Understand modern tribalism in today’s business world and how you can manage it for the good of your organization.
The term “tribalism” was coined by sociologist Michel Maffesoli in the 1980s to explain a shift in Western society from one built around the individual to a world populated by “affective communities” where individuals, driven by the emotional bonds of these communities, seek to belong and feel useful. They identify with a group – or groups – they feel akin to.
Understanding these various identities is essential in the business world, because individuals are so much more aware of the choices they now have, whether it is choosing the right job, or buying the best service or product. This new kind of tribalism, ‘neotribalism’, is giving identity in the 21st century a different meaning. It is no longer simply about race, gender or culture, it is about movement, choice and aspiration in an increasingly unpredictable world.
There is an increasing awareness of who we are as individuals, and of the control we can have over multiple identities and destinies. We can belong to many communities outside our identities of origin, with myriad social networks that link us to like-minded individuals. Whatever our leanings, whether environmental, spiritual, sport- or health-based, there are new ways of being together, which lead to new ways of working and consuming.
The challenge for leaders is to adapt their organisations, developing practices that allow employees to work within their multiple identities and social networks, and offering products and services to clients and customers that are better suited to this changed environment.
Leaders must constantly reinvent themselves and their companies to cater for changing communities, adapting products and services as customers demand. As far as employees are concerned, leaders should foster individuality and independent thinking while encouraging the sense of belonging to a community.
The world has more fluidity in it. Professionals do not have to stay in the same job, or company or career even. Leaders need to be aware that individuals can develop multiple identities, and satisfy different motivations, many of which are based on a desire for a better world. Work at communicating with your employees, clients, and suppliers, and you will gain their affiliation. If you don’t, you risk them working, buying, or sourcing elsewhere.
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