i was talking with a friend yesterday about jamie olver and the ministry of food. he exercises a kind of leadership that is a good example of what is described in the book tribes by seth godin which i read over christmas. jamie has an idea and is passionate about it - getting people to cook and eat better and goes to extraordinary lengths to develop a tribe who are converted to the idea and communicate it to others.
the good news is that the book is thin and got big writing - i.e. it won't take you long to read! i think it reads well as number three in a trilogy with starfish and spider, and here comes everybody which if you follow the blog you'll know I have enthused about. together these are great books as dialogue partners in mission, culture, theology, church, and leadership in the new environment. at least I have got as much out of reading these as any book I have read recently on the emerging church...
a tribe is a group of people connected to an idea, or a dream or a vision. faith or belief is crucial here - the vision needs to be passionate and paint a picture of the future. this sort of faith is critical to all innovation. the kind of person who will have this faith is called a heretic in the book. by this godin means the heretic leader undermines the way things are, the status quo. their role is to create change they believe in. they don't care too much for organisational structure or official sanction to lead. they use passion and ideas. they are generous, care for the tribe and are focused on smaller numbers of fans/committed people rather than focused on numbers realising that a committed core at the heart of a movement is more powerful than a larger group. they are also prepared to take risks. they know that new things are rarely as good as the old thing was. but that if you wait for the new thing to be better you'll never get started and you'll be too late! tribes get stuck and it's these kind of leaders that unstick them or begin new things to effect change. godin contrasts religion with faith (and he's not talking about church per se) -
religion works great when it amplifies faith. Religion at its worse reinforces the status quo often at the expense of our faith.
having got the idea and the heretic leader(s), communication is the only other thing needed. and guess what - because of the new communication technologies it's never been easier and geography is eliminated or nothing like the challenge it used to be. that communication is between leader(s) and the tribe and then enabling communication between the members of the tribe to enable them to participate and initiate change. it's not about money - if that becomes the agenda people will opt out.
i probably like it because i am a heretic! that may not surprise you...
if you identify with this because you are a leader/heretic i guess the question is what are you passionate about or what's your good idea? and what's stopping you going for it?
if you are at the institution/organisation end of things looking for newness maybe the issue is to risk hiring people that don't fit in, that are not sheep like, that don't have a factory mindset, that will be leaders in their own right irrespective of the management structures in place. and set them loose...
the church of england is trying to do this with its pioneer ministers but factory and organisation and religion are proving to be powerful forces. i hope the pioneers are able to do it anyway through passion and vision and communication and connectivity. i guess they shouldn't be called pioneers if they can't! and it's a good reminder that a lot of pioneers will just exercise leadership and create tribes without the official sanction of 'ordained' pioneer leadership.
the quote i most remember from the book is actually from einstein
imagination is more important than knowledge
reading the book made me want to do something remarkable