Are You Leading a Tribe?

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Summary:

In today's organizations, everyone is expected to lead. If you've been waiting for a leadership role to come to you, it might be time to step up and seek out your opportunity to be a leader. Look around you: Self-proclaimed leaders are receiving interesting projects, building enviable careers, and being promoted. In this article, we'll take a look at how Seth Godin's book Tribes can provide a useful framework for leading from the ground up.

This is the first article in a series bringing concepts from business books into an IT context. We’re starting with Seth Godin’s Tribes. Tribes is a book encouraging all of us to consider ourselves leaders. It provides a framework for leading from the ground up and offers several inspiring examples of individuals without authority or position creating positive change in their organizations or on behalf of worthwhile causes.

In today’s organizations, everyone is expected to lead. If you’ve been waiting for a leadership role to come to you, it might be time to step up and seek out your opportunity to be a leader. If you look around you, self-proclaimed leaders are receiving interesting projects, building enviable careers, and being promoted.

What Is a Tribe?
A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. Your local parent-teacher organization is a tribe. So are your CBAP or PMP study group, your project management office, and each of your project teams. Your entire organization might be a tribe and, if you have tight relationships with your customers, people outside of your organization might be inside of your tribe.

As individuals we belong to several tribes. A hundred years ago, tribes were primarily local. With today’s technologies, tribes are more often connected by an idea than a location.

Who Leads a Tribe?
A tribe has a leader. You might already lead one or more tribes. I consider myself a leader of a tribe over at Bridging the Gap, part of the business analyst community. I am a follower in the “One Small Change” movement, a group of eco-conscious citizens who make one small change each month to reduce their impact on the environment.

In my formal role as a manager of a project management, business analyst, and QA team, my team was not a tribe because we did not have a central shared idea and largely operated as small “teams” within a larger group. Just having the same leader (or in this case authority figure) did not make us a tribe. But I did lead a loose tribe of product managers across the organization who shared a goal for improving our products and sharing technology investments. Several of my best direct-reports led small project-focused tribes and others led tribes to improve aspects of how we ran as an IT team.

Unlike running for city government or becoming CEO, no one anoints you as tribe leader. Leading a tribe means leading from the bottom, not from a place of authority.

About the author

Laura Brandenburg's picture Laura Brandenburg

Laura Brandenburg is a business analyst consultant, author, and mentor. She has eight years of experience across technology leadership, analysis, project management, and QA. She hosts "Bridging the Gap," a blog about business analyst practices. Laura is the author of How to Start a Business Analyst Career and the forthcoming eBook The Promotable Business Analyst. Visit her blog at www.bridging-the-gap.com.

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