The Tribe Has Spoken - Proteus Leadership
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The Tribe Has Spoken

Aren’t we living in a crazy and yet exciting time in history?

The world we live in certainly looks and acts differently than it did hundreds of years ago, in fact even ten years ago. From the Industrial revolution to our current technological era – it’s practically unrecognisable.

But, despite the years of evolution and technology that have determined who we now are, there is one common denominator that has remained unchanged, even after centuries of growth, and that is:

The inherent desire of people to form tribes.

Historically a tribe was a community of families that bonded over one main goal – to survive and raise their next generations. People tended to belong to one tribe and dedicated all of their time and energies to it.

Today however, we can define tribes as something less critical, like individuals who are linked by their social interests, Facebook and others.

Or, we associate tribes with what we see on television where the premise is that we should all lie, cheat and form alliances to get rid of others. This concept annoys me so much. It is all about positioning and factions and this is not how normal, positive tribes actually operate. Unfortunately, though, it is what we are experiencing in many parts of society and in many industries right now.

Whatever your understanding is of how tribes’ impact on your life, the fact is, that we now belong to many tribes that are all competing for our time and energy.

Australian author and futurist, Bernard Salt recently wrote in one of his columns that, “the 2010’s will be remembered as an era in which we lost faith in the very institutions and tribes that underpin society. We have survived and proliferated because we are tribal beings and we still want to place our trust in others. But right now, we feel betrayed”.

What he and many others are saying is:

Somehow, we need to bring back some respect and understanding of how a tribe or team should and could work, and also understand that working together in a democratic way is not a downgrading of leadership or power, but in fact a strengthening, and what is now required if we are to be successful.

Although things may seem a little disjointed at the moment, as we are going through major tribal change, the tribes of the future will be smaller groups of people who work together towards achieving a common goal, all with equal power and ability, to speak and participate, in both strategy and implementation.

In 2018, I spoke at one of our Proteus breakfasts and followed that up with an article on the topic of, ‘Are you still Relevant’? I have to say, it shook me up probably more than most who attended, and it made me totally reexamine every area of my life, and  my business.

And so, in writing this article, I must declare that I have made, and am still making, major changes in my life and my business – not just tweaks, but fundamental and substantial life changes.

As I contemplated my own current and future relevance, some of the things that I discovered hurt like hell, but when I balanced changing those things and seeing what was possible, against not changing them and sticking to some outdated thinking, my whole thinking actually changed, resulting in new ideas and new direction, both personally and professionally. These changes are now leading me into a very exciting new chapter of my life.

What was evident though, was that I was still totally committed to my cause, the reason I do what I do has never wavered, and in fact is stronger than ever, and when our WHY is still strong, we can continue to tackle anything.

I am now 65 years old and I have obtained an enormous amount of knowledge and wisdom over my life journey, but I also have an enormous amount of information and experience that is just no longer relevant and must be let go of, because – The same OLD thinking will produce the same OLD results.

There is a NEW tribe in town, and they are speaking very loudly, but are we listening, because we ignore what they are saying at our own peril.

Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms, authors of the book New Power, describe this New Tribe as exactly that, New Power people with a New Way of thinking, as opposed to Old Power people whose thinking has been with us for a long time and is now creating massive blockages for individuals and organisations wanting to move on and build a sustainable future.

So, let me give you a simple explanation of what Heimans and Timms suggest that Old Power Tribes and New Power Tribes looks like:

Old Power Tribes – works like a currency. It is held by a few. Once gained it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader driven. 

Where New Power Tribes – operate quite differently. They are like a current. Made by many, open, participatory and peer driven. They are like water or electricity, most forceful when it surges.

The goal with New Power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

New Power Tribes, now reinforce the human instinct to cooperate, rather than compete.

The battle and the balancing between Old and New Power will be a defining feature of society and business in the coming years – in fact, it already is!

This does not mean that all Old Power is BAD, and all New Power is GOOD, nor is it about age, rather it is about our thinking and the desire to change and adapt to New Power thinking.

It’s about developing a Growth Mindset.

We don’t want to throw out everything we have done, we just have to be honest enough to realise that everything runs its course and it HAS/WILL change, and these days, very quickly.

We have come from a pre-industrial age where everything was very tribal and structured. It was a period where you did as you were told and only a few really had a voice, (some of you are probably thinking – that is still how our organisation operates).

As New Power Tribal models become integrated into the daily lives of people and become the operating systems of communities and societies, a new set of values is being forged.

Power is not just flowing differently, people are feeling and thinking differently about what leadership really is and who if anyone, they want to follow.

The concept of Leaders without a title is gaining traction!

