Tribes - Seth Godin - Empowering all

Commented reading : Tribes – Part 2 of 3

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“Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us”
by Seth Godin
ISBN: 9781591842330

If you are already a member of a tribe, either at work or through your hobbies, do not remain silent, instead get involved. Your opinion counts. Cease to feel intimidated if that is your case, and to consider yourself as a mere employee at work for instance, as you may just hold the key to a riddle your bosses have not even thought of yet. Each one of us, whatever our title or function, has a role to play. Therefore we all have a responsibility to act.

Although I advocate respecting authority figures, the times are over where the chain of communication between supervisors and subordinates was a one-way process; essentially from top to bottom. With the advent of modern technologies, it is now possible to establish new channels of communication, thereby empowering all those affected, whatever their roles or importance on the traditional chessboard. These tools provide an opportunity for all to express their views. They do not, however, give us the right to defy authority indiscriminately. In this regard, I draw your attention to a quote from the book, in which Seth Godin mentions that we should act even if the act goes against the will of a superior. He writes: “Change isn’t made by asking permission. Change is made by asking forgiveness, later.” It’s true that in some cases this approach may be suitable; however it can also lead to some unfortunate outcomes such as losing a job for instance. So, although I completely agree with the principle of participative management and the subordinate’s own duty to showcase initiative, I disagree with any anarchist movement, unless it takes place in exceptional circumstances as a last resort. With this collective accountability comes the necessity for each member of the tribe to ensure its ultimate success and prosperity. We can only hope that this new approach will reduce the disharmony between employees and superiors. In addition, it will ensure that groups get to grow to their full potential as they get fuelled by the sum of the highest capacities of each one of their members.

So wouldn’t this personal accountability and the empowering of the people inherently undermine the authority in place and its right to manage? It all depends on the person that is in the position of authority; are we talking about a real leader or simply a manager? A true leader is inspiring, confident and knows how the get the best out of each member of his team. On the other hand, he is not afraid of losing his leading position, since being true to himself he inspires trust and earns the respect of his subordinates naturally. On the contrary, a mere manager, not possessing enough means of conviction and persuasion, hides behind rules and policies established to keep things rolling. The only thing the latter manages to inspire is fear. Indeed, in today’s world where we centralize power endlessly and focus solely on controlling all resources and processes, I consider it unfortunate that our institutions so often produce the type of “Yes Man” managers, rather than inspirational leaders. And for those who already occupy positions of authority, I’m winking at you when citing the following passage of the book: “Deciding to lead, not to manage, is the critical choice.” All that remains is for you to decide.

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