Random Thoughts

Leading a Tribe

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I’ve read a lot of books in the past three years…..ok….for me personally it’s been a lot of reading. This one I didn’t actually read. I listened to it ($5.59 via iTunes). But being an auditory learner….that’s better than reading anyway.

This one though, this book, hit me a little deeper than others. It might be where I’m at right now in my life. It might be that I’m trying to find my niche in this new world that I myself do not fully understand. Trying to be a new worker in an old company isn’t easy. But it can be and is on many levels very rewarding.

I’ve been a reader of Seth’s for over a year now. He’s in my must read category and what he can say in three paragraphs, the deepness and directness of his words, are something of an art.

The book gets right to the point. That what leadership is about is leading a tribe. Create a tribe passionate followers and lead it. Do I have a Tribe? Could I create a Tribe?

Those are the questions I keep asking myself. Then there is the question where are we going? Gapingvoid puts it best.

Leadership does not exist in a vacuum, you need somewhere to actually lead your tribe to.

Right now I have no idea. I’m just an educator. Do I have a purpose? Do I have a vision? One thing that Seth points out is to write your manifesto. Put it out there and then build a tribe around it.

I’ve been thinking about what it is I actually stand for. What is it that I truly believe?

There are tribes on many levels, and having the ability to organize the tribe around a purpose or vision is what leadership truly is.

Create a Tribe at your school:

Can you create a Tribe at your school? Every school has it’s obstacles. It’s easy for us to talk about not having administrative support, not having access to this web site or the blocking of that one. Complaining is easy, creating a Tribe and making change happen is work.

Where to start the Tribe:

Find those teachers, those colleges that are your early adopters. Find those teachers that you already are supporting and create a tribe with them. For me, I’ve started an e-mail group at school. A group of the teachers who constantly share cool sites with me, or send me e-mails asking “What’s next?” Bring these members together and form a tribe within your school. Find your purpose, and create the change. You don’t need support, be the support. You don’t need permission, a tribe gives itself permission. Find a way to create a tribe and be the change that you want.

The need for passion:

You can not lead a Tribe if you are not passionate about your purpose, your vision. I am coming off a week break from school. A week in which most people would have looked at what I was doing, creating, participating in, and not understand why I choice to spend my ‘week vacation’ deep in thinking about technology and education. For me, this was the break I needed. I need a week to go really deep. To read a book like Tribes, to catch up on ideas, programs, software, and reading that I had put off. A week to try new things Ustreaming, to think about where education is going and to craft my message for up coming conferences. I came back to school this week energized, focused and excited. Education is my passion. Learning is my passion.

Learning is the reason I got into education. I love to learn, and what better place to be if you love learning than in a school. To talk about learning on a deep level every day with students and educators. Learning is my passion!

We’ll see where all this leads me. Do I have a tribe? Can I build a tribe? If my passion is learning what is my focus, my vision that I can create a tribe around?

Stay tuned….we’ll see where this leads.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Seth Godin’s work always seems to be worth reading. His short book, “The Dip” has brilliant. I love the fact that he condenses ideas into their most essential form, and makes reading great ideas possible in a single sitting – genius.

  2. I believe working like a tribe is very beneficial. We learn more by sharing with each other and being able to use fresh new ideas learned from one another. I’m also a teacher and find that we all help one another and share ideas that our students benefit from everyone’s input. I wish everyone felt the need to share ideas and implement them in their classrooms. It does take a tribe to educate our children.

  3. I wish I had read the book, so I could better relate my response. It sounds very familiar to what I have been practicing over the last year. I think this is close to my manifesto http://injenuity.com/archives/187 , though I probably need to revisit and see if it still holds true. I have been working with a small tribe of enthusiasts, and will miss them so much when I leave. It hasn’t been easy.
    When you talk about not having administrative support, I’ve learned there are many shades of support. While they may support your overarching goals, they can still undermine strategy. On my campus, administrators have had a difficult time with the fact that I work so closely with the instructors already using technology. They thing it’s a mistake, and instead, I should run lots of workshops for the people who don’t want to use it. I’ve managed to resist for a year, but you’re right, it is hard work! It is also something that may hurt my reputation, but it’s worth it, knowing that it is the right thing to do. Here’s one project the tribe is working on, that I know will continue without me, because they care! http://wordpress.btc.ctc.edu/mlearning/ I’m definitely going to have to read (or listen to) the book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. Warren Ediger Reply


