Monday, December 15, 2008

Seals aren't just furry sea mammals

This is the story of the U.S. Navy Seals. Not the whole story. Just the part about how an organization with polarizing ideology, controversial mandates, and a long history has been able to harness the power of its tribe to find organizational success and continued relevance.

The ideology around tribes is remarkable. For those who are unfamiliar, tribes are similar to the herd mentality, and are based on the thought that like-minded individuals want to connect with each other and need to be led. There's a bit more to it, and feel free to read further here, here, and here.

The U.S. Navy Seals - A classic, and rarely used example of the use of tribes within an organization (and also a great book on tribal leadership). The Seal's have all the goods to be a great tribe:
  • There are insiders and there are outsiders.
  • All the members of the tribes share a common bond that will connect each of them for their lifetime.
  • The organization has a clear purpose.
  • The organization connects with people on a genuine emotional level (both negatively and positively)
Whether or not you agree with the ideology or actions of the Seals, this tribe has overcome the greatest struggle facing tribal organizations today – it has proven the ability to take passion beyond an ‘emotion’, and has made it a life-choice commitment. As a result, the fabric of this tribe has become so tight that it is one of the few ‘corporate’ tribes where a member will give up their life for another member.

Lessons learned?

1. Be the connector - connect people of similar passion and ideology;
2. Be the source of something bigger; and
3. Fuel their passion through leadership and experience.