It is not just millennials who are a part of this tribe, however, many who are heavily engaged in the New Power Tribes are people under 30, representing more than half of the world’s current population. In fact, by 2030, 14.5 million Australian workers will be Millennials and Gen Z.

As a result of this we see common assumptions and expectations emerging from this NEW tribe – We all have a right to participate!

However, we also acknowledge that there can be a massive downside to these new tribes that are forming. When used for evil, they have the ability to be far more powerful and destructive than any other tribe throughout history.

So, although we need to adapt to the New Power Tribe, we must ensure that we know the rules and we set ourselves and our organisations up for success, welcoming collaboration and participation, but standing strong against manipulation and extremism, because New Power – methods and practices can only be successful if our structural processes are set up to allow New Power People and thinking to work within them.

A new tribe has arrived, and they are speaking very loudly. But are we listening and are we adapting and are we REAL enough to realise that our roles in life and business need not become irrelevant if we are prepared to make the changes required to become a part of this NEW Tribe?

One of the areas we see New Power showing itself is in recruitment.

I was recently recruiting for a position and had selected a shortlist of five. One rang and cancelled, three of them just didn’t show, and one turned up, who fortunately happened to be very good. I explained the role, but the person was most excited about the fact that, we Create Great Leaders.

At Proteus our mantra is to create Great Leaders, it is our cause, our why. So, when the New Tribe apply for jobs now, it is often not the tasks that are so important – but the concept that they will be a part of something bigger and in this case, changing people’s lives.

The future generation is not going to be married to an organisation; they are going to be married to a cause – until they get bored with it and move on – so we need to adapt!

This means that we must ensure we keep our cause alive and continue to  tell our stories.

In the past we have seen tribes tell stories around the tribal firepit, families around the kitchen table and colleagues around the corporate water coolers.

How we tell our story has a tremendous impact on how individuals create meaning and come together. This means that as Leaders, we have a moral obligation to craft stories that elevate the capacity for human compassion, connectedness and purpose.

The point is this – do you know your personal and professional story?

Is it exciting and enticing, or has it become blurred through confusion and busyness? Future team members won’t join or stay involved, if your story is not strong and evolving.

But right now, our biggest challenge in every area of life and business is not the transient nature of the New Tribe, but that ‘Old Power Tribal members still competing, rather than cooperating, as they are fearful of losing control.

Mr. Vineet Nayar, Founder & Chairman, Sampark Foundation and Advisor to some of the great business people like Bill Gates, says, “Anybody who loses market share or becomes obsolete knows at least 5 years in advance that they are going to become obsolete, and the only reason they become obsolete is because they do nothing about it.

So, what if you were becoming obsolete and didn’t even know it?

Mr Nayar, also says, “The tribe has spoken, things have changed and every one of us has a responsibility to own our own decisions and responses to the changes.

The question is – are our eyes and   ears open to what is happening around us, or are we still living and leading through Old Power tribal laws and processes?

Because if we are then we will soon be obsolete.

Patty McCord, Former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix and Author of the  book Powerful says that we must;

“Build the company NOW that you want for the future.”

“The most successful organisations will be the ones in which everyone, on every team, understands that all bets are off and everything is changing –  and they think that is great.”

A massive shift is happening right now across all areas of society, but not everyone thinks change is great. We see this displayed right now in our political system, in fact, Politics is in disarray as they continue to stand firm on outdated and archaic ideas and solutions. If they listened to the tribe (the public) and responded accordingly, they might create an exciting and world-leading culture. If they stopped blaming the past, and each other, for their situations and worked together, then they could achieve anything.

But we know this can never happen when Old Power thinking & Old Power processes are still seen as the answer to the future. Here is my take on our current government representatives across all parties;

When they speak, they say nothing, they master the art of evasion, maintain the status quo, and lead us nowhere.

Old Power spends most of its time defending why they don’t do anything. This can also be seen across many of our organisations.

But until we remove ego and defensive cronyism from politics we will continue to be dissatisfied. And if change cannot come through the usual political channels, it will find other ways to speak – both good and bad.

Because, all of this change, and the battle between Old Power Tribes & New Power Tribes is balanced by the fact that – you and I are living in the most exciting and prosperous time that has ever existed.

I don’t want to look back in 10 years and regret that I didn’t listen and adapt to the NEW message and that I didn’t take up the opportunities that were offered to me. I don’t want to regret that I didn’t back myself or stand up for what I believed in.

It is too late then, because change continues to happen, with or without us and it will not wait until we think we are ready.

So, what do you need to do to adapt to this exciting and vibrant NEW time in history?

Don’t miss out on the amazing opportunities that are out there still waiting to be discovered.

In the next edition of Proteuslife I will introduce you to 11 Essential Characteristics that I believe are required, if we are to adapt and thrive in this New Power environment.


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