Friday, 24 January 2014

The Chief, the Tribe and the Medicine Man

Most organisations, and societies for that matter, are organised around a Chief-Tribe hierarchy. The Chief, as we know, is the leader - he may be inspiring, he may be a bully but nonetheless he is in charge of making decisions for the Tribe. Successful relationships between the Chief and the Tribe rely on mutual respect, loyalty and accountability. However, sometimes, things go wrong - and that's when you call in the Medicine Man. The Medicine Man brings his medicine - his knowledge - to provide guidance and heal relationships between the Chief and the Tribe. Sometimes he brings new information, sometimes he reminds them of ideas and values they have forgotten. Nonetheless for a Tribe to be healthy the Chief, the Tribe and the Medicine man must all function in harmony.

The Medicine Man sits outside the organisation  He offers his knowledge/medicine to the Chief and the Tribe.
He is loyal only to his knowledge.
Thinking about this model has made me reflect on the many groups I am and have been involved in. Be it family, work or social groups I can see this Chief-Tribe-Medicine Man dynamic playing out. It has also led me to conclude that I am and want to be a Medicine Man. I am most comfortable living on the fringe of the Tribe, I enjoy the solitude and I feel that it's from this vantage point that I can 'see' and offer medicine most readily. This model also resolves the tension I have felt over the past few years about my professional role. Increasingly over the past few years colleagues have said to me, "it would be good to see you in a leadership role." I think they have sensed my growing restlessness as part of the Tribe. However, the problem is, while I'm bored being part of the Tribe I don't really want to be a Chief. Now I see that there is actually a third option - the path of the Medicine Man - someone who works alongside people helping them develop and 'see' new paths. This, I think, is the role I really want to move towards, using my knowledge as my strength and most powerful tool.

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