My husband likes to tell this Joke:

An American is travelling abroad and runs into another American. Excited to meet another ex-pat, he starts up a conversation.

First man: Where is America are you from?

Second man: Florida.

First man: Me Too! Which city?

Second man: Fort Lauderdale.

First man: Me too! How wonderful! Are you a Baptist?

Second man: Yes!

First man: Me too! What Church do you go to?

Second man: First Baptist on Broward. You?

First man: Heathen!

The point of this joke is not to pick on Baptists, but to shine a light on the human tendency to focus on our differences. The joke is funny – because it has some truth to it.

All this to make the distinction between agreement and alignment. Agreement is “harmony or accordance in opinion or feeling; a position or result of agreeing”; while alignment is “arrangement in a straight line, or in correct or appropriate relative positions”.

When we are in agreement, we are in lockstep. While alignment allows a group to move in a particular direction in our own relative position, while keeping their own personal agenda intact. Alignment allows freedom for individual growth while working in larger groups that are moving generally in the same direction as us. Alignment allows all the benefits of the community while preserving the individual.

When working with groups, then, especially with groups of powerful men and women, all with an agenda, I like to find out what their motivations are. Despite all arguments against it, everyone of us has a leader within them. We may want to follow others that inspire us and support others we care for, but at some level, we all have our own agenda – small or big, limited or all encompassing. There is always something only we want, and only we can accomplish – because only we have the passion to follow through on it.

A group that is in alignment allows for such personal agendas to flourish, while a group in agreement will always only allow what is agreed upon. Both liberty and growth lies in these individual agendas. Agreed upon goals take us to agreed upon destinations; aligned agendas take us to uncharted territories, undiscovered lands, while still moving towards the common goal.

Would you be willing to work on a project with a person who you do not agree on in other areas? One such organization, one of my favorites, is FIRE. Peter Bonilla, Director, Individual Rights Defense Program, is a republican; Robert Shibley, Executive Director is a libertarian; and Greg Lukianoff, President and guest contributor at Ricochet, is a democrat. Yet, together, they have achieved free speech on university campuses. While their personal philosophies vary, they have achieved together amazing results by forming an alignment.

So, are they heroes or sellouts? Can one maintain integrity towards their own personal goals and visions and work with others to achieve common goals? Do we have to be in lock step to be in integrity with ourselves?

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