Aristotle Leads A Tribe

It was blazing hot.

We were lost.

We were exhausted.

We couldn’t fight our way out.

And the harder we tried, the hotter it got, the more frustrated we became and the grumpier we felt.

We needed something special. Something cool.

That’s when I turned to my friend Aristotle, the master of logic, for a logical understanding of what to do to move the movement along.

Here’s what I knew

It’s tribes that create movements. But tribes are not motivated in the same way we used to try to move market segments.

Because tribes are not the same as audiences, or market segments, or niches or even the same as clients, donors or customers.

For one thing, tribes share a common worldview. They see the world working in a certain way. And they seek to change it from what they believe is wrong to what’s right.

They also share a passion. A common cause. A unifying purpose.

That cause brings them together and affects their view of the world. In fact, tribes are only tribes when they are connected. When people are connected to one another.

Connected through a leader

Leaders connect tribe members by helping them do things for the cause that the tribe wants or can’t do for themselves. They do that by making things that help. Not by saying things.

Tribes change things through movements. Movements that are driven by their passion for their purpose and by the stories they tell each other about it and about themselves.

Lead a tribe

Through their connecting power, leaders inspire and empower movements through storytelling. Not through marketing campaigns.

They understand that the things needed to create a movement (purpose, worldview, tribe, connection, helping, leadership) are bound together by the tribe’s stories.

“And the leader’s ethos in telling them,” Aristotle insisted.

But not by logic?

Wait a minute, oh Master of Logic. Are you telling me that if people love you and trust you, they’ll follow you wherever your common cause takes them?

My good friend Aristotle replied,

A compelling character is more persuasive than perfect logic

Now that’s a stunning statement. Especially coming from the philosopher who invented logic, as we know it.

In other words, emotion trumps logic.

How in the world does that work?

Well, Aristotle summed it up with three ideas. Caring. Craft. Cause.


Caring means your tribe believes that the leader has their best interest at heart.

Aristotle called it eunovia (you-Noy-ah.) Loosely translated that means “selfless.”

Which means leaders of movements do two things.

First, they are actually selfless.

And second, they convince people in the tribe that they are selfless by the things they do for them.

You’ll notice that in this form of leadership what you say has little to do with it.


Craft is about knowing your stuff and making your tribe know you do.

Phronesis (fro-NEE-sis) was Aristotle’s word for it. Translated as “practical wisdom.”

Craft means fine-tuning solutions to specific problems.

It means getting specific with those specific problems.

It means understanding the specific context of each of the tribe’s problems or aspirations. And then reframing them into something unique and special. Something that helps the tribe do (underline the word do) something special. Something your tribe believes is worth sharing.


Cause has two prongs.

First, cause is your tribe’s belief that the leader (and they) stand for something larger than themselves.

And second, that the leader shares their values and represents them perfectly.

Aristotle called it Arête (A-R-uh-tay) meaning “virtue.”

A good cause can be summed up in just a couple of words.

If the words you use in your organization to describe your purpose are so complex and filled with so many weasel words that it looks like a committee wrote it, then it’s not one.

A great cause embodies the simple values of the tribe.

It’s defined, spread and reinforced by stories of the tribe … not by mission statements and values posters.

Cause is the important thing.

If you want to find one, start by asking:

  • What is the one most important thing to you?
  • What is the cause that will make your tribe love you?

Better yet

Perform a character check of your purpose:

  • Find the elements of caring, craft and cause in what you do.
  • Show instances where you’ve gone the extra mile in your work in each of those three areas.
  • Don’t just list achievements, list solutions to specific problems.
  • Write stories about each one focused on the emotional effects on individuals, the tribe and the world.
  • Skip the objectives and strategies for now and state the cause that appeals to your tribe.

Aristotle will be proud

When you start focusing on tribes instead of audiences.

When you start thinking of movements instead of campaigns.

When you concentrate on helping instead of messaging.

When you do those three things in your everyday work, you’ll find yourself balancing caring, craft and cause.

It will change your view of your job and your purpose. You will find selflessness, practical wisdom and virtue. Aristotle will smile upon you.

And your tribe will love you for it.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s your take?

If you’d like to know more about Aristotle, check this out.