It’s not your tribe

I didn’t say this clearly enough in my book.

While there are a few outlier organizations and individuals who ‘have’ a tribe, more often than not, we simply have the privilege to talk to a community, to connect a community and perhaps to lead them for a while.

But it’s a mistake to believe that they are ours to do with as we choose.

The tribe of people who read Fast Company in the first few years weren’t invented by Alan and Bill. They were organized by them, introduced to each other (and new ideas) by them and challenged by them. But, as the world changed, the tribe found other places to meet those needs.

At the watercooler and at the conference, the conversations shifted. It’s impossible to stay at the center of an evolving community for very long. Even for Apple. More profit doesn’t always open the door for more connection.

The tribe of people who follow a politician are rarely aligned with her, personally. Instead, they’re aligned with each other, with the way it feels to be part of this movement. Over time, the tribe and the leader inevitably drift apart.

The tribe of people who listen to Dave and Nastassia are into food and drink. But if Cooking Issues went away, the tribe wouldn’t disappear. When Booker and Dax produce a device for the tribe, that’s precisely what they’re doing. Doing it for the tribe, not to them. Most outsiders might wonder what it’s for, or hesitate at the price, but for those in the heart of the community, it’s a no-brainer, right here and right now.

Tribal leaders are in a hurry, a race to connect and inspire. Tribal leaders dig deep to be seen, sure, but mostly to see. To see what the group believes and fears, and to help them get to where they hope to go.

The realization that the tribe is already there, just waiting for you to contribute, is energizing. And the fact is that while we get the benefit of the doubt—that the tribe is open to hearing from you—they’re not yours.