Leadership,  Strategy


If you have been around for a while, chances are that you have worked under several bosses. Think of the best among the lot and why? What are the lessons learned? Why did you enjoyed working with him/her?

Today’s article has got an assumption. That there already exists a team with the right skillset that can deliver.

Now you are leading people or a team. How do you plan to do better than your bosses? How can you move them from being a team to a tribe?

A tribe is defined as a socially, ethically, or politically cohesive group of people. Let me describe how deep a tribe can get.

A Makeup artist was working in my house the other day and she heard my nanny singing in her local dialect. Once she was done with her project, she walked up to my nanny and asked where she was from. Turns out they’re from the village. How did she know? The MUA said our nanny sounded and sang just like “them” (referring to nuances, cues synonymous with the village she originated from). Here are two people that have never met before but simply because they can identify as being from the same tribe, they connected and exchanged pleasantries in an instant. I suspect the next time she comes over; the hospitality would be royalty.

Gone are the days when the autocratic style worked in managing a team. It can work for a while but it is not sustainable. Once people feel the workplace is becoming authoritarian, they do not see it as a great place for personal development. And it is only a matter of time. Your best hands may have already sent their resumes to your competitor waiting to jump ship.

To obtain success, you need a team. But to maintain consistency, you need to move that team into a tribe. A cohesive group of people, close-knit, mutually supportive of each other, tackling big issues together.

As a fan of FC Barcelona, I look back at the colourful years under the guidance of Pep Guardiola. I will use the analogy of some key players that seemingly had a telepathic understanding of each other. Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi, and Messi. This quartet like a tribe got each other’s back, were very invested in winning the ball off rivals and scoring as many goals as possible. They had built trust and confidence in each other and had become a nightmare for the competition.

The golden quartet of Barcelona FC

It did not matter how many opposition players charged after Busquets, Xavi or Iniesta. They were confident in their teammate’s ability to wiggle their way out of trouble. So, they were hardly caught in two minds; to stay back should a teammate lose the ball or advance to launch an attack when the tribe member with possession of the ball leaves opposition players in the dust. Their tribe mentality encouraged by the boss Pep’s permission to express themselves made them the best quartet in the history of the football club. Each played their role to perfection.

Whether you are a CEO, senior manager, or line manager, you should aim to build a trusted confident tribe like Pep did during his stint at Barcelona. They will make a noticeable difference to your impact. To build a tribe, here are a few things you must start doing.


The best performing tribes have high trust and confidence among their members just like the Barcelona quartet. And as a leader, you can influence this by encouraging team members to speak up often, raise issues, share ideas, make decisions, admit their flaws, and most importantly work collaboratively. This will only work in a “no judgment zone” environment. You want your tribe reaching out when they encounter problems to avoid nasty surprises and you also want them bringing ideas forward and taking the initiative. Only a confident tribe that you have earned their trust will do this. And you need to relentlessly reinforce that culture of trust.


If you as the leader are involved in every aspect of your team’s activities, micromanaging everyone, chances are that there’s quite a lot you should be concentrating on, which is not getting done. Free up some space for yourself and permit your team to create. Your direct reports also may not tell you, but you may be killing their creativity and ability to take the initiative when you are all over them. Trust is reciprocal and one way you can show trust for the tribe is to delegate more often.


The easiest thing you can tell yourself is that they would reconcile. “After all, they are grownups, conflict resolution is not my thing.” Or that they can still hold grudges and coexist, working together. The latter may be right, but not addressing conflict in a way that strengthens the team hoping team members will heal someday is not a strategy. I recently wrote about fighting the good fight. Have them get used to expressing disagreements without falling out. That is the culture that berths creativity; a place you want your tribe to be in consistently.


As a leader, you should have personal goals which is not a bad thing in itself. It gets toxic when the team sees its efforts leaning towards feeding your ego alone. Putting your agenda before those of the group can be counterproductive and could destroy trust. When you are in that kind of precarious situation, team members will not run through a troop for you. They will down tools sooner rather than later.

The most successful leaders have been able to build much than a team. Think of Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Alphabet who after introducing Google to the world since September 1998, have continued to record success. And the majority of the success recorded can be attributed to the tribe they have been able to build.

The time to start building was yesterday, but today is not too late if the process starts.

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