Friday, 1 August 2008
Singing and dancing Masai warriors may not be everyone's idea of canny
businessmen, but when a group of tribal elders visited the Institute
of Directors in London , it became clear that businesses can learn
from people used to living in hostile environments. The event,
organized by management consultants ChangeMaker International, was an
opportunity to discover how the wisdom and leadership skills of the
Masai can be valuable tools in increasingly difficult economic times.
One of the key aspects of their culture is a sense of community. It
keeps them together; it makes them stronger – and everyone has a say.
Young or old, all members of the tribe are given high levels of
responsibility and they take pride in themselves and the part they
play in the community. When asked by a member of the audience what
qualities the Masai look for in their leaders, Emmanuel, one of the
Masai elders said: "patience, courage and the ability to ask
The Masai say that the same philosophy can be applied to business.
"One head is not so wise" is a saying at the core of their culture and
they believe that businessmen and women shouldn’t be too proud to seek
advice from other members of their organizations, no matter how
junior. Companies should also think nomadically by clarifying their
cattle (that’s customers and capital), defining their green pastures
(marketing opportunities) , and focusing on getting the two together.
Jo Owen, author of Tribal Business School and a speaker at the event,
agrees and says that British business must, like the Masai, get tough
to survive in the current difficult economic conditions. He says: "In
1984, the FTSE 100 was established. Eighty of the original companies
have been taken over. Any tribe that survived for just 25 years would
be deemed to have failed."
His advice is:
1. Don't get into a fair fight - you might lose. Find out what you're
good at, where you can beat the competition, and focus on that. Play
2. Take the lead. Luck is not a strategy. Leadership in tribal terms
is about courage. Have the courage to take difficult decisions.
3. A formula for survival and success does not exist in a book.
4. Change or die.