Pants. I put them on every weekday

 

“Even when, amid the honours of a triumph, he sits on that lofty chariot, he is reminded that he is only human. A voice at his back keeps whispering in his ear, “Look behind thee; remember thou art but a man.”

–Tertullian, Apologeticus

 

Victorious generals, upon returning to Rome, held a triumphus. Face painted red and garbed in a gold-embroidered purple toga, he rode a gilded four-horse chariot as he led a procession of troops, prisoners, and spoils throughout the streets of Rome. Behind him in the chariot stood an auriga, a slave who held a crown above his head and continuously whispered: “Remember you are mortal.”

 

Modern tech heavily emphasizes celebration. It’s mentioned in every fatuous management book and at every conference. It ranges from exhortations to give a constant stream of positive feedback to every individual contributor for even the most minor achievements to obscenely lavish (for a not yet profitable company) launch parties that feature private performances by A-list performers and open bars. My favorite launch party from my own career was much simpler; we got a keg and a petting zoo in the content manager’s back yard.

I understand the need to stand back and celebrate our accomplishments. I have less patience with self-congratulatory leadership. I think those launch parties are missing something: an auriga. Not literally. The precise structure of the power dynamic isn’t the important part; the vector is. Humility cannot be imposed top-down. Drawing from the navel dining-in tradition, I think launch parties should include a toast by the most junior team member. And in that toast, they should recount an anecdote of the senior-most leader screwing up, being awkward, or otherwise mortal.