Leadership Studies for a Daft Ideologist: An Artist’s New Understanding of Tribes

I’ve wrestled with this paradox for quite some time:  as an artist, I need to make a concentrated effort to get away from people, to focus my thoughts, and realize the observations that are my own.  This is meant to be in equal balance with human interaction.  Often, it’s like being on a seesaw with the Big Kid.  I’m a tiny person, and I don’t like to play rough.  It hurts to come down with a thump!  I want to be sociable, and I realize my need for community, but why is it so difficult to be respected for who I am, and to communicate on the level of trust that my spirit craves?


As a creator, I love to know that my work is well received, and I don’t hesitate to let others know when they’ve touched my soul.  And then, the teeter-totters, and I crash to the ground with the mutual insult of bumbled communication.  It’s almost enough to chase me back into my studio and the solitary comfort of heavenly visions.

Persistence has its rewards, as Jesus taught about the widow who wouldn’t give up demanding justice from the corrupt judge.  Buddha said, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears,” and I’m learning that if you didn’t get it the first time, he might even come back.  I know that I heard this talk before, and I remember preparing Sunday lunch.  The mention of Zappos caught my attention, because I’d submitted one of my photos for inclusion in their contest.  I’d never heard of them before, nor was I aware of their 10 Core Values.  Since then, I’ve forgiven them for altering the tone of the original photo to suit the double-page spread.  Well, they are Stage 4 after all…

“As people see the world, so they behave.”  I’ve witnessed this most clearly in expatriate communities, especially Seoul, 1993-1995.  It was the best of times and the worst of times, as Westerners were treated as honored guests…and in “the Hermit Kingdom,” I’m quite certain the Zørchön of Planet Xnrd would be welcomed with the same polite curiosity.  (Especially if he had blue eyes.)  Those who remained uncomfortable with being an alien didn’t extend their stay.  This was my introduction to what we now label ‘tribes.’


Stage 1:  Life Sucks and we respond with anger and hatred.  Nobody really wants to be there, or even think about it, but there are people who long to be recognized, and respected no matter what it takes.  2% of the population are willing to go to prison to be included.


Stage 2:  My Life Sucks.  Sure, there’s something better out there, and I want a piece of it, but nothing I do makes any difference.  Its all duty and paying the bills, anyway.  The daily grind has a numbing effect on 25% of the culture.


Stage 3:  I’m Great (and you’re not.)  Maybe something you’re doing works for you, and so you step into this realm.  It’s a dog-eat-dog world of competition and the struggle to get what you deserve.  Most corporations operate under this assumption, and it’s what I associate with what Jesus said about bad yeast.  (Matthew 16:5-12)  40% of the world lives like this, and I don’t like it.  Moving on…

Stage 4:  We are Great.  Zappos is the star child, and it’s what the Olympics wants to be.  This is united competence, and the power of the people.  22% live like this.


Stage 5:  Life is Great:  the mountaintop experience.  I like that Logan doesn’t put God into the equation, because too many people tend to be swayed by their earlier stage experience to see this for what it is.  The 2% who dwell at this stage are united by virtues, and it stands to reason through what we read in the Scriptures that God is Great.  Well, that simple declaration isn’t going to cut it for someone whose immediate experience is this sucky life.  He’s drained dry by everything that his culture is sucking out of him.  Save the religious talk for the church so I know where to find it when I need it. 


Logan points out that, “Tribes can only hear one stage above and below where they are.”  Why, then, would a stage 2 ever take a stage 5 seriously?  It’s all artsy-fartsy babble from a daft ideologist.  Equally, how can I communicate with ‘victims’ (stage 2) or ‘contentious bastards’ (stage 3)?  That’s not leadership, that’s a crass disrespect for people I don’t understand.  It’s a total disregard for what I’m committed to live for, “The most important commandment is this:  ‘Hear, O Israel!  The LORD our God is the one and only Lord.  And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength.’  The second is equally important:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  No other commandment is greater than these.”  (Mark 12:29-31)  If God is Great, then so are we all—each uniquely a part of the whole.  I want for every person to live out the passion of his life.  Believing that we reflect the image of our Creator, each individual carries a unique facet that brings the divine into our midst.

Live out loud! card
Live out loud! by AprylZA
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“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’  Actually, who are we not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.  There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.  We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us…and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love


Someone who’s comfortable (relatively speaking,) in his role thrashing through life is going to be intimidated by miscommunication, and intimidated, and is likely to become violent.  I’ve seen it happen.  Thump!  Back to the safety of solitude:  but am I living what I say I believe?


“Leaders don’t force people to follow; they invite them on a journey.” Charles S Lauer

An Invitation for the Journey print
An Invitation for the Journey by AprylZA
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Leaders nudge people and their community to the next stage, therefore, leaders must be fluent in the language of each stage.  What kind of impact does your tribe have on other groups?  Will your circle change the world?  (Matthew 28:18-20)  Wheels-within-wheels:  invite other tribes to know other tribal cultures.  In that way, we expand the body, and grow into a better life.  (1 Corinthians 12:12-31)


Follow the power of Love and it will lead you to more than you could ever imagine.

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