In the book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (2008), Seth Godin discusses the idea that it’s human nature to seek out ‘tribes’, meaning any group of people connected to each other, a leader or leaders, and a shared interest. While the concept itself is intriguing, the point of the book is not to prove that these tribes exist – because they do, in all parts of society from politics to music and everything in between – but to show us how powerful and influential a tribe can be.
While corporations have started exploring building communities (or “Tribes” in Seth’s words) and engaging with their customers only 10 or so years ago, as an association leader, you already have your tribe. You also have all the tools to facilitate the network your precedents could only dream of. But yet, most of the associations struggle to engage with young generations and declining membership numbers show that associations struggle to maintain their leadership.
As an association leader and/or marketer, you are dealing with a community of like-minded people and inspiring them to make positive changes to their professions and personal careers. Godin’s book may just help you do it even better.
Leading your membership
Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us is more a series of real-life stories and messages than a how-to guide, but when you read (and later re-read) this short book (151 pages), you will absorb the theory of tribe leadership and start to understand how you can be a great leader of your association. It’s all about engaging with the tribe (your membership), challenging the status quo, and actively searching for opportunities to improve.
“The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.”
Tribes need leadership, and your membership looks up to you because of your passion, your vision, and your willingness to make things happen. They want what you want – a thriving industry and a role within the community – and as a tribe you can achieve these things together.
“Leaders lead when they take positions, when they connect with their tribes, and when they help the tribe connect to itself.”
Stop looking at your membership as numbers. Engage with your members, talk to them, be their friend, inspire and support them. All around the world corporations create the additional value for their brand – promote the purpose, the idea, create a community their customers can belong to. At the same time, associations often go in different directions and try to monetise their offering, forgetting about the main purpose – leadership.
“Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.”
Your association is the platform. You only need to learn how to use the available tools.
Taking advantage of the Internet
Godin writes, “Now the Internet has eliminated the barriers of geography, cost, and time. All those blogs and social networking sites are helping existing tribes get bigger … And so the key question: Who is going to lead us?’
“The Web can do amazing things, but it can’t provide leadership. That still has to come from individuals—people just like you who have passion about something. ”
“Marketing used to be about advertising, and advertising is expensive. Today, marketing is about engaging with the tribe and delivering products and services with stories that spread.”
You have the membership. You have the passion. You have the tools. You have everything you need as a leader to take your association into an exciting, fruitful future. It has never been easier to spread important messages and deliver innovative services. What you need to work on is making your servies innovative and messages important.
Click here to view Seth Godin on the tribes we lead TED talk.