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#Tribes – Day 3 – True Leadership

Welcome to day 3 of the Tribes Group Blogging Project that began Monday at ChurchCrunch. As I humbly pick up the torch, lets dive a little deeper into a discussion about true leadership (pages 12-16).

“Leadership is Not Management”

Early in my (admittedly) young career, I learned that climbing a predetermined corporate ladder was not the cry of my heart. I clearly remember one of my first corporate experiences that was particularly soul-crushing. After anticipating the opportunity for months, I burst out of bed on the first day of the job, eager to arrive early and take the bull by the horns. I had a unique opportunity to work with folks I considered to be experts in a field that I cared deeply about, and I entered the office as an enthusiastic sponge looking to absorb every ounce of knowledge I could find.

Within a few days, there was a remarkable change in my temperament. Instead of soaking up knowledge and creativity, I was absorbing the half-hearted efforts of a well-oiled corporate machine. New ideas and innovation were actively passed over in favor of previously established methods that were marginally easier on the bottom line. The knowledge I so desperately hoped to acquire from fellow employees was replaced with tips and shortcuts on how to work less and climb the ladder faster.

The lack of enthusiasm was even evident from the demeanor in the break room; instead of discussing the latest technologies and wildly daydreaming about it’s implications on our field, folks sat around passively drinking their coffee and checking the clock to see how much time remained before they could escape their fluorescent prisons.

The place was full of excellent management, but lacked true leadership. As Godin discusses, true leaders are passionate about their work/cause, making it “engaging, thrilling, profitable, and fun.” Their enthusiasm is contagious and immediately captures the minds and imaginations of like-minded individuals who are ready to be led.

Corporations, organizations and even many churches today actively struggle to become leaders instead of replicators. As Godin states, “change is frightening” and it scares many potential leaders off as “more of a threat than a promise.” In order to step up and lead, we must embrace change in order to lead our tribes to a brighter tomorrow.

The Changing Tide

As technology has enabled an exponential boom in open communication, the power has shifted away from the hands of the CEO (or King as Godin explains it) and more towards the collective opinions of the tribe. This shift in behavior can be specifically observed in the rise of marketing and public relations. Only a few years ago, discussions of bad customer service and poor corporate policy were largely confined to the bounds of the family dinner table. Now, in groups of like-minded individuals like The Consumerist, large tribes of shoppers have banded together to force change from public entities; the viewpoint of the tribe matters.

As we lead our tribes, it’s important that we form and tell the stories about our organizations, “stories that sell and stories that spread.” We must actively engage our followers wherever they’re gathering. Whether it be Twitter, Facebook or the next social phenomenon, we need to lead the conversation and listen to our followers.

So how can ministries better lead their tribes today? As I’ve mentioned recently, we’ve found great success at Long Hollow through Facebook’s revamped Pages/Public Profiles. Once scattered throughout several different groups on Facebook, our tribe now has a unified forum where folks can unite around common interests (typically a specific message or news item) and give the church staff direct feedback. As the weeks go by, our tribe is growing closer every day.

There’s no better time than now for ministries to engage their tribes and begin the conversation. After all, if change is inevitable, shouldn’t we be the ones to direct it’s course?

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  1. Phillip Gibb (Reply) on April 15th, 2009

    Great Post and insight from the book. Glad I found your blog through this project.

    As you say; “There’s no better time than now for ministries to engage their tribes and begin the conversation” the climate is perfect for it, especially online with things like Facebook and twitter and blogs. The question is what are we to do about it. Well listen for starters. We are so enamored with numbers and stats, thinking that we are so cool that we have 1000′s of followers that we fail to listen. Listen and ingest and engage.
    I believe that a true leader listens and actively engages with the tribe. As a member of a tribe I would be a champion of the change a leader brings if I know the leader listens and engage.


  2. Susan K. Stewart (Reply) on April 15th, 2009

    Changing from the top-down leadership (management model), we need to also change the idea that only those who are older (and wiser?) and/or have longevity with the organization can or should be the leaders.

