The secret of leadership is simple

Posted by
/ / Leave a comment

A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings, have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.

Tribes are about faith – about belief in an idea and in a community. And they are grounded in respect and admiration for the leader of the tribe and for the other members as well. Do you believe in what you do? Every day? It turns out that belief happens to be a brilliant strategy. But we’re stuck following archaic rules. Stuck in industries that not only avoid change but actively fight it. Stuck in fear of what our boss will say, stuck because we’re afraid we’ll get into trouble. Most of all, we’re stuck acting like managers or employees, instead of like the leaders we could become. We’re embracing a factory instead of a tribe.

Heretics are the new leaders. The ones who challenge the status quo, who get out in front of their tribes, who create movements. The marketplace now rewards (and embraces) the heretics. It’s clearly more fun to make the rules than to follow them, and for the first time, it’s also profitable, powerful and productive to do just that.

Leaders don’t care very much for organizational structure or the official blessing of whatever factory they work for. They use passion and ideas to lead people, as opposed to using threats and bureaucracy to manage them. Leaders must become aware of how the organization works, because this awareness allows them to change it. In fact, most organizations are waiting for someone like you to lead them.

Heretics are engaged, passionate, and more powerful and happier than everyone else. Challenging the status quo requires a commitment, both public and private. It involves reaching out to others and putting your ideas on the line. Heretics must believe. More than anyone else in an organization, it’s the person who’s challenging the status quo, the one who is daring to be great, who is truly present and not just punching a clock who must have confidence in beliefs.
Great leaders focus on the tribe and only the tribe. You don’t do it for glory, you do it to help. Great leaders are able to reflect the light onto their teams, their tribes.

A leader can help increase the effectiveness of the tribe and its members by

  • transforming the shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change;
  • providing tools to allow members to tighten their communications; and
  • leveraging the tribe to allow it to grow and gain new members

Most leaders focus only on the third one. A bigger tribe somehow equals a better tribe. In fact, the first two tactics almost always lead to more impact. Every action you take as a leader can affect these three elements, and the challenge is to figure out which one to maximize.

So if tribes reward innovation, and if initiators are happier, then why doesn’t everyone do it? Because of fear.

Fear of failure is actually overrated as an excuse. Why? Because if you work for someone, then, more often than not, the actual cost of the failure is absorbed by your organization, not by you. What people are afraid of isn’t failure. It’s blame. Criticism. We choose not to be remarkable because we’re worried about criticism. Fear of criticism is a powerful deterrent because the criticism doesn’t actually have to occur for the fear to set in. But.. the products and services that get talked about are the ones that are worth talking about. If I’d written a boring book, there would be no criticism.

Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead. This scarcity makes leadership valuable. It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers. It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that might fail. It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo. It’s uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle. When you identify the discomfort, you’ve found the place where a leader is needed. If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader.

Great leaders don’t try to please everyone. Great leaders don’t water down their message in order to make the tribe a bit bigger. Instead, they realize that a motivated, connected tribe in the midst of a movement is far more powerful than a larger group could ever be. Most people don’t matter so much. Almost all the growth that’s available to you exists when you aren’t like most people and when you work hard to appeal to folks who aren’t most people.

The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.

From: Tribes by Seth Godin


Share your thoughts

Leave a comment