Book notes: Tribes by Seth Godin

Tribes by Seth Godin book summary

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

Synopsis: “A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea.

If you think leadership is for other people, think again – leaders come in surprising packages. Consider Joel Spolsky and his international tribe of scary-smart software engineers. Or Gary Vaynerhuck, a wine expert with a devoted following of enthusiasts. Chris Sharma leads a tribe of rock climbers up impossible cliff faces, while Mich Mathews, a VP at Microsoft, runs her internal tribe of marketers from her cube in Seattle. All they have in common is the desire to change things, the ability to connect a tribe, and the willingness to lead.

Tribes will make you think (really think) about the opportunities in leading your fellow employees, customers, investors, believers, hobbyists, or readers….It’s not easy, but it’s easier than you think.” -Audible

Opening thoughts:

I read Seth Godin’s other book Linchpin last month, which was my first time reading one of his works. I thought the book was phenomenal so I decided to pick up another book of his for this month. I remember hearing about this book in particular from other mentors of mine, so I finally chose to read it for this month.

Key notes:

  • You can’t have a tribe without a leader, and you can’t be a leader without a tribe
  • Human beings need to belong. Being a part of a tribe is one of the most powerful survival mechanisms, to contribute to and take from a group of like-minded people
    • We are drawn to leaders and their ideas, and we can’t resist the rush of belonging and the thrill of the new
    • We want to belong to many tribes
  • Many people are starting to realize that they work a lot, and that working on stuff they believe in and making things happen is much more satisfying than just getting a paycheck and waiting to get fired or die
  • Many organizations have discovered that the factory-centric model of producing goods and services it’s not nearly as profitable as it used to be
  • Many consumers have decided to spend their money buying things that aren’t factory produced commodities, and they’ve decided not to spend their time embracing off-the-shelf ideas
    • Consumers have decided instead to spend time and money on fashion, on stories, on things that matter, and on things they believe in
  • Fear of change is necessary because change is the first sign of risk
    1. For the first time ever everyone in organizations is expected to lead
    2. The very structure of today’s workplace means it is easier than ever to change things and that individuals have more leverage than ever before
    3. The market place is rewarding organizations and individuals who change things and create remarkable products and services
    4. It’s engaging, grilling, profitable, and fun
    5. There is a tribe of fellow employees, or customers or investors believers or hobbyists or leaders just waiting for you you connect them to one another and lead them where they want to go (Section 2 / 00:18:42)
  • Leadership is not management
    • Management is about manipulating resources to get a known job done
    • Managers manage a process they’ve seen before and they react to the outside world, striving to make that process as fast and as cheap as possible
    • Leadership is about creating change you believe in
  • Recently, marketing freed and energized of the tribe, changing the status quo of the traditional marketing structure
    • Marketing is the act of telling stories about the things we make, stores that sell and stores that spread
    • Marketing elects presidents, and raises money for charity. Marketing also determines if the CEO stays or goes
    • Most of all, marketing influences markets
    • Today, marketing is about engaging with the tribe and delivering products and services with stories that spread
  • Stability is an illusion
    • The market wants change and is attracted to what’s new
    • If you want to grow, you have to find customers who will join you or believe in you or support you. The only customers willing to do that are looking for something new. The growth comes from change and light and noise
  • Only two things to turn a group of people into a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate
  • A leader can increase the effectiveness of the tribe and its members by:
    1. Transforming the shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change
    2. Providing tools to allow members to tighten Communications
    3. Leveraging the tribe to allow it to grow and to gain new members
      • The first two tactics almost always lead to a bigger impact
  • Tribes aren’t about stuff, they are about connection
  • Three steps that built Wikipedia:
    1. Motivate
    2. Connect
    3. Leverage
  • Engineers joined his tribe because they wanted to be a part of the journey, part of something that mattered
    • He not only published the newsletter to communicate and chronicle their journey, his job was to help everyone else communicate
  • A crowd is a tribe without a leader and without communication
  • The market has shown that ideas that spread win, and the ideas that spread are remarkable
  • Life’s too short to hate what you do all day, and life’s too short to do mediocre stuff
  • Kevin Kelly and his article 1000 True Fans
