Servant Leaders and the Tribe

In a previous post on servant leadership, we said "Servant leaders serve people in pursuit of a goal." In Tribal Leadership, authors Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright wrote about the 5 different stages of tribes.  The highest stages of tribal life form around a common purpose. (My review is here.)

You may have thought of several examples of servant leaders and tribal leaders as you were reading those posts.  Several came to my mind, too.  But my wife Vicky (@VHenry) suggested a great example from television right now.

Are you familiar with this AT&T Wireless commercial about the girl looking for her lost dog?

One person saw a need and mobilized a tribe to help a girl find her lost dog.  It's one of those compelling stories that AT&T Wireless uses to show the benefits of the telecommunications network they have built and sell.  However, this article is about servant leaders and tribes, networks of people.

Leaders initiate.

Leaders don't always initiate, but when you initiate, you're a leader.

Networks matter.

The call went out to the network of friends connected through the contacts of one person's cell phone.  You can't build a network or a tribe when you need it.  There is never time. Invest in people and relationships and care for them simply because people are important.  One day your tribe will make a difference, but you must build a network before you see the need.  Reach out, connect, invest in people. Be a friend and then you will have friends.

Leaders submit.

The individuals in the tribe self-organized.  If they had all been "in-charge" the dog would still be lost.  They chose to participate, chose their role, self-organized and took action based on the need.  When the need or the vision is clear, people will self organize. They just need enough information about the problem, constraints, and resources.  High-performing networks require little control.  In fact, they may even resist it.

Leaders contribute

The initial leader's tribe (network) provided the resources for the project.  Their structure, or infrastructure (cellphones), enabled the effort.  Once they shared the vision, they contributed their assets (time, energy, and telephones) in pursuit of one shared goal.


Granted, this is a commercial and the person who initiated the project happened to call one very connected college basketball star.  So? The principles remain. Servant leaders serve people in pursuit of a goal.  We are naturally drawn to them because they equip us as free moral agents to contribute, produce value, create meaning. Networks of servant leaders can change the world, or find a lost dog.

How's your tribe?  The strength and stage of your tribe is a reflection of your leadership.  Think about it.

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