More and more today we are hearing the importance of building your tribe. By exchanging contributions, members of a tribe are able to create opportunities and overcome obstacles collectively while also advancing their individual goals.
In the past, historians and storytellers frequently attributed significant advances to particular individuals. But the reality is, even though these pioneers may have initially sparked significant change and innovation, the success of these audacious endeavours typically came from “tribes” of individuals who joined their strengths through shared visions. In 1969, scientists, engineers, astronauts, and decision-makers laboured tirelessly to land the first human on the moon during the Apollo 11 Mission.
This achievement led to the term “moonshot” becoming part of the common vernacular. Common examples of ‘moonshots’ include circumstances where:
- hundreds of thousands of groups have convened to provide aid when various nations experienced catastrophic events, such as the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the recent earthquake in Turkey;
- entrepreneurs established networks of confidants, mentors, and investors to facilitate value exchange
- smaller pockets of individuals actively have gravitated together to form their niche tribes in order to accelerate the value-creation process.
This is in the alternative to working with a large number of collaborators in a loose manner or merely going through the motions of being a member of large networks.
Application across the public sector
Successful public sector leaders have mastered the art of forming cooperative tribes. Leaders in the public sector frequently face a diverse array of complex challenges that require them to balance competing priorities, navigate political environments, make difficult trade-offs, work within or create new policy and regulatory parameters, deal with budgetary constraints, and of course most importantly deliver effective services. To successfully address these demands, public sector executives must establish quadruple partnerships through which government, the private sector, not-for-profit organisations and the community can collaborate. Their ability to form communities comprised of business partners, advisors, and subject matter experts will enable all parties to access the inspiration, resources, and support necessary to address issues and deliver projects that benefit the community as a whole, whilst importantly ensuring that key community stakeholders have a voice and are actively given an opportunity to contribute.
Support for Moonshots
In the end, the “moonshots” that align with the personal aspirations of public sector employees and their organisations’ agendas require the support, wisdom, criticisms, and resources for success. However, while a tribe can help leaders in the public sector excel in their positions, these leaders are also responsible for ensuring that reciprocal contributions between tribe members are recognized, noting the additional ethical, legal and probity related constraints that the public sector works under.
Certain tribes are Foresight Advisors. These communities can assist public sector leaders in identifying and addressing current challenges by utilizing future thinking and foresight. Certain communities serve as Innovation Catalysts. These communities aid public sector leaders with innovative concepts, technologies, and solutions to difficult problems. Lastly, other communities serve as resource providers, supplying leaders with valuable implicit and explicit resources as they continue their endeavours.
Cultivating Powerful Tribes
How then can public sector leaders effectively cultivate and perpetuate powerful, ethical tribes? Here are some recommendations:
- Set audacious objectives. People frequently misunderstand network scale as a success factor. Impact determines success. Setting clear, audacious objectives has a significant effect.
- Engage in boundary-spanning to transcend the boundaries of social and work groups so that leaders can identify members who can amplify a tribe’s strengths beyond the natural working network that may have been established. This could include looking overseas for new capability or beyond the industry sector by way of example.
- Remember that there are various types of talents. Some members may even be younger and in the early phases of their careers. Keep an open mind. Reverse mentoring can be effective.
- Maintain a tribe of an optimal size. Do not rapidly increase the size of the tribe, and in some cases, it may be prudent to intentionally maintain a tribe with a niche focus.
- Create opportunities for connection which provide for open dialogue on various and allow for a certain degree of randomness to inspire creativity and the development of innovative thinking.
- Assign each member of the tribe a specific mission. All members of the tribe can then be assigned specific contributions that they make. Members can use the allotted task to increase their knowledge and global perspective.
- Highlight shared characteristics and encourage reconciliation. Due to commitments and responsibilities it is common for a tribe’s significance to diminish over time or to change. Successful communities are those that are able to foster informal accountability among their members, and informal accountability is strengthened by a shared understanding and positive rapport. Agility is also important.
In contrast to networks, which can in some instances be loosely defined, tribes must be mobilised with a semi-focused audacious end objective in mind. But the return on investment of such a concerted endeavour can be significantly greater. As leaders in the public sector are typically confronted with a unique set of challenges, they should actively nurture and maintain diverse tribes to empower them.
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