How To Grow Your Tribe – Knowing (Part One)

Filed in Leaders & People by on January 25, 2010 0 Comments

Series Introduction

I have been a huge fan of Seth Godin’s Tribes since I picked it up in my local bookstore.  The book is short and to the point with its message: the world needs everyone to be a leader.  Although the book goes into detail about the attributes of a tribe leader, it does not contain instructions for gathering a tribe or leading.  Each tribe is different; therefore, there is not a universal way to gather and lead.

To get us on the same page, we will use Godin’s definition of tribe throughout this series.  He defines tribe as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” (pg. 1)

As Godin points out, there are characteristics and qualities that each tribe shares.  I have defined these qualities as knowing, believing, building, persevering, and growing.  I will be expanding on each of the six attributes as the series progresses.  Also, I highly recommend reading Tribes when you have the time.  It is a short but powerful read that has the ability to revolutionize your business and life.  (Feel free to read my review of the book.)

The Basics of Knowing

The first step in growing your tribe is to know yourself, your potential tribe, and the tribe’s goals.  Without a firm grasp on these three things, your leadership and your tribe will most likely be unsuccessful.  However, if you have a complete understanding of each area, you will have a solid foundation for change and a productive tribe.

Know Yourself

As you begin to lead, you need the ability to ask yourself the tough questions and to engage with honest answers.  How did you lead in the past?  Was it successful?  What critiques did you received about your leadership?  All of these questions are great starting points in order to grasp your motivation.  Be sure to ask questions that begin with “What” and “How.”  When you begin to ask questions that start with “Who” and “Why,” you begin to go down the wrong lines of questioning and can get into some dangerous territory. (Miller, 2004)

After you have answered the tough questions, see if your answers align with the qualities of a leader.  Do you display humility instead of selfishness?  Are you generous?  Do you take advantage of the opportunities given to you?  Are you able to stand up for your beliefs and ideas?  If you answered “no” to any of the questions above, hope is not lost.  Take the time to reassess your priorities, implement changes to align with positive leadership qualities, and then ask the tough questions again.

Here are a few quotes from Tribes regarding the various leadership qualities noted above…

“Generous and authentic leadership will always defeat the selfish efforts of someone doing it just because she can.” (pg. 7)

“The question isn’t, Is it possible for me to do that?  Now, the questions is, Will I choose to do it?” (pg. 8 )

Know Your Potential Tribe

Once you have taken part in some self-reflection, it’s time to get to know your potential followers.  The first step in this process is realizing that everyone wants to be part of a group.  In Tribes, Godin states, “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 (and to take from) a group of like-minded people.” (pg. 3)  In a nutshell, if you become a leader, there is a good chance that you will have people willing to follow you.

It is important that you stay away from the misconception that every person will follow your lead.  It is not practical to think everyone will be jumping at the opportunity to join your tribe.  Not everyone shares the same traits or preferences.  Sally, the office accountant, probably doesn’t like the same type of music as your neighbor’s son, James.  However, it is critical to realize that there are people who will serve as your tribe.  You just need to reach them, engage them, and let them know that they belong to a group consisting of people with similar interests.

Also, knowing your tribe and building your tribe are two different steps that require different resources.  We will learn about building your tribe in part three.

Know What Your Tribe Will Accomplish

If you take a look at the heading for this section, you will notice that I did not state, “Knowing Your Goals.”  Why not?  Because you are different than your tribe.

When you are leading a tribe, there is no time for a personal agenda.  Your goals go out the window and the goals of the tribe come into view.  When Godin recalls a time earlier in his life, he notes, “Everything I did was for us, not for me.” (pg. 30, emphasis Godin.)  It is paramount to take an attitude of humility when leading a tribe.  If you don’t, no one will want to follow you.

Once you have realized that your goals do not exist and that the tribe functions for the betterment of the tribe, begin to understand what the tribe can accomplish.  Dream big.  Anything can happen when a tribe is inspired.

A few guiding questions might be…

  • What are some goals for the tribe?
  • How will the tribe communicate?
  • What objectives need to be met in order for the tribe to meet its goals?
  • How will the tribe begin to organize itself?

These questions may be tough for you to answer at this moment but that is a good thing.  These questions aren’t about you; they are about your tribe.

After knowing yourself, your potential tribe, and the goals of your tribe, you will have a solid foundation for the growth of your tribe.  Without this foundation, your tribe ventures into dangerous territory.  Remember, an unmovable foundation can be the beginning of great things.

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Eric Alpin is the Associate Editor of Folk Media and works for a telecommunications company in Baltimore, Md. He is a social media enthusiast, blogger, writer, and student with a passion for leadership and self-development strategies and techniques. Find out more about Eric on Twitter.

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