This is the fifth part of a series on the origins of the Lead Change Group based on one of the key books that inspired me to take action: Tribes by Seth Godin. For links to all the posts, check out this page.
On page 65 in Tribes, Godin has a section titled The Plurality Myth that’s about the idea that you need to a plurality or a majority to make something happen. Godin point out that with the exception of elections, the idea that we must build a plurality is a wrong idea.
“Starbucks doesn’t serve coffee to the majority of the people in the United States. The New York City Crochet Guild appeals to just a small percentage of the people who encounter it. That’s okay. You don’t need a plurality or even a majority. In fact, in nearly every case, trying to lead everyone results in leading no one in particular.
“This leads to an interesting thought: you get to choose the tribe you will lead.”
My first management assignment was as general manager of a trucking company branch office. We had to start it fast because we moved some existing business to a different geographic location. So we hired quickly. I had no training other than what I had seen other small company managers do. I had never had any formal leadership training.
Instantly, people started complaining. I wasn’t doing everything to suit them. After a couple of weeks chasing my tail and trying to please a variety of people and keep the peace, a thought occurred to me. “I’m probably not going to suit everyone. It’s not possible. And if that’s the case, I better decide up front who will get top priority.”
I chose to build a business where responsible, hard-working people liked to work. If you would rather be doing something other than a great job, you probably weren’t going to like working for me. And while I hope to be liked by everyone, I especially wanted to be liked by those people who took responsibility for their lives and made sure they gave a good day’s work for a good day’s pay. If the others liked it, fine. But they weren’t my core focus because we had a job to do.
Once you decide who you are not going to serve, you are free of tyranny. Early in Lead Change there was a lot of doubt and a ton of uncertainty. But I tried to keep my focus on mobilizing character-based leaders to make a positive difference. So if that’s your focus and you are willing to do your own work, I want Lead Change to help. I wanted to create an “us” where people were all moving forward in their own way, solving the problem of impersonal, behavior-based leadership. My goal was to see if there was anyone else in the world who thought that it would be cool to be part of a community of people who were promoting a change in leadership.
Do you want to make a dent in the leadership universe? We believe your best you can change your world. We can’t do that for you. But we can encourage and share and help one another as we each try to apply character-based leadership to make a positive difference. My hope is that this community will help you. But you’re going to do most of the work. No one will change the world for you.