E pluribus unum - of many, one | CEO Letter

ceo letters leadership development
Great Seal of the United States

by Ann Michael Dorgan, CEO, MA AbS, PCC


Since August 17th, 2020, the first night of the Democratic National Convention, former First Lady, Michelle Obama’s words continue to ring in my ears:

“If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can, and they will, if we don’t make a change in this election.”

MIchelle Obama, former First Lady [i]

My 30-year career in leadership development tells me I indeed can trust Mrs. Obama. If we the people do not mobilize as a UNITED front, plain and simple, the tyranny and dictatorship our forefathers thought they left behind in Europe will chase us to our doorstep.   

I love my country, primarily because of the wisdom that reigns in its triumvirate structure of governance, who’s ideology ultimately desires freedom for ALL. Yet even the three branches of government now seem to have adopted the ethos and behavior of a single executive branch. We need to regroup and reevaluate.

The Fall of Our Nation

 In 1787, eleven years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution was drafted with the intent to clarify a different form of governance than that of England.  To assure tyranny did not ensue, our American democracy evolved into a strong triumvirate of checks and balances made up of the judicial, executive, and legislative branches. The strongest systems in history before us emulated this architectural phenomenon of threes; Roman Empire, the Trinity, the Chinese Three Excellencies, India’s Trimurti, the Iroquois Nation, to name a few. These governing systems of belief are all pre-enlightenment era. French political philosopher, Charles de Montesquieu (1689-1755) did not originate this trifecta of leadership strategies during the period of enlightenment, however he is given credit for a triumvirate governance theory influenced by these previously tested worlds.

Undoubtedly, the Iroquois Confederacy and their governing practices dated back to the 1400’s, had the greatest direct influence on our European American founders, and as a result, the synthesis of a Native American/European Constitution was created. For the last 232 years, the United States of America has experimented with this hybrid of a complete, self-balanced, self-checking governmental system that guides and decides, who executes and delivers, who controls, and who evaluates. Our system had, up until now, represented one of the best examples of the separation of powers on the planet.  A system that consists of a set of rules establishing a mutual control, and a precise differentiation of roles and responsibilities.

The system proved effective; however, though not failed yet, it is now deeply threatened. Perhaps the downfall was our failure to adopt the Iroquois Nations' practice of 'no land ownership', and because of that failure, capitalism has superseded democracy and our karma now faces us.

US Senator, Bernie Sanders, stressed our nation's threat when saying, “He [Trump] is leading us down the path of authoritarianism. This is not normal, and we should never treat it like it is.  Authoritarianism destroys democracy. Nero fiddled, while Rome burned. Trump golfs.” [ii]

Former Governor and House Representative, John Kasich (Republican) also believes we as a nation are at serious risk, saying, “I’m a life-long Republican, but that attachment holds second place to my responsibility to my country. That’s why I’ve chosen to appear at this [democratic] convention. In normal times something like this would probably never happen, but these are not normal times. I’m proud of my Republican heritage, it’s the party of Lincoln, who reflected its founding principles of unity and a higher purpose. But what I have witnessed these last four years belies these principles. Many of us can’t imagine 4 more years going down this path, and that’s why I’m asking you to join with me in choosing a better way forward. I believe the best of America lies ahead, but only when we rediscover our shared belief in the UNITED States of America.”[iii]

To be clear, the reigning leadership is not serving a nation; COVID-19…..the US is 4% of the world’s population but has 25% of all COVID-19 cases, unemployment rate….tripled in the last year, civil rights…. met with tear gas and clubs, ecology…..regulatory rollbacks

Again, as Mrs. Obama said, “If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can, and they will, if we don’t make a change in this election. Being a president doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are. We are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.”[i]

After 30 years of leadership practice I’ve observed three common attributes of the most extraordinary leaders:

  1. they all exemplify and encourage altruism,

  2. they have a strong belief in the spiritual realm, and,

  3. they have a mission that serves the less fortunate.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth B. Ginsberg (RIP) comes to mind, Mahatma Gandhi comes to mind, and Joe Biden, though with his faults, has the integrity to stand with these elite. Undoubtedly Kamala Harris does, whom by the way is ripe for a presidency.

However, I am hard pressed to see these attributes in our executive branch, as it seems the branch today has the primary objective to serve itself, with a mission of personal gain, regardless of the expense to others. Sadly as a nation, our current leadership gravely reminds us of how little indeed the nation has changed since displacing US indigenous peoples for personal gain.

Things We Can Do to Save Our Democracy

Dear readers, “There is no calvary………we are the calvary.” [iv]  Now more than ever, when capitalisms is 'Trumping' democracy, all of us need to immediately heed John F. Kennedy's plea, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country". [v]  If you’re asking, ‘What can I do?” Here are a few things to consider.

a) Assure your vote is counted: It is not enough to vote; we each need to make sure our vote gets counted.  There is a pandemic and states are still trying to figure out how they will be collecting votes because of COVID.  We need to assure each, and every one of our neighbor’s vote, and that their votes get counted. Find out how your state is handling elections and ask for your ballots to be mailed to you as soon as possible, to ensure you have plenty of time to complete it, then hand deliver it to your most secure and dependable voting depository.

b) Get informed; Please make sure you and your families put aside the time, together, to enjoy, and remember, YOU are America, by watching the Democratic Convention. See how Republicans and Democrats have come together as loyalists to their nation. Read. Watch documentaries by credible sources.  Our short-list of suggestions are listed below. [vi] 

c) Leverage your strengths; you may not be a traditional activist, but you have your strengths.  What do you do best? Do that more often, and for free if you can. I’m a strategic advisor, a coach, providing more pro-bono services now than I have in the last 10 years, to leaders of small and medium businesses facing closure, or needing help managing unexpected situations. We don’t have to save the world, but we can be useful by leveraging our already developed strengths.   

d) Pray; research continues to correlate positive effects with prayer.  Some, like Dr. Dossey, believe it should be prescribed as a medicine. But if you don’t believe in prayer, then the least you can do as a leader is create an environment in your workplace where all belief systems, all people, are accepted without judgement and ridicule.

The Advantages of Triumvirate Leadership

In closing, my company has done research on various types of leadership and we believe triumvirate leadership has great potential, that a 3-branch government is a stable governance. However, our research also indicates there are 5 traits required to sustain such a structure.   

  1. All three branches must have an altruistic mindset; personal agendas come second, or do not exist at all

  2. One triumvir may, but not necessarily, be in a (slightly) higher position than the other two, like the President

  3. There must be clarity and consistent execution of roles and responsibilities

  4. There must be a system of checks & balances with a direct, lean, robust set of rules and norms designed to avoid unhealthy alliances and conflicts, and to overcome personal agendas

  5. There must be a mutual accountability, and communality of intents and goals

Clearly the three-legged stool is presently missing a leg. Unless we get back on track, we will continue to see our nation falter.  Rome did fall, and we are subject to the same fallibility. We haven’t failed, but there is NO room for further error.  

GOD BLESS our Democracy, and our UNITED states of America, e pluribus unum. May we each find a way to be useful during these difficult days, and may we assure our vote is counted.