Lead Your Tribe

Recently I read a very inspiring book. Although reading might not be the best verb to use in this case, since it was an audio book. But that is rather beside the point. It was Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, written and read by Seth Godin. A book that calls for leadership, and inspires to lead. The book is based, to my interpretation, around three main points: it’s about the people, everyone can lead and modern technology enables everyone to lead.
The fact that people are put in the center, is not a very novel idea. Nevertheless, with all the Twitters and Facebooks and now Wave, many forget that the technology itself is useless, if you can not mobilize the people. Find a common goal, find your tribe, and use these wonderful tools to lead that tribe. For me, the book came, not coincidentally, on a very right moment. I was in the midst of organizing a charity challenge, and realized that I was leading a tribe in that respect. And that was not about me, which was the cool thing. It was about the people that wanted to participate, and the girls we were raising money for so that they can have an education. Because, according to Godin, leading is not about the leader. It’s about the tribe, and the goal. The leader is actually a facilitator, and everybody can do that.
Whilst listening to Godin, there were two moments I absolutely disagreed with him, and they are very much related. One was when he referred to the ‘Six Sigma sham’ and later, when he referred to the famous quote by Henry Ford “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. Why is that related? Well, Six Sigma is aimed very strongly at finding what the customer wants, and delivering that in a stable way. While Godin implies Six Sigma to be a straight jacket that keeps people from breaking out, to me, if you apply it correctly, it makes your production process more controllable, and gives the people in it more freedom to innovate new ways of making what the customer really wants. Six Sigma not only focusses on eliminating deviance in the production process, but also very much on the Voice of the Customer. And that is where the Ford quote is a perfect illustraiton of a mass production misconception: the arrogance that the producer knows best. The problem with the Forsd quote is, that while it might ask the right question (what do my customers want), it is satisfied with the wrong answer. Listening to the customer is not only noting their answers, but trying to find out what’s behind it. Behind the ‘faster horses’ answer, is the wish to travel faster from point A to point B. Maybe in a more reliable way, being able to bring more than you can pack on a horse, and with a cover over your head to shield you from the weather. Any Six Sigma practitioner will tell you that listening to the customer is about finding out their real needs.
And that brings me back again to the brilliant part of the book: look around you, find the needs and goals of people, and where they match with yours, you not only may have found your tribe, but you have an opportunity, or maybe even an obligation, to lead that tribe to reach your goals.

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