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I recently finished reading Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us by Seth Godin and if you have not read it, I would highly recommend it.

Most of my business-world friends read this many moons ago (it was first published in 2008), so this might be old news for you.  But, I would venture to say that a re-read might be a great idea.  Mr. Godin’s ideas were very much ahead of the curve, before their time.    And now, they are HIGHLY applicable to our world.  Time has only served to deepen the impact of his writing, not lessen it.

 

Let me first help you with some lingo Mr. Godin uses.

A tribe is a collection of people devoted to the same set of goals or ideas.   For instance, there is a dedicated tribe of people in the world who listen to Jimmy Buffett music.  You might disagree with their musical tastes, but you must recognize their unflagging affection to their tribe.  They even have a name: Parrotheads.

A heretic is someone in an organization who leads in such a way so as to bring positive change to the organization.  Heretics inherently do not abide by the prevailing culture; they challenge the status quo and ask dangerous “what if” questions.  Heretics can become so successful and famous, like Steve Jobs, that we forget how heretical they were.  Their ideas become so accepted, sometimes they can become the status quo in a new era.  Then, we need another heretic.

 

I took away a few lessons from this little book that I am now trying diligently to apply to my life:

  • Don’t despise the tribes you’re in –and you are likely in several (my tribes include Christians, those people concerned with serving others, consultants, cross-cultural missionaries, doctors, wives of doctors, moms of school-aged kids, writers, gardeners, people who attend Bethel World Outreach Church in Nashville, TN, people who work at Every Nation Ministries and health-nuts).  And notice most of these are not formal organizations!

Many people, including me at times, have looked at other tribes with a desire to be part, and maybe even a leader.

For instance, I could only wish that I were so cool as some of my very tech-savvy friends.  This is not me.  I have no idea how to solve many technical issues.  I can do a little and am maybe a small-level Apple tribe member, but certainly would not qualify as someone people seek out for tech advice.  I think those people are cool, if not a touch strange at times, but I am not a member of their tribe.

On the other hand, I am a very skilled gardener.  I have been known to teach other moms how to have a kid-friendly garden.  I read gardening books, websites, magazines and seek out other gardeners.  It is my Saturday passion and my respite from every other tribe I am in, including the moms of small kids tribe.  I need other gardeners, as I don’t know sometimes what that strange bug is or how to save okra seeds.  I am a member of the gardening tribe and sometimes a local leader for those aspiring to become tribe members.

So, I’m learning to embrace the various tribes I am in.  Perhaps one day I can swap gardening help with some tech advice from one of those cool tech tribe members.

 

  • Don’t wait for someone else in the tribe to anoint you as a leader; CARPE DIEM!

Seize the day, for today other people in the tribe need leaders.   They don’t need leaders who toe the line, either.  They need forward-thinking, pattern-busting, heretic leaders willing to think outside the box.   The same old thinking created whatever issues the tribe is facing.  We need new thinking to solve them. So, I am learning to not only embrace my tribal membership, but also to step up and lead within that tribe.

We don’t have time in life to wait for someone else to recognize us as a leader.  Just get out there and begin adding value to other peoples’ lives.

That is all tribal leadership really is about – being a resource for others in the tribe, adding value and thinking outside the box.    The practical expression of this is my blog, recent Bible study about how to serve the community (now submitted to a publisher for review!), my involvement as a leader in our church, and volunteer efforts at my kids’ school.

 

  • Find the heretics within the tribe and help them be better.

This was so profound, that I dog-eared page 134.   You should read that page for sure, and especially if you are regularly engaged in cross-cultural community service or any kind of consulting.  Everyone talks about doing this, but so few people really do this well.  I love the simplicity of Godin’s example on this page.  It really breaks it down for the rest of us.

On page 134, Godin is talking about Jerry Sternin, a heretic who is changing the way societies and organizations think.  Jerry went to Vietnam to help a ministry working among severely impoverished families.    Jerry noticed that, even in the midst of great poverty, several families in the community were managing to feed their kids and stay healthy.  Instead of telling the less-healthy families how to become healthy using his own knowledge (the traditional western aid model), he took a different approach.   He made it easy for the moms with healthy kids to share their techniques and practices with the moms of the starving kids in the community.  He basically provided a platform to the heretics within that particular tribe to lead and bring change to their community.  What I also notice, is that the success of the project wasn’t because Jerry was some super-smart aide consultant.  He simply noticed something and enabled those who knew the secret to share it with others.  Simple, yet profoundly impacting to those kids who now aren’t starving.

Godin takes this idea and offers this advice:

“Find leaders (the heretics who are doing things differently and making changes), and then amplify their work, give them a platform, and help them find followers – and things get better.” 

So, I am on the hunt for other heretics within my tribes, especially among those who serve their communities.  Know one?  Send them my way.  I’d love to talk and be challenged – and share what I’ve seen too.

 

John Maxwell once said, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”

To become leaders within our tribes, we must have something positive to add.   My God is a creative God and has given me lots of unique, creative ideas for how to add value to others’ lives.  Ask Him and He will give you wisdom too.  There is plenty of room for more heretics who are willing to challenge the status quo for their tribe and bring positive change to our lives in the process.

Future heretical leader ready to lead a tribe, I welcome you!

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