I didn't invent the idea of tribes. But I've been using the term long before Seth Godin codified it in his book. Still, there are few resources that clarify the concept more than that one.
Understanding what a tribe is and how to leverage one is perhaps the most important lesson a leader (and writer) can learn. There are three truths I've discovered about the power of tribes, but before I share those, let's define the term.
What is a tribe?
A tribe is a small but powerful group of people. It's a fan base, a Bible study, a group of influencers. A tribe is small enough to feel personal but large enough to make a difference.
A tribe is not usually created out of thin air. More often than not, tribes are found. They are existing groups of people formed around very specific interests and passions. Many times, they're leaderless — until someone has the courage to step up.
Here are some examples:
- Trekkies are a tribe.
- The Southern Baptist Convention is a tribe.
- Vegans are a tribe.
- J.K. Rowling readers are a tribe.
- Your neighborhood may be a tribe.
- Even a close-knit family can be a tribe.
All major movements begin with tribes, with a group of people who care enough to do something. And if your message is going to make a difference, you're going to have to find yours.
Without a tribe, you're irrelevant
You may have something to say, but if you open your mouth and there's not tribe to hear you, what's the point? If your words can't spur people on, then perhaps your energy is better spent finding the people who will resonate with your message.
Because you can waste a lot of breath, spouting out a message nobody is listening to. But make no mistake: there are people who care about what you have to say. You just need to find them.
Without a tribe, you're invisible
We all have talents and gifts that deserve to be noticed. Some of us are more comfortable with the spotlight than others, but all of us were created to live in community.
No man is an island…
But without a tribe, that's exactly what you are: a loner, a rebel. Not a pioneer, a vagrant. As poetic as it may seem to go it alone, you need people to help you accomplish your vision (whatever it may be).
Without a tribe you're ignorant
The surprising fact about tribes is not just that you get to lead one, but that it, in fact, leads you. The best leaders are servants. And when you find your tribe and take up the mantle of leadership, you will hear from people.
They'll tell you what they need, what they want. They'll share their dreams and aspirations and greatest fears with you. And if you truly care, you'll listen.
You'll do everything you can to help those people, and they'll love you for it. They'll want to reward you (of course, the irony is helping them is the reward).
But if you never take the time to find the tribe, you'll never get the chance to listen. And you'll always be taking a shot in the dark when you write, speak, or try to create something you think the world needs.
Time to find your tribe
The best thing I ever did as a writer was find my tribe. I spent years figuring out what I wanted to say and what I didn't. Then I focused on a specific niche and wrote just to that worldview.
Along the way, I encountered people and listened to their stories, which helped me better understand the message I wanted to articulate (I am still learning this).
The result is a small, but powerful group of people who will follow me wherever I want to lead (which is not something I take lightly). The cool part is it's not just me leading them; it's us, participating in a movement together.
If you're someone who has something to say but is still waiting for people to listen, you need a tribe. And if you're not quite sure how to find one, start here.
Why else do we need tribes? Share in the comments.
*Photo credit: James Cridland (Creative Commons)