    You may want to look at a precursor to Godin, Frank Smith, who wrote “Joining the Literacy Club: Further Essays into Education” in 1988. It’s been foundational to my work with adult ESL students. Here’s an excerpt from Smith’s introduction:

    “Learning, I propose, is primarily a social rather than an individual accomplishment. We learn from other people, not so much through conscious emulation as by ‘joining the club’ of people we see ourselves as being like, and by being helped to engage in their activities. Usually we are not even aware that we are learning.”

    Though Smith’s focus is literacy, his ideas are widely applicable. It includes an

  5. Loved the reflection Jeff, and unfortunately have not much to add to your great thoughts.
    just the idea – and the feeling – that I too am led by passion. I have always been.
    And I have to find it in everything I do to be able to do it right. In school, I only felt I had really learned something (and not only memorized stuff) in classes I really liked. The teachers, who were able to achieve this, had a great impact on it, I must say.
    I believe any professional, educator or not, will conduct his/her activity better if they do it with passion. It’s so much easier to accomplish something when your heart is in it. You feel so more impelled to go on. You also feel more confident of yourself and of the others. And confidence is also necessary to be able to admit we don’t know everything, that we are human, that we have flaws and that those are OK. What matters is that we care enough to keep learning in any field we participate in. This will bring the people together, because people will identify themselves with this too and consequently will be more susceptible to care.
    And passion and care come together. If we are passionate about what we do, we will care about that part of the world, in which we contribute to – that includes the people and the cosy environment/atmosphere we will unconsciously help develop. And when the students understand you care, them they will care too. Caring is a chain reaction which only very few achieve to ignore.
    Passion an care are affections. Learning / life is strongly based on those…I guess!

  6. Pingback: Learning Journey » Blog Archive » we need passion…and to be able to care

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  8. Such a short book but I still haven’t finished my copy. What has struck me so far in it pulls right back to classrooms. Can a classroom be a tribe? It is a space where everyone is placed (sometimes not very willingly) instead of being a place where people choose to be or choose to belong to. I think the ideas behind branding classrooms (aka Idea Hive) speaks in this direction. But I still have a lot to figure out about how this fits together.

  9. I loved, loved, loved Tribes. Godin’s more recent writing has moved from marketing to leadership and it’s FANTASTIC. Thanks for sharing your reflections, Jeff. I’m going to do the same and will link over here when I do…

    Check it out: inside cover, 5th column from top right corner, 6 rows down (3 squares below the V for Vendetta guy). =)

  10. I have not read the book but this post about it.
    I loved your reflections and took notes about them in order to reread.
    I agree when you say about it’s WORK, and a special work which probably not be recognized but the most important is in the heart of the passionate teacher.
    Thanks for sharing

  11. This is a timely post Jeff. I am currently working at a tiny school with very little resources, bandwidth that could lead to suicide, homicide or worse, and a staff that appears to be quiet behind when it comes to web 2.0, social networking, or technology in general, but recently I have created a very simple in-house wiki for communication and collaboration between classroom teachers and myself- the ESL teacher.

    I presented the basics to the entire staff today and there was a small group of teachers that seemed to buy what I was selling. We will be meeting once a week to start out journey down the networking road. I hope to teach them about Blogs, wikis, RSS, delicious, Twitter etc…

    Anyway, I like this idea of starting small and really getting a few people, who are interested on board and excited. Like you said, first and foremost you need passion and vision, everything else is just an excuse. I hope to introduce a few of these people to the network once they take the training wheels off.

  12. What an interesting concept. I always love innovated ideas and ways of looking at things. Thank you for the recommendation. I’m on my way to amazon right now….

  13. Pingback: Educational Technology and Life » Blog Archive » Links for 11/27/2008

  14. Pingback: The Way of the Future: Embedding Technology in 21st Century Schools « A Voyage Into the World of Web 2.0

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