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Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

 

Tribes GodinSeth Godin has written a dozen worldwide bestsellers. I admit I’m late in discovering him; this is my first Godin title, which Godin himself read to me (it’s loaded on my iPod so I can take it on my training runs – Leadville 100 in 2014 or die!). I’m pretty sure it’s the first of more to come …

Here’s Godin’s definition: “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” And with today’s instant techno-access, all of us have also become marketers, Godin explains.

But that’s not the big news. “This book says something new,” Godin insists: “Everyone is not just a marketer – everyone is now also a leader.”

So what keeps us stuck? Fear, especially fear of blame, is what keeps us from finding our passions and achieving our goals. Instead, we become “sheepwalkers,” doing what’s expected without ever challenging why. Today’s education system, so caught up with teaching to the test, is churning out sheepwalkers who go to college not knowing what to do, get jobs that do little more than pay the bills, and basically waste individual potential. That’s a tragic future that needs to be avoided.

Every page (or every minute if you’re listening), offers a perfect sound byte:

  • Heretics are the new leaders.
  • Managers have employers. Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.
  • Change isn’t made by asking permission. Change is made by asking forgiveness later.
  • The secret of being wrong isn’t to avoid being wrong. The secret is being willing to be wrong. The secret is realizing that wrong isn’t fatal.

Godin also tells some of his own memorable stories along the way. To figure out how to choose from the too-many applicants that wanted to be his assistant, he opened a private Facebook page and decided to watch the applicants’ interaction; leaders quickly emerged. When partyers returning at 4am to a Jamaica hotel lobby pitied him for being stuck to his email during his two weeks off, Godin’s gratefully noted that he couldn’t imagine working the other 50 weeks a year doing something from which he would need to escape. Indeed, Godin shows that how you answer the seemingly innocuous question, “how was your day,” matters immensely.

He’s got many other people’s tales, too: Henry Ford and his buggy whips, Tasmin Little and her free recordings, Crossfit.com fanatics; the msg150 clan.

And my favorite: the story of the late Jerry Sternin and his wife Monique, who went to Vietnam to help fight malnutrition, discarded all the conventional methods and instead went to the mothers in the villages who could feed their children in spite of seemingly insurmountable challenges and spotlighted these mothers’ success as a means to teach other families to make the same changes to beat malnutrition. Their model of listening, paying attention, and finding local leaders has had amazing results around the world.

Leadership can be pretty simple. But Godin also reminds us, “[t]here isn’t an easy way.” No shortcuts, no magic answers. Still, he’s got that sound byte ready: “Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there.

“People will follow.”

Readers: Adult

Published: 2008

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