Leadership….It’s a position that many times people are loathe to take because they are afraid of the responsibility. However, many times in our daily lives we may not be aware we are leading, by our actions, our attitudes and the words we speak. Leadership is influence.
Seth Godin says, “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader and connected to an idea.” The world needs leaders who are passionate about a worthy cause, are willing to be ridiculed and persecuted for what they believe in and can gather together a group of people who think and feel the same way.
Think of Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., John Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, The Wright Brothers, etc., These are simply names of people who have stood out in history that quickly come to mind.
It is so easy for us to be trapped in a mold of what everyone else is doing–we follow someone else because we choose not to think for ourselves. It is the theory that, “Everyone is doing it, so it must be okay.” Influence simply is having other people follow your example. It is a extensively researched fact: Your friends’ behaviour is contagious. If you are a follower, you copy them. If you are a leader, they copy you.
Everything, including divorce, premarital sex, obesity, anorexia, self-harm, drinking, smoking and even what we wear is contagious! It all spreads like a virus. We identify with a character in a TV program and we want to be like them, so we start wearing our hair the same way. Products are advertised to us and it is suggested that if we want to be “with it” we will purchase such-and-such and we follow like lambs to the slaughter.
The Framingham Heart Study began in 1948 with people in Framingham, Mass. It was an ongoing, multi-decade research project. The study’s purpose was determining to what extent our friends’ and associates’ behaviour affects our own behaviour. Data has been collected on 12,000 participants to date and has revealed some shocking results. Check this out:
If you have a friend who gets divorced, the odds of you getting divorced are 147 percent higher. If a friend of yours is obese, the odds of you also becoming obese are 171 percent higher.
Dr. Nicholas Christakis is a Harvard Medical School professor of medical sociology and a principal investigator of the data, as well as being a physician. He reveals why the “infection” rate is so high for obesity and other behaviours. He explains, “You change your idea of what is an acceptable body type by looking at the people around you.”
Throughout the book “Tribes”, Seth Godin encourages readers to find their tribe, step up and lead. We need leaders to lead us is the theme. It’s not always obvious when to lead, but simply by choosing to be your own person and not choosing to just ‘go with the flow’ you become a leader by default. You take on a position of thinking differently than the norm, spreading your idea, being brave enough to clear out any obstacles that prevent reaching the new objective.
Usually great leadership happens when the tribe least expects it. You take a stand in an obscure moment, unplanned, simply to stand up for what you believe in and give others the chance to join your “tribe”. When we want to be accepted, we become the same, but when we want to stand up for our individual beliefs, we become the leader of a new tribe of people who prefer our belief and example. These are the leaders that count as they can change the course of history by choosing the road less travelled!
If your associates are expanding at the waistline or are people who are having marriage difficulties or are people being retrenched from their jobs, the time for you to step up as the leader is now. It is imperative to make your own decisions about your value system and choose to work with more focus to prevent the “infection percentages” from working in your own life. Of course, it isn’t about dumping your acquaintances in their time of struggle. It is about you protecting yourself from the odds and providing yourself with innovative sources of positive inspiration and influence so you can lead those who don’t want to follow the group’s trajectory.
If you want transformation in your own life, this phenomena also can work to your benefit. Simply surround yourself with people who already have what you yearn for—whether it is being healthier, or developing a closer and more loving relationship with your partner or creating balance in your work–life–fun–prosperity cycle. Then take the ideas back to your tribe and lead the way.