Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

  • Title: Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
  • Author: Seth Godin
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover; 1 edition (October 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591842336
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591842330

I’ve read a few of Seth Godin’s books before and always learned something from them.  So, I decided to bring this along on my vacation to Italy.

The book begins with “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”  The author proceeds to present examples of the formation of tribes along with things that prevent the formation of tribes.  And the author wants all of us to build tribes.

“It takes only two things to turn a group into a tribe:

  • A shared interest
  • A way to communicate”

“So a leader can help increase the effectiveness of the tribe and its members by

  • transforming the shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change,
  • providing tools to allow members to tighten their communications, and
  • leveraging the tribe to allow it to grow and gain new members.”

One of Seth Godin’s strengths is finding relationships and examples in the real world.  For example:

“Senator Bill Bradley defines a movement as having three elements:

  1. A narrative that tells a story about who we are and the future we’re trying to build
  2. A connection between and among the leader and the tribe
  3. 3. Something to do – the fewer the limits, the better”

The author then writes about inhibiters to the formation of tribes.  “Fear of failure is actually overrated as an excuse …. Fear of criticism is a powerful deterrent.”  Mr. Godin then spends many pages equating the religious heretic to the typical tribal leader; I think this goes on too long and could have been shortened to have more impact.

The author continues to talk about leadership as everyone’s responsibility.

“Welcome to the age of leverage.  Bottom-up is a really bad way to think about it because there is no bottom.  In an era of grassroots change, the top of the pyramid is too far away from where the action is to make much of a difference.  It takes too long and it lacks impact.  The top isn’t the top anymore because the streets are where the action is.”

This reminds me of cyberpunk.

Mr. Godin then talks about faith vs. religion (Dana, take note!).

“Religion, on the other hand, represents a strict set of rules that our fellow humans have overlaid on top of our faith.  Religion supports the status quo and encourages us to fit in, not to stand out.”

And later, “Religion gives our faith a little support when it needs it, and it makes it easy for your peers to encourage you to embrace faith.”  Religion at its best is a “consistent reminder that belief is okay, and that faith is the way to get where you’re going….  Religion at its worst reinforces the status quo, often at the expense of our faith.”  I love his later observation: “When you fall in love with the system, you lose the ability to grow.”

So, to create a micromovement, Mr. Godin suggests five things to do and six principles:

“1. Publish a manifesto
2. Make it easy for your followers to connect with you
3. Make it easy for your followers to connect with each other
4. Realize that money is not the point of a movement
5. Track your progress


1. Transparency really is your only option
2. Your movement needs to be bigger than you
3. Movements that grow, thrive
4. Movements are made most clear when compared to the status quo or to movements that work to push the other direction
5. Exclude outsiders
6. Tearing others down is never as helpful to a movement as building your followers up”

“Adam Gopnik quotes Swiss as saying, “Magic only happens in a spectator’s mind.  Everything else is a distraction…. Methods for their own sake are a distraction.  You cannot cross over into the world of magic until you put everything else aside and behind you – including your own desires and needs – and focus on bringing an experience to the audience.  This is magic.  Nothing else.”

“Substitute “leadership” for “magic” and there you are.”

I’ve always felt that leadership is about caring about the rest of the group, sometimes more than for yourself.  “Caring is the key emotion at the center of the tribe.”

You have to embrace failure as part of success. “If your organization requires success before commitment, it will never have either.”

“You can’t manage without knowledge.  You can’t lead without imagination.”

“Every tribe leader I’ve ever met shares one thing; the decision to lead.”  So find your key, driving idea and commit to leading a tribe.


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