How are your Purple Tribes?

I’ve recent started reading ‘Tribes : We need you to lead us‘ by Seth Godin which I’d really recommend if you are or want to be a leader. (If you want an insight then watch his TEDTalk which is pretty good)

In the book Godin talks about the fact that we’re all part of at least one tribe and how tribes exist for different reasons. I tried to think about the different tribes that I’m part of but it started to hurt my head. What I know is that there are probably groupings of tribes that I’m part of – at least one or two relating to the disability work I do, at least one or two through my job and a handful relating to my personal life – most recently the winter sports one 🙂

In his book, Godin speaks about how tribes need leaders – whether it’s a highly involved leader who provides structure, instruction and action ( in the book he speaks about Greg Classman who created the highly successful Crossfit franchise) or an indirectly involved leader who provides the platform for the tribe but is a leader from a far ( like Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia).

It got me thinking about how leadership of disability networks varies and how it’s very much like leading a tribe. So, I thought I’d write a blog on it 🙂

Purple Tribes

As I wrote the last sentence I paused and thought about whether I meant it or whether actually leading a network is actually more like leading a tribe of tribes rather than a single tribe. From my experience it’s most definitely a tribe of tribes as there are clear and often definable groups of people who come together as part of the network for different reasons and because of different circumstances they also ‘take’ different things from the tribes they’re involved in.

Being a leader of a network, therefore, is probably more like leading tribe leaders than leading individuals within a tribe. And that can be challenging as by definition tribes will have different motives for forming and have different objectives for staying together.

It think it’s important to one that leading a tribe isn’t about finding people and selling them an idea – it’s about finding and connecting disconnected people with a shared interest or belief , sharing your idea for challenging or changing the status quo and bringing them along on the journey.

With any type of leadership, one of the most important things a tribe leader can do is listen- not only to those in the tribe but also to those who aren’t. One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt working within a diversity network is that properly listening to what members of the network (or tribe). I think one of the most important reasons why you should listen is that it will give you a great idea about how healthy your tribe is and that’s really important as a leader as it will give you an indication of what you need to do as a leader.

So, if your tribe is lively and ‘talkative’ then it’s generally a sign that they’re doing OK – the connections between tell tribe members are good and they’re building relationships (note that it’s important to hear what’s going on – they could be lively and talkative because they’re not getting support and are unhappy!)

If it’s quiet then it’s probably a sign that something’s not quite right – it could be that they don’t have a platform to communicate or that some key tribe members are missing. It could also mean that the tribe has run its course and isn’t needed – in either circumstance you probably need to be doing something it.

So – does thinking about tribes help us to improve our relationship with out networks? In some ways yes – it reminds us that we don’t have to lead by doing or lead by always being involved but that if we create the platform, share an idea and get people taking that we’ll on our way to leading a tribe!

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