what makes a tribe

What Makes a Tribe | 5 Shared Principles All Successful Tribes Have

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What makes a tribe?

This question recently came up in one of my mastermind group calls.

Since then, this question has been haunting me.

After doing much research online and digging into my Evernote files, I want to share with you some principles I have learned from some of the best minds on this topic.

I’ve boiled them down to 5 shared principles you can use to build a killer tribe around your passion.

What is a tribe?

Before I share the principles with you, we need to define a bit about what a tribe is first.

Jeff Goins defines a tribe as “a unique group of fans, friends, and followers who resonate with your worldview.”

If you were to ask Seth Godin, he would say a tribe has two things: “a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

While a tribe can change the world, it doesn’t have to start there. A tribe always starts very small. That is why it is not referred to as a village, a town, city, state or country.

Many bloggers are getting paid handsomely while leading small tribes. You don’t have to get the whole world to notice you. As Jonathan Mead has pointed out, you can do just fine with 1,000 true fans.

When you dissect all successful tribes, you will find they often share these 5 principles:

1. A shared worldview that needs a leader

Most tribes start from one person willing to step out and lead. Seth Godin in his TED talk about building a tribe offers this advice: “Find a group that is disconnected but already has a yearning and lead them.”

We live in an amazing time. Never before has one person been able to lead a movement from the comfort of their own home, on their spare time, and reach a worldwide audience.

There are plenty of people who share your same passion, but they are waiting for you to lead them.

2. A shared purpose that needs defining

Successful tribes will have a shared purpose that the whole group believes in. As a tribe leader, you need to create a compelling vision. The vision should tell a story, lead a movement, and make a change.

3. A shared enemy that needs to be challenged

Not only does a great community have a shared purpose, but they also have a shared enemy. While the enemy could be a group of people or an organization, it is most often a status quo the world has settled into.

“As a tribe leader, your goal is to find the status quo and change it for the better.” [tweet that]

A shared enemy can also be a set of circumstances your tribe is battling on a consistent basis.

Maybe as a leader, you have been able to overcome this set of circumstances. Now you help others shatter this shared enemy by providing services, products, and teaching that encourage and empowers them.

4. A shared language that drives unity

Find a passionate tribe online and you will often find a common language that unites them. The shared language could be a term to describe the tribe. Emily from PuttyLike.com uses the term PuttyTribe to describe the fans of her blog.

A shared language can also be a set of commonly known and adopted principles that the tribe shares. The members of NorthPoint Church, where Andy Stanley is the pastor, often hear “circles are better than rows.”

This simple statement is a shared, common language they have used to describe why they value small groups over big venues in their church.

5. A shared culture that fosters community

Jonathan Mead in his killer post about building a tribe says, “While it’s up to you to supply the vision, it has little to nothing to do with you. It’s about something bigger than you, and that is precisely why it fosters community.”

Chris Brogan states that as a leader “your goal is to move your ideas through a platform to encourage a human interaction.”

“Your tribe is not about you as a leader, but about connecting people to one another.” [tweet that]

Let me leave you with 3 compelling questions that Seth Godin offers at the end of his TED talk.

1. Who exactly are you upsetting? Challenge the status quo.
2. Who are you connecting? It’s not about you, but about them.
3. Who are you leading? Change comes from leading.


What principles have you noticed that exist in successful tribes and tribe leaders?

4 thoughts on “What Makes a Tribe | 5 Shared Principles All Successful Tribes Have”

  1. Great subject! Jonathan, you hit it out of the park. And there is a ton more you could probably have said about tribes…keep going.

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