Will the Real Tribe Leader Please Stand Up!

Tribes - Seth Godin

This book review was supposed to be about The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki… but I just couldn’t. Ok… maybe it is a New York Times Business Bestseller. Maybe it is right-on and full of amazing case studies. But I wouldn’t know because I could never get past page 40. I felt like I had already gotten the point just by reading the forward; crowds are smarter than the individual and there are tons of examples of this in our society, got it. Unfortunately, every example or point thereafter just led me straight to some good old shut-eye.

After months of trying to get into that book, I finally realized that it just wasn’t going to happen. So I threw in the towel and opted for a much more engaging read. The switch was actually inspired by a speaker that we had a couple of weeks ago in our Wednesday class, Jim McCarthy, Founder of Goldstar.com. When I asked him what one resource he would recommend that we read as APOC students he said Seth Godin. Surprisingly, despite having heard of him, none of us had read any of his books yet and Tribes just happened to be on the suggested reading list.

Well… Seth Godin is my new hype man! I read the book in a matter of hours. It was quick and the examples were poignant, but most importantly it left me inspired. For all of us who have an entrepreneurial bug, and even for those that don’t, Godin’s distinctions of what leadership looks like and what it takes to effectively build a tribe and spur a movement is enough to get anyone off of the couch. Here are some of my take-aways:

  • Godin’s Definition of a Tribe: “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”
  • There are tools being developed everyday to help us to effectively gather and lead the tribe. The internet makes this much easier than before, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Ning, etc.
  • Three shifts have happened in our modern society that are enabling change:
  1. People want to work on something that they believe in.
  2. Organizations are getting that the old industrial revolution concept of creating widgets just is not profitable or inspiring anymore.
  3. Consumers are starting to spend their money on things that matter and things that they believe in.
  • All that we need to live out this change is for someone to boldly LEAD us in a new direction!
  • Godin states that “Heretics are the new leaders,” because they make a ruckus.
  • Leading is no longer about mindless management and following a protocol. Leading is about the Tribe; it is selfless and guided by a bigger mission, it is about assuming responsibility and admitting when you are wrong, it is challenging the status quo and not “getting stuck on stupid” (or playing today’s game by yesterday’s defunct rules). Leading the tribe is about freely allowing for connection on a shared interest. Most importantly it is about listening.
  • Without a leader there is no tribe or movement and there are three things that a leader needs to create a movement:
  1. a story that captures who we are and what we are collectively working towards
  2. a way to connect with the leader and other tribe members
  3. some action statement to achieve this shared goal
  • Our current marketplace demands innovation and wants change—they want new fresh ideas and ways of solving problems.
  • Yet, despite wanting change we never really do it! Why? Because of the “F” word, FEAR. People are constantly looking toward the “Bureau of Idea Approval” to gauge whether they should move forward. As humans we are afraid of the criticism and the BIA usually does a good job of killing ideas off.
  • The crowd is fickle – it subscribes to mediocrity because it is safe and it will align to stop you if you deviate from the middle line.
  • However, the truth is that none of us are content settling. We don’t want to be the “Sheepwalkers” in an organization (“outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them brain-dead jobs and enough fear to keep them in line”). We want to ignite the fire, to be the catalyst for change and creativity. Studies have shown that this leads to happier people. But we get stuck.
  • Heretics and true leaders talk themselves out of this fear. It’s not that it doesn’t exist for them, the mission and their FAITH is just big enough that it outweighs the fear of being criticized.
  • So, if you could in fact move past the “F” word and the grips of the “BIA”, Godin offers up the following “how to’s” for creating your own Micromovement. There are 5 key elements:
  1. “Publish a manifesto (this unifies members and gives them something to spread)
  2. Make it easy for your followers to connect with you (e.g. Facebook or Ning)
  3. Make it easy for your followers to connect with one another
  4. Realize that money is not the point of a movement (the moment you try to cash out is the moment you stunt the growth of your movement)
  5. Track your progress (do it publicly and create pathways for your followers to contribute to that progress)”
  • And to successfully create this Micromovement you must adopt the following 6 principals:
  1. “Transparency 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 (those that push in the other direction)
  5. Exclude outsiders (not everyone is on your team)
  6. Tearing others down is never as helpful to a movement as building your followers up”

Godin ends the book by saying that there is no “one” way to build or lead a tribe. Every tribe is different and has different needs from their leader. He offers few “how to’s” but mostly just delineates the characteristics that separate the wheat from the chaff where leading a tribe is concerned.

Ultimately, the current conditions are ripe for serious changes to happen in our world. It is simply up to each of us to decide whether we will step up and lead this change or not. I leave you with these three favorite quotes from the book and his TED talk which sums the whole deal up pretty nicely in under 20 minutes:

  • “People are most easily led where they wanted to go all along.”
  • “You have everything that you need to build something far bigger than yourself.”
  • “…we have an obligation to change the rules, to raise the bar, to play a different game, and to play it better than anyone has any right to believe is possible.”

Rock on Seth Godin and let’s get on it people!

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One Comment on “Will the Real Tribe Leader Please Stand Up!”

  1. I guess I need to read this then!


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