    How many churches have groups segregated by age with no invitation to other age groups to peak in once in awhile? Why do the youth groups have only youth for leaders? Why do the parent groups not have grandparents? When was the last time anyone has seen a young person attend or be welcomed at the senior’s potluck?

    The non-profit I work for is still being led by the same folks who started it 25+ years ago. This is an organization for parents, which is trying to reach young parents. No young parents are involved in leading or advising this organization. If you’re thinking it might be dying, you’re right.

    The founder and general manager says we need to engage social networks to reach out. That’s so true. But, since she and board members have no experience or understanding of it, they’re immediate reaction to suggestions that come in is no. (Back to fear.)

    Within our tribes, to be leaders Phill is correct, we need to listen. We need to listen to our tribe members. And, we need to listen to those outside our tribe (outside our own peers) to welcome them into our tribe.

    Beyond listening, we also need to engage those who are speaking. I can listen all day long to suggestions, then respond with “I don’t have time.” “I don’t know how.” If we listen, the response should be “Would you like to give it a try?” “How can I support you in doing this?”

    Action follows listening, but not necessarily action from the leader. The next thing you know, you will have birthed a new leader.

  3. John (Human3rror) (Reply) on April 15th, 2009

    wow, this is gravy. let me digest and come back.

    i’ve tweeted this as well… GREAT stuff ERIC!

  4. Eric Murrell (Reply) on April 15th, 2009

    As Phil mentioned, I think there’s a real danger in being enamored with our stats alone; it’s great to see some high numbers, but unless there’s real communication and quality interaction going on, those relationships will flat line in no time.

    I also agree with Susan that we need to listen to those inside and outside of our tribes; the value of leading a tribe is not merely the uniting of a group of folks, but the productive interaction of the tribe itself.

  5. Phillip Gibb (Reply) on April 15th, 2009

    I like the point you raise about
    “As we lead our tribes, it’s important that we form and tell the stories about our organizations”
    Essentially a story moves you from one point to another, through conflicts and ultimately to a resolution. Stories are not static and neither are movements. I think Seth going on with this further on in the book.
    But this really points to the type of leader that a tribe need. Not the aloof, king type but the open door one that is part of the same story. We are part of God’s story as Louis Giglio puts it, we as Christians are part if His Story. Our stories are small, yet that is how we are built as relational beings that want to belong to something meaningful and a good story, a good movement is meaningful, and the leader as the story teller or author or lead character needs to be able to lead use through that story.

  6. Paul Steinbrueck (Reply) on April 15th, 2009

    Nice post, Eric. Some thoughts…

    - Leadership is not management. Leaders determine the destination. Managers use the resources provided to them to get to that destination.

    - One of the challenges I think we all face is that no job or ministry position is 100% leadership or 100% management. It’s always a mix of both. How much of your job or ministry position leadership and how much is management?

    - I think some people are wired up to be more leader and others more manager. Some people constantly want to set their own course and do their own thing. Some people don’t know where they are going and want someone to tell them what to do. Most people are somewhere in between? What are you on the leader vs manager continuum?

    - If you are a leader, you need to know where the people you lead are on the leader/manager continuum because that should determine how much freedom and how much guidance you give them to do their job.

  7. Chris Downs (Reply) on April 15th, 2009

    Susan is absolutely right in her statements of “If we listen, the response should be “Would you like to give it a try?” “How can I support you in doing this?”” More than likely, if a person has an idea that bears potential than they are also the person with the passion to push it forward and see where it goes. As leaders we shouldn’t be using ideas from other people necessarily (although sometimes this is fine) but rather enabling those that have ideas to fully utilize those ideas and see what comes about. Give them guidance absolutely, but see how far they are able to take it on their own before someone else maybe grabs hold of it and takes it the next step further, much like we were talking about yesterday.

  8. [...] Day 1 – April 13th: John Saddington: Pages 1-5 Day 2 – April 14th: Billy Johnson: Pages 6-12 Day 3 – April 15th: Eric Murrell: Pages 12-16 [...]

