We’re living in an age where the importance of leadership is stressed at all times. Everyone is expected to be a leader, but rarely do people know how to be one. As an observation of group psychology, this three-minute video explains this concept pretty well:
Header image courtesy of Olof Adell via Flickr
Crazy? Yes and no. My gut feeling is that initially, there were a good number of people who would have liked to dance to the music. They had paid to be at the music festival after all. But nobody wanted to be the first to join “that guy.” But it only took a couple of brave souls joining for in order for the small group to turn into a frenzy.
What do we see? Most people don’t want to lead, but most people don’t want to miss out. After a small group got the ball rolling, everyone climbed aboard.
Leadership is important, but how do we leverage it within our lives? While theoretically, it’s not that difficult, applying it is another matter altogether. By keeping our eyes and ears open, we’ll see and hear opportunities to build tribes and lead those around us.
When we know why, we communicate
Knowing why we do something is the core principle behind leading. If you don’t even know why you’re trying to lead, then you might want to stop and reevaluate your game plan. Every leader and community needs a foundation. Something needs to bring us together and keep us coming back for more. Without it, the community is fake, empty and bound to weaken or dissolve sooner or later.
Does that mean that tribes and communities need to have a super unique foundation in order to succeed? No, not at all. Facebook is all about connecting easily with friends. Craigslist is all about finding a cheap, easy way to buy or sell. Quora is all about finding the best answers to your questions. Friendship, commerce, and answers are hardly unique foundations. But they answer why people flock to that network. Sure, there are more unique reasons for a tribe to form, but we deceive ourselves when we limit ourselves to the unknown. We simply need to provide a simple, easy way to communicate why we do what we do (and allow others to participate in that dialogue) in order to grow fans who trust us.
When we communicate, we build trust
Communication today is actually pretty flexible and easy. There are so many ways to communicate in this tech savvy culture that failing to communicate effectively speaks poorly of the leadership. That’s not to say that a certain method of communication which one group finds useless cannot be the perfect fit for another group. The method of communication varies by group, but the leader who chooses the best medium knows his tribe best.
By learning to communicate, we also learn to admit when we are wrong, listen to our people, and make better decisions. But this means we need to be vulnerable. And let’s be real, nobody naturally likes to be vulnerable. But vulnerability — which is in essence a form of bravery — allows trust to be built. In today’s society, many people don’t trust businesses — or even people in general. This is why trust is built bit by bit, piece by piece. And the worst thing that any leader can do is take it for granted. Breaking trust dissolves the core, leaving us with an empty, structureless community.
Image courtesy of Vagawi via Flickr
When we build trust, we build tribes
In his book Tribes, Seth Godin writes that “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 other members as well.”
Go back to the foundation of all these statements:we need to know why we do what we do before we can successfully do anything else. Everything else comes afterward. In order to have unity, you need to provide an idea which unifies. Know why you do what you do, and communicate that to those who are seeking leadership around that same idea.
Tribes, subcultures, followers:no matter how you put it, people need to follow others in order for there to be leaders. We learn how to strengthen the core of our tribe through trust. But we need to ensure that we are focusing on fans, not on numbers. What do we mean by that? Fans are those who advocate for us consistently and regularly. They reach out to people in their other communities in order to bring them into their own community. They tend to be more effective than leaders are in persuading the doubtful.
How does this apply in business? Seth Godin tells a story in his book, Tribes. Essentially, he was given the task to launch adventure games by Christmas time and was lent “precisely three programmers” to complete the job. Knowing that completing the program in time was impossible given the circumstances, Godin built a community. He wrote a newsletter for his team and distributed copies via the the interoffice mailboxes of everyone in the company. The initiative grew slowly until, eventually, every person in the department was assigned to the project or watched it. How’d this happen? Through the trust Godin earned through his various connections, nobody wanted to be left out. If this doesn’t demonstrate the importance of leadership in business, I don’t know what does.
Conclusion:Importance of Leadership
Leadership isn’t difficult to understand, but it can be scary to step into those shoes. Sometimes, It means you need to be “that guy” and dance alone until others join you. It means finding a purpose behind your actions and communicating it effectively. By creating an easy way for others to join and follow, people eventually will start dancing alongside you. People want to unite. It’s part of human nature. But most people don’t want to initiate or lead it. It’s up to you to make it happen.
So step outside the box and start dancing. And let tribe join in.