Book Review: Tribes

I have had Seth Godin’s book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us* sitting on my iPad for a long time. I had started it, and for some reason, I did not get very far on the first attempt. I just gave it another chance, and I am glad that I did. This is the second book I have read of his and I am rapidly becoming a Seth Godin fan. I believe Tribes has an important message. It is one I have believed in and spoke about, even before reading his book.

As Godin noted in the beginning of his book, “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea” (Godin, 2008, p. 1). Godin emphasized that each of these elements were essential, and added that technology (Internet) has made tribes increasingly possible. Tribes are able to transcend geographic boundaries. In Godin’s tone, you can hear urgency and excitement about the importance of tribes and leaders to change the world. He gave extra emphasis to the need for leaders to lead tribes. He talked about being stuck in the status quo, where things are safe. Through countless examples, he points out that the status quo is no longer safe.

I read the book on my iPad Kindle app. The book weighs in at 147 pages, and interesting enough, there were no chapters. I am not sure what to think about this. Godin pointed out that the lack of chapters would trouble some readers. This makes it a little more challenging to pull out the key elements.

Godin spent a lot of time stressing the need for leaders. We need leaders to challenge the norm. We need leaders to fight for the future. He advocates for more leaders not more managers. Managers try to maintain the status quo because it is safe. Leaders disrupt the status quo. I personally like the latter.

“Leaders have followers. Managers have employees.

Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.” (Godin, 2008, p. 14)

Throughout the book, Godin used stories to illustrate his point. He talked about successful tribes such as the Grateful Dead, Wikipedia, and CrossFit. He also talked about the challenges of leading such as fear. In the same breath, he provided tools and ideas to help budding leaders overcome fear.

Basically, the essence of the book is that we should not settle for the status quo. If we have ideas that will improve what we do and how we do it, we should step up to lead to a better world, even if it is a small part of the world. Work out loud and share your ideas with others. Start your own movement. There is plenty of opportunity.

“A thermostat is far more valuable than a thermometer.” (Godin, 2008, p. 101)

One only reports a problem, and the other does something about the problem.

There are many smaller lessons in this book, too many to mention. I recommend that you grab a copy, read it, and lead your tribe to make your part of the world better.

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