I’ve been reading the book Tribes by Seth Godin this past week. It’s challenging me to rethink my mindset of leadership and what we are capable of as individuals when it comes to leading.

As an entrepreneur, it’s important to think as a leader. As someone who does not simply fall in line, but as someone who disrupts the norm.

Seth Godin argues that we are all leaders in his book Tribes. He writes a lot about what all leaders do, but what I want to discuss is the beginning of what it takes to be a leader and is at the crux of being an entrepreneur.

In order to lead, you must know what you believe. You must know the why behind what you do.

Without knowing what you believe, how will you ever be able to lead? How will you be able to get people on board with your business? Your project? Your product? Your movement?

Figuring out what you believe in sounds simple and menial in the grand scheme of building a tribe. But I think it is the most important part of being a leader and in creating a movement, whether that be creating a loyal-to-death group of followers who will stand in line for 10 hours to buy the next Apple product or thousands of people who will march with you to the steps of the D.C. Lincoln Memorial demanding freedom.

Think of all the people you consider great leaders: Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr, Joan of Arc, Margaret Thatcher, Gloria Steinem, Steve Jobs - all of them have/had a clearly defined belief that which people could adopt and find meaning in. They were convicted to their core by their beliefs, which is how they created such loyal tribes.

What is it that you truly believe?

I recently read a newsletter from my brother-in-law, Austin, (sign up for it here. You will get so much value out of it!) in which he talked about discovering the why behind what you do and how writing down what you believe will help you get there.

Going through this incredibly helpful exercise made me realize one very important thing - my beliefs are virtually invisible when looking at my daily life.

One of the beliefs I wrote down:  I believe in standing up for equality and challenging the way that our society lives

Where this belief breaks down quickly is that most people would not know this is a core belief of mine through my daily actions.

This is when I ask what it actually means to believe in something. Do you really believe in something if you just talk about it at a distance? If you think about the belief as something that will always be on the horizon, then is it something you really believe in?

A statement becomes an actual belief when your actions align with what you say. It is never about what you say. We all say a lot of things.

What matters is what you do.

Leaders know what they believe and then they follow through with action.

This is vital when pursuing your dreams. In order to be impactful, your beliefs should be manifested through your actions. Your why should shine through what you do.

In order to move from a follower to a leader, you must:

  • stand behind what you believe

  • follow through with action

  • then commit

As a leader, you are in a constant state of uncomfortability. Godin talks about how this is the main reason why most people don’t lead. Leaders are challenged and are always having to look forward. They are constantly having to recommit to their tribe and their message, even in the face of everyone who does not agree. This sounds like much of what it is to be an entrepreneur. You are constantly faced with challenges, naysayers, and new territory to conquer.

This is why knowing what you believe to your very core is the most important part of becoming a leader and a person of measurable impact. By knowing why you are leading, why you do what you do, you will be able to withstand any storm that comes your way. You will be able to commit. You will be able to stand up against the status quo and zig whenever everyone is zagging - because you know what you believe inside and out. You know your why behind your what. 

I would argue that those who do not know their why behind their what are not leaders. They are not impacting people to the extent that they could be. 

I agree with Seth Godin. I agree that we are all capable of being leaders, but it starts with knowing your why and letting everything you do lead back to your core beliefs. That is how you begin to form a tribe of people who believe in your why. 

What is it that you believe in? How can you be a force of change in your own community, industry, workplace?

I know for me in order to align my belief with my actions, I have begun conversations with my friends and family about the current status of our society. About the vastly unequal world we live in. About the increasing hatred and disparity between people of different races, classes, and ways of life and how it’s wrong and unacceptable and how we need to take responsibility for the way we live our lives and be more intentional about advocating for equality.

I have a long way to go (a very long way), but I want to be a leader in my community as someone who challenges and pushes people to think differently about our segmented society. I want my work to be infiltrated by this belief and my daily actions. I am beginning with conversation which I plan to turn into more public discussions and forums. It starts with action though. You get nowhere if you do nothing. Progress starts with action.

Write down your own beliefs and think about how you can create a tribe.How you can lead. How you can disrupt and challenge the status quo. Figure out what it is that gets you out of bed. Why is it that you are doing what you are doing? The more you can align your core beliefs with your actions, the more impactful you will be.

I know we are all capable of so much more than we can sometimes imagine. See yourself as a leader today, think deeply about and write down what you believe in, and take action.

Life is a gift. Today is a gift. Do something you passionately believe in today and don’t be afraid to zig while everyone else is zagging. That’s called being a leader.