A few weeks ago, on my Facebook feed, I made a statement that was not received well by some. In the follow up conversations, one word really drew the ire of the loudest detractor. That word was tribe. During an interview, the interviewer put a special tone on it every time he mentioned it. The conversation also covered leadership but before I get into that I wanted to cover tribe.
First, lets get a definition out there
a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader(s).
When I use the word tribe, here is what it means. Its you. Of course, there are subsets, clans and families inside the tribe. My Facebook page is maxed out at 5000. If you are on my page, we are in fact linked socially. Most of us have the common culture and dialect based around firearms and their use. For those in the industry, we are tied economically. When we join groups, we are tying those communities together. We even have recognized leaders across those tribes referred to as SME’s.
We are a tribe. Yes, there are factions of our big tribe. We may not have a village, but we surely have some idiots too. That is the way of things.
Now, lets talk about some basic expectations of the tribe. First, I am sure everyone agrees that firearms safety is vital. All our classes start with it, most articles open with it, and its generally the first thing new members are introduced to. You are expected to be safe and if you are not, you will surely get called out and warned. Next, we all expect some sort of participation. This can be as small as a like, a comment, or direct involvement in conversations. We expect the SME’s to come and steer us when we have questions. We appreciate it when they do and pay attention to what they say. In return, the SME’s need some things from us. They need us to share their articles, support their sponsors and employers.
How does one become a member of the tribe? Well, become linked by social ties, accept the culture and learn the dialect. Do your best to meet the tribal expectations. Listen to the members who were there before. Try to make the tribe a better place.
These things help improve the tribe.
There is one piece missing though. That piece is leadership. The same conversation that started the above had another factor involved. I was told that there were certain expectations of leaders. I was told as a Leader, I should not make statement like I made, that good leadership is all inclusive. There is nothing wrong with this statement. What was wrong is that I do not view myself as a leader anymore. I have no rank, no position of authority nothing like that. I am not preparing Soldiers for combat nor going with them. As I thought about why that person had assumed I was a leader, I went back to the Army definition of leadership which is “Leadership is the activity of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization” – ADP 6-22
From that definition, I had to ask the question, Am I a leader?
Am I or attempting to influencing people? Yes
Am I providing Purpose? I attempt to
Am I providing Direction? Yes
Am I providing Motivation? Yes
Am I trying to accomplish the mission? From a certain point of view…
Am I attempting to improve the organization? Yes.
In the form of Expert Power, the SME’s are or should be providing leadership. As such, we need to conduct ourselves as such. It does not matter, as I have come to understand, that we are not seeking positions. If our tribe has deemed us worth of following and are using us as an influence to make decisions, we are granted that role. It is fragile though. There is no system for retaining status, no law book to follow. The court is held by the tribe. We may not even know it was happening. “Selection never ends” applies here. The tribe expects us to be doing the best for the tribe. Most understand and accept this.
What some part of the tribe do not understand is that this is all volunteer with no contracts. We are all here as much as we want to be. For the SME’s and industry guys, their livelihood is based on the very things the tribe is about. As stated above, the tribe needs to show support for those people. For the most part, they do a good job, but we are trying to improve the whole tribe. It is a relationship. The tribe picks its leaders, you cannot demand it.
I will close with admitting that I have failed the tribe in several ways. I do not share from the SME’s and I have not provided great leadership from my position. I have not participated enough recently. I am working on this. We all need to improve. I am honored to be among you. The person who was spitting the word tribe out like poison thought he would create a rift and talked down to me about it. I do not care. He could not lower my head about my feelings on the subject. I was strengthened by his words. This tribe, for all its faults, is an honorable one.