Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Raising Up Tribal Leaders

The culture has gone tribal. Have you noticed? (If not, read this book. Watch this video. And this one too. It's important for all of us to know the times in which we find ourselves.) These are exciting times for leaders and systems thinkers. We are in the middle of a dramatic cultural shift, brought on by the infusion of the internet into our collective bloodstream, coupled with the failure of the (newly) old hierarchical systems that have not delivered the quality of life and purpose and meaning that they promised. Some would even call it revolution.

This change is obvious to most of us. But, ironically, there is one group (in truth, a tribe unto themselves) who are slow to see the shift, and may never see it, not even after their own kingdoms fail: Our current leaders. Not all, of course. But many in positions of power and influence within the hierarchical cultural paradigm do not see the cultural transformation happening all around them. They are locked into a current way of seeing the world, and cannot see beyond it. They see things like The Beckoning of Lovely or Nerdfighteria or the rise of Ning-based communities in general and do not recognize the implications of what this means for us as a culture. And what it means for leadership in this brave new world.

Seth Godin has it right. The culture is forming into tribes and those tribes are on the hunt for leaders of a different kind...leaders whose mandate is not to stand above and point the way, but to stand beneath and hold up the community he or she serves. It is leadership built on right-brain skills rather than left (see Daniel Pink's terrific book, A Whole New Mind, for more on this), on the capacity to listen and follow more than the capacity to know and direct.

So those of us who are tasked, by profession or calling, to develop new leaders, must face the fact that our old systems for raising up and training leaders no longer apply. The question is no longer, "How do we make a company president or a church pastor (in the old organizational sense)?" But rather, "How do we create a tribal leader?" The change in terminology alone points to a radically different approach.

The leader-developers who will succeed in this new venture are the ones who are most willing to chuck their sacred cows (I speak here of structures and methodologies, not of core values or beliefs), and take on the Beginner's Mind, to humble themselves and let the tribe they wish to serve teach them the sort of leader it wants for itself...and then create new approaches for developing people into that.


Robert Megert said...

Awesome post. It all truly makes sense.

Michael D. Warden said...

Thanks Robert!