We covered building self-confidence as a hesitant leader, establishing positive habits to move beyond your reactive leader style, and to practice self-awareness as the first step as a creative leader.

We now turn to the fourth stage of mindful leadership, the tribal leader.

The 3 Truths of Tribal Leadership

Let’s begin by exploring the three truths of tribal leadership …

Truth #1 – We all have tribes.

According to Seth Godin, author of “Tribes,” a tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea.

Our tribes include …

  • your family,
  • your circle of friends,
  • the community where you live,
  • clubs where you are a member,
  • the organization where you work,
  • your peers that work with you,
  • the team that works for you,
  • and the clients that you serve.

Take a moment to make a list of all the tribes in your life and answer the following questions …

  1. How does this tribe influence me?
  2. How do I influence this tribe?

Here are a few of my tribes …

Family – My wife, my two daughters, three fish, and myself. My wife is the leader of this tribe. Gentlemen, here’s a bonus lesson, even if you are the leader of your family, the correct answer is still your partner.

Friends – These are the people that I connect with regularly. This includes a small number of close friends that I’ve known for many years. We share similar beliefs and are there to support each other. Remember, it’s up to you to maintain the connection with those closest to you.

Mastermind Group – This is my private mastermind group. The leadership position is shared among each member of this group. We all have things we want to accomplish and are on similar journeys. We are there to celebrate our successes and support each other through our challenges.

Extended Network – Don’t underestimate the power of your extended network. These are the loose relationships that you build over time. Help others when you can and ask for help when you need too. Make regular deposits and keep your withdrawals to a minimum.

The World – There is no such thing as them or us. There is just we. We are all members of this planet we call home, and we all have to preserve it for future generations.

Our Tribe – By reading this, you are a member of this tribe. Perhaps you found this post on a social media platform, you are a member of my email list, or you are a current or past client. My role in this relationship is to help you walk the path of a mindful leader. I do this by walking my own talk and being of service. We both grow as leaders in this relationship.

Truth #2 – We all have influence.

“We are social beings. Our survival depends on our understanding the actions, intentions, and emotions of others. Mirror neurons allow us to understand other people’s mind, not only through conceptual reasoning but through imitation. Feeling, not thinking.” – G. Rizzolatti

You cannot, not influence.

It’s actually impossible for you not to have influence.

This is because we are wired to connect via something in our brains called mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are groups of neurons that activate in our brain when we observe the behaviour of others and are essential in our ability to learn and for empathy.

Mirror neurons are why you …

  • Yawn when another person yawns.
  • Laugh when others laugh.
  • Cry when you see someone that is sad.

Influence happens at an unconscious level, outside of our conscious awareness. Most people are not even aware that they are being influenced and develop the bad habits of reactive leaders.

A great way to build awareness of your ability to connect is via an emotional intelligence (EQ) assessment.

Now they say you can’t fail these tests; however, when I took my first EQ assessment, the only thing I can say is that “I failed.” My scores were low in just about every category.

The good thing is that EQ is a skill that can improve with practice. Never one to back down from a challenge, I hired a coach, practiced each ability, and over a few years, developed the skills of a mindful leader.

Truth #3 – We all have doubts.

I never really viewed myself as a leader.

How could someone with doubts, uncertainty, and fear be a leader?

It wasn’t until I realized that …

  • we all doubt our abilities,
  • everyone second guesses their choices,
  • everybody has fears,

… and our role as a mindful leader is to have empathy and compassion toward ourselves and for those that we serve.

We do this be being authentic and genuine about our own ghosts and create a space where it’s safe for our tribe to be human.

Serving Your Tribe

Now that you understand the three truths of tribal leadership, here’s how you can begin serving your tribe …

Lesson #1 – Choose your tribe.

The first step is to choose your tribe.

You could choose to serve your family, team, or clients.

It doesn’t matter which tribe you choose, just choose one.

Stepping up to lead can be stressful, and you will want to ease into it by focusing on one area at a time.

Having said that, you will be amazed at how your leadership ability improves across other areas of your life.

If you are undecided, I suggest choosing the one that seems to need a leader the most.

As you begin each day, set an intention to serve your tribe by asking the following question … “How can I be of service to my tribe?”

Lesson #2 – You don’t lead tribes, you lead individuals.

People don’t automatically follow you because you’re the boss.

Sure, you may have the power to fire them if they don’t do their jobs, but that is being a tyrant, not a leader.

Authentic leadership happens when you connect, at an emotional level, with each person in your tribe. This builds trust, which is the currency of leadership.

The strategy that I like to use is the emotional bank account. I first read about this model in The 7 Habits by Stephen Covey, and I’ve been applying it for over 25 years. Trust me, it works.

The gist of this model is to use the metaphor of a bank account for each relationship. Every interaction with another person is either a deposit or a withdrawal.

When the balance is positive, you have trust, when the balance is negative, you have distrust. I’ve written about this strategy before, and you can learn more about it here.

As you go about your day, think about the emotional bank account that you have in place for each member of your tribe. What small deposit can you make today?

Lesson #3 – Lower your shields.

When under stress and pressure, I tend to withdraw and keep an emotional distance from others.

Over the years, I’ve protected myself by building walls that keep others at arm’s length. As you can imagine, this can make building relationships very difficult.

To overcome the reactive behaviour, I’ve been working on lowering my shields.

I’m reminded of a story of when my first daughter was less than a year old.

She was crying away, and I was attempting to soothe her.

I had tried everything … changed her diaper, feed her a bottle, and was rocking her back and forth. Even her pacifier wouldn’t work.

I remember being annoyed, and my mind was elsewhere. I was thinking of all the stuff that I needed to do, and if I could just get this kid to settle down, I could get back to work.

And then an AMAZING thing happened.

I thought, what am I doing? Before I know it, she will be all grown up, and I will no longer have these moments.

So I let go of all of the other stuff that I had to do, lowered my shields, and turned my attention toward my daughter.

And she stopped crying.

It was magical. I still get goosebumps and teary-eyed when I think back to that moment.

All this tiny creature wanted was my attention.

While I may have been physically present, mentally, I was checked out.

It wasn’t until I lowered my shields, gave her my undivided attention, did she react.

This was when I learned one of the most powerful lessons of leadership – The biggest gift that you can give someone is your undivided attention.

So when connecting with others, give them ALL of your attention.

This means putting away your phone.

Stop thinking about all the stuff on your todo list.

Be 100% present.

Turn your attention toward the other person.

And just listen.


Tribal leadership is about learning the art of influence. Here are three steps to get you started …

Step 1 – Choose your tribe.

Tribes are all around you. Which one are you going to step up and lead?

Step 2 – Serve your tribe.

Even if you are not in a position of authority, use the power of connection and start making regular deposits.

Step 3 – Lower your shields.

Realize that everyone has doubts and that the greatest gift that you can give another is your undivided attention and to listen.

Do you have a leadership truth that you want to share? Post it in the comments below.

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