A year after launching #Leadupchat on Twitter (eventually becoming part of a larger movement, LeadUpNow) we are celebrating the tremendous successes and stories of leadership and growth amongst our fellow colleagues and friends. As we reflect on these successes, we immediately conclude that one powerful aspect has been a continual strand through it all. The tribe.


What are tribes? Tribes are powerful connective entities, analogous to synchronization, chain reactions, and storytelling.


Connectivity. At first glance from an outsider’s lens, there is a clique-like connotation surrounding the induction into such a group. Or that it’s an inwardly focused endeavor concerning your goals and your individual growth. Leadership today truly is about connecting like minded people together. Everyone wants to contribute to something, it resonates at a soul satisfying level when we know that we have added value to an ideal or vision larger than ourselves. Today’s relational economy increasingly will be founded in this concept of tribe, the power of a collective over that of the lone wolf.


We’ve discovered It’s truly about illuminating others in the tribe, and furthering the tribe’s influence and impact.  For educators it’s all about the impact on our students. In turn, we receive support, affirmation, Tribes Quoteencouragement from our tribe. As one of our fellow tribe mates routine expresses it is only as lonely at the top as you allow it to be. With a tribe no one is ever alone.


Synchronization. The synchronization of a tribe is analogous to honey bees determining where to build their beehive. When a bee scout discovers a promising site for a potential home, it returns back to the waiting cluster of bees and performs a “bee dance.” The dance is essentially a cryptic description of the site. Other bees will fly out to the site themselves and report back to the cluster via the bee dance. Bees that discover the more desirable sites dance longer, ergo influencing more bees to check out their site. Returning scouts will also head-butt other scouts to stop dance-promoting others sites. The entire swarm of bees will mobilize to their new home based on this process of nest selection. Interestingly, the queen does not make the final decision or weigh the options.


Tribes are synchronized much like the bee hive decision making phenomenon.  Tribes make collective decisions by information gathering (shared personal experiences), weighing options together, and collectively choosing a destination that is most attractive.


Chain Reactions. A runaway chain reaction describes a reaction that occurs when one single nuclear reaction causes one or more subsequent nuclear reactions, thus leading to self-propagating series of these reactions. A nuclear chain reaction releases several million times more energy per reaction than any one chemical reaction. When a tribe member shares a personal experience or blog posts, it becomes a nuclear chain reaction. That one reaction inspires others to change direction, inspires a another blog post, or provokes thinking which leads to new action.


Storytelling. Campfire stories may seem like an esoteric example, but let’s examine further. Stories told around the campfire range from whimsical to legendary, from inspirational to fear mongering.  We distill these stories into bits of wisdom, inspiration, and learning. They get passed from generation to generation. Their story became our story. The stories of successes and failures from our tribe become part of each of us. They become part of our story. We’re not merely telling our story (that becomes an abstraction), we are co-sharing and engaging in dialogue about our experiences as they parallel to our unique circumstances. People learn, not because we’ve expertly imparted our knowledge, but because we’ve experienced the stories together.


At the end of the day, our job is to create a place where the tribe can come to share with one another and support something we believe in. A tribe will continue to impact change as long as there is a constant synergy of new ideas, creative leadership, and renewed vision. A tribe is a dynamic connected movement with a commitment beyond oneself. At Leadup we will continue to be committed to moving the conversation about education forward in a way that will empower edleaders to effect change in their sphere of influence.


What is your tribe? What are you doing to build it?


Nathan Lang and Jeff Veal are the co-founders of and #Leadupchat. For more info...

Sometimes I Feel Inadequate

By Mark French


I love being a connected educator. I have gained immensely the past two years from connections I have with others through Twitter, Facebook, Voxer, Instagram, podcasts, at EdCamps, and in person. But, I have a confession, sometimes I feel inadequate.


I don’t have tens of thousands of followers. I haven’t incorporated maker space or genius hour in my school. I haven’t created a website or written a book. I haven’t gotten rid of my desk and I don’t visit classrooms as often as I would like. Please don’t get me wrong. I admire and respect others who have done and continue to do those things. In fact, I am in awe of their awesomeness

elephant“I wish she’d go somewhere else with her old circus tricks – I’m suddenly feeling quite inadequate”

Before becoming a connected educator, I operated in a vacuum, in isolation. I would connect with my district colleagues but our work wasn’t about sharing best practices or what we were doing in our buildings. It was mostly about listening to district initiatives and making sure we were leading those. Being connected has opened a new world for me, a world in which I see the amazing things educators are doing every day. And that contributes to my feelings of inadequacy. Often, I have thought, “Wow, that is inspiring; I wish I could do that.” I wish I could communicate and reach out more through blogs, podcasts, videos, Periscope, and other media as prolifically and proficiently as others do. I wish I could spend more time in classrooms, on the playground, and learning with students as much as others do. When I have those feelings of inadequacy, there are four ways I work to overcome them.


First, I reach out to my PLC. Through Voxer and Twitter I can share with groups or individuals. The times I have reached out individually through Voxer and Twitter have been powerful and cathartic. It’s amazing that I can share through social media with other educators whom I have never met and feel supported and validated. Just being able to share and have another person, or persons, listen makes a huge difference for me.


Secondly, when I am feeling inadequate, I try new things. I remember to take small steps to put things into my practice. Last year’s stakeholder survey data indicated a need for improved communication. Over the summer, a principal in another state shared through Voxer how she was using Smore to create her school newsletter. I saw her end result and thought it would fit my need to improve communication. This year I have used Smore to create “Mark’s Monday Morning Memo” giving staff members more thorough information and highlighting student and staff contributions. Start small and make trying new things part of your practice. By learning from others I have explored and used augmented reality, robotics, video production, and coding.


Thirdly, when I have feelings of inadequacy, I share. I participate in Twitter chats and engage in Voxer discussions. Through thought provoking questions and engaged conversations, I glean a lot from others but I also get to share things I’m doing. The feedback and support I receive makes me feel like I am headed in the right direction. I had been contemplating finding a way to positively recognize more students. Last summer a teacher in a Twitter chat stated she made one positive phone call home daily for one of her students. I thought, “I can do that!” So, this year I stared my #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay by selecting a different student worthy of a positive call home. Sometimes I identify the student based on something I have observed and other times I’ll ask a teacher for someone who needs a boost or has demonstrated growth and improvement. Making the #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay is a highlight of my day.


comparisonFinally, if I am feeling inadequate, I take personal inventory of the things I am doing to positively impact my school, staff members, families, and students. I try to remember not to compare myself to others because each of us and our situations and experiences are unique. I need to have a confident mindset that what I am doing is right for me at the moment. I go through cycles during the year where my attitudes, engagement, and activities wax and wane, but when I take time to personally reflect, things become more clear and evident that I am on the right path and doing the right thing for students and colleagues.


To read more by Mark


Mark French is a positive change agent and Elementary lead learner in the greater Minneapolis, MN area. He has also been recognized as the Minnesota Principal of the Year and currently serves as the president of the Minnesota Elementary Principal’s Association.