A Group of Like-Minded People
What I learned about leadership from reading “Tribes” by Seth Godin
“Human beings can’t help it: we need to belong. One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms is to be part of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people.”
When I first read this statement, I instinctively agreed. Of course we want to belong, even those who rebel and reject mainstream norms often come together and create new norms where they can belong. Why does the image of a child sitting alone in the lunchroom evoke such sympathy from us? Because it means they don’t belong and as adults, we understand the devastation it can wreak on your life if you don’t find a place to belong. But looking at the above statement, even though I instinctively agree, I didn’t fully understand all of it. I understand belonging, but what is a tribe?
Seth Godin defines a tribe as, “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” So this isn’t just a random group of people, the aspects of a leader and an idea speak to intentionality, so a tribe is something we’re invited into and something we choose to join.
Tribes can exist anywhere. They can exist in the workplace, in schools, neighbourhoods, clubs, or even online. They are everywhere, and they all need leaders. They don’t need leaders who are well-educated, good-looking, rich, or experienced, they need leaders who are committed. Leaders who care about the ideas, about creating change, and about motivating those following them to create change.
This isn’t about management. It’s not directing people to do established tasks with measured resources, it’s about creating change that you, and everyone in the tribe, believes in.
Recently, I joined a tribe that I’ll call the Choose FI tribe. It’s a subset of the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement and was created when two guys named Brad and Jonathan decided to start a podcast and called it ChooseFI. The podcast has thousands of followers and their closed Facebook group has almost 40,000 members. The thing is, this tribe isn’t just a group of people who listen to a podcast. It’s a tribe of people who have been inspired to take action. There are multiple posts an hour on the facebook homepage and a typical post will get over 100 comments. Group members are asking questions and getting educated and well-informed answers. People are sharing their experiences and cheering each other on.
Brad and Jonathan are not experts, but they share their personal experiences, and bring experts on the show. They’re humble, keen to learn, open to change, and above all, they’re committed. They’re not trying to lead the entire world, they are choosing to lead the people who have chosen to follow them. The rest of the world is free to ignore them, this information isn’t for them, it’s for the tribe.
I didn’t join this tribe because Brad and Jonathan are amazing speakers (though I do enjoy the podcast), I joined because they are fully committed, they live with hope and optimism, but match it with a clear and real vision for the future, and then, they’re committed to showing us the actual way to get there.
This is what leading a tribe is about. As Seth Godin writes, “If no one cares, then you have no tribe. If you don’t care – really and deeply – then you can’t possibly lead.”
What do you care about? What are you committed to?
Are people waiting for you to lead them?