  9. Andy Darnell (Reply) on April 15th, 2009

    Good post and great comments here. I want my leaders to be involved in the destination and not check out after the vision is cast. Often as a manager, I am tasked with project completion. Now while I have been involved early on in strategy and vision casting, I also have to manage multiple projects at the same time. I tend to lose full site of the overall vision. I need that leader to come along beside me and let the contagious enthusiasm light my fire again.

    Oh yeah, true leaders don’t check out. They keep up with the vision and continually preach it.

  10. [...] Murrell has day three of of Tribes Group Blogging Project. For more info on Tribes Group Blog, check here. Share and [...]

  11. Kevin M. (Reply) on April 15th, 2009

    Eric you said: “After all, if change is inevitable, shouldn’t we be the ones to direct it’s course?” II love this quote from pages 13-14 of the book: “Management is about manipulating resources to get a job done . . . Leadership, on the other hand, is about creating change that you believe in”. This should be everyone’s desire in whatever arena we find ourselves in.

  12. Eric Murrell (Reply) on April 15th, 2009


    I’d go as far as saying that there’s no value in leading the charge on an issue if it’s not something you care about or believe in. I can fool my brain into getting behind something, but my heart won’t put up with a lie.

    Passion is contagious… apathy is poisonous.

  13. shannon La France (Reply) on April 15th, 2009

    I like this quote from day (3) true leaders are passionate about their work/cause, making it “engaging, thrilling, profitable, and fun.” Their enthusiasm is contagious and immediately captures the minds and imaginations of like-minded individuals who are ready to be led! I have grown to be a leader and tired of the efforts to be a manager. I suck @ managing! watching reports, tracking #’s, holding regular meeting where I value a persons contribute to the organization by how much they have sold that month! ugggh, just doesn’t come natural. But leadership (ahhhhh) love it! Inspiring others to be the best they can be within the organization they are part of…to be excellent! reading, blogging, listening, encourging those within…that’s my true passion. I have asked many folks I admire and barrow from since reading this book. Asking them if they would value a leader and vissionary in their organization while each said it’s necessary….they felt a leader must have a ROI that’s trackable to justify their role of encourgement. What do you think are the tangile, measurable, ROI ‘s of a great leader?

  14. [...] 3 is being facilitated by Eric Murrell at mediasalt.com and covers pages 12-16.  He focused on a quote from the book, “Leadership is Not Management”  [...]

  15. Norm Tumlinson (Reply) on April 16th, 2009

    I think one of the difficult things in trying to apply this (Leadership not Management) to church life is the fact that in the church people choose to be there on a voluntary basis.
    So your “tribe” of people has (depending on what church) very fluid parts and maybe some not-so-fluid parts. For the longest time the Kingdom of God has been managed and we have cheated the church by doing this.

    IMHO, I think we really need more leaders than managers. To Paul S’ comment, although everyone does not fall into a neat dichotomy, I think the differences between leaders and managers is still really an issue of leaders and followers.

    If you are a manager that needs to be told what to do you are really a follower. If you are a manager who doesn’t need to be told what do you are a leader. Oversimplification… yes… but Im not trying to leave a five page post ;)

    The church is longing for leaders. It needs leaders with passion, conviction, and a rebel-like attitude. I think we may have to lose followers at first. In fact i think it is sometimes very necessary to refocus and cast vision (Even if it means tribe members leaving, because at least they now know what you stand for)

  16. Mike Henry (Reply) on April 19th, 2009

    Eric, thanks for the nice post.

    One thought I’d pass on that Tribes somewhat overlooked but Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner mentions often is that leaders are people who have values. People won’t follow someone who doesn’t know what they stand for. And so often today in business, we businesspeople stand for what you mentioned in your post; a commitment to get out alive or make it to Friday. The crisis in business leadership is that the leaders of a business often substitute the pursuit of profit for a just cause, like service excellence or employee quality of life. Once that happens, it is a slippery slope to “every man for himself!”


  17. [...] 13th: John Saddington: Pages 1-5 Day 2 – April 14th: Billy Johnson: Pages 6-12 Day 3 – April 15th: Eric Murrell: Pages 12-16 Day 4 – April 16th: Give Love Coffee: Pages 16-20 Day 5 – April 17th: Norm Tumlinson: Pages 21-26 [...]

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