. So yes Gregg, what you aspire for in your companies is not only very possible, it will provide a wonderful template for others to follow over the milliniums. And one thing that has become so evident to me over the years is how the outcome is so much more incredible this way; actually just about impossible to describe because levels of performance are reached that are way beyond what is normally expected and seen in today’s corporate world.

  4. Steve

    As there is an interest and action taken to complement another in working together rather than to compete for one’s own turf walls of separation are dissolved. Happiness and fulfillment are an actual result that also abolish the pettiness that appears from an undirected competive spirit. Putting our energy into complementary cooperation is freeing and fulfillingly constructive.

  5. David R

    I was reading a summary of some research showing that cooperation is in fact far more encouraging of the success of a business entity than competition. I do believe that we are meant to complement one another rather than to compete, or even to be ‘equal’ as people think of it. How can people who are uniquely talented be equal to each other?

    Perhaps equality in terms of being deserving of fundamental respect and appreciation is a valid thought, but to strive to be like another seems inherently counterproductive. We can only complement one another effectively as we are fully ourselves. On that basis, our talents may be integrated into a dynamic whole. I appreciate your regular emphasis on this vital dynamic.

  6. Joshua

    Agreed, were I as lucky as those with the privilege to work for and with you….well.
    I can only hope to aspire to having those who I am privileged to associate, to feel the same, or maybe a better starting point would be to truly appreciate what they have to offer, deeply, encouraging the invisible establishment of relationships centered I n what’s real and lasting…. The Truth.

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