    • There is a number that you need depending on your goal, and you can figure it out. It is probably fewer people than you think
    • True fans demand generosity and bravery
  • You, the leader, have everything you need to build something far bigger than yourself. The people around you are ready to follow if you are ready to lead
  • The factory is any organization that cranks out a product or service, does it with measurable output, and tries to reduce costs as it goes
    • Any job where your boss tells you what to do and how to do it
    • The second reason we have factories human nature. Part of us wants the stability and the absence of responsibility that a factory job can give us
    • What you won’t find in a factory is a motivated tribe making a difference.
      • What you won’t find waiting outside the factory is a tribe of customers excited about what’s to come
  • Growth comes from leaders who create change and engage their organizations instead of from managers who push their employees to do more for less
  • We don’t take initiative and push for change because of fear
    • Criticism means you did something worth remarking on
    • The greatest leaders understand that the most powerful way to enable their tribe to be statue worthy by getting up front
    • Those are brave acts and bravery to get statutes
    • Great leaders are able to reflect the light back on to their tribes, they don’t want the attention but they use it to unite the tribe and reinforce it’s sense of purpose
  • Leaders are curious, the changes in the tribe are what’s interesting, and curiosity drives them
    • Curious people count, they lead the masses in the middle who are stuck
    • In school, you are required to not be curious, and curiosity is punished
  • You don’t need a plurality or even a majority. Trying to lead everyone results in leading no one in particular
    • This leads to a particular thought: you get to choose the tribe you will lead. Through your actions as a leader, you will attract a tribe that wants to follow you
  • Some tribes do better when they are smaller and more exclusive, harder to get into. Some tribes thrive precisely because they are small
  • Not only are leaders not most people, but the members of the most important tribes aren’t most people either
    • You’re not going to be able to grow your business or feed your tribe by going after most people
  • The only thing holding you back from becoming the kind of person that changes things is this: lack of faith. Faith that you can do it, face that it is worth doing, say that failure won’t destroy you
  • Odds are that growth and success are now inextricably linked to breaking the old rules and setting your organization’s new rules loose in an industry too afraid to change
  • Settling is a slippery slope
    • The art of leadership is understanding what you can’t compromise on
    • When you fall in love with the system, you lose the ability to grow
    • Changing things, pushing the envelope, and creating things that don’t exist yet at the same time your criticized by everyone else requires bravery
    • The best time to change your business model is when you still have momentum
  • Don’t fall into the trap of sheep walking
  • People who are engaged, satisfied, and eager to go to work are mostly people who make change. They challenge the status quo and push something forward, something they believe in. They lead. Life’s too short to be unhappy and mediocre
    • Set up a life you don’t need to escape from
  • The key elements in creating a micro movement consist of five things to do and six principles
    1. Publish a manifesto. Give it away and make it easy for the manifesto to spread far and wide. It unites your tribe members and gives them a structure
    2. Make it easy for your followers to connect with you
    3. Make it easy for your followers to connect with one another
    4. Realize that money is not the point of a movement. Money exists merely to enable it. The moment you try to cash out is the moment you stunt the growth of the movement
    5. Track your progress. Do it publicly and create pathways for your followers to contribute to the progress
  • Principles
    1. Transparency is 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. Movements do less well when compared to other movements with similar goals. Instead of beating them, join them
    5. Exclude outsiders. Exclusion is and extremely powerful force for loyalty and attention. Who isn’t a part of your movement is almost as important as who is
    6. Tearing others down is never as helpful to a movement as building your followers up
  • Joining and leading a tribe is a powerful marketing investment
  • The secret of being wrong isn’t to avoid being wrong, the secret is being willing to be wrong
    • The secret is realizing wrong isn’t fatal. Is the only thing that makes people and organizations great is their willingness to not be great along the way, the desire to fail along the way to reaching a bigger goal is the untold secret of success
  • The secret is there isn’t an easy way. They appear to risk everything but the reality is that it isn’t so bad
  • The elements of leadership: leaders challenge the status quo, create a culture around their goal and involve others in that culture, have an extraordinary amount of curiosity about the world they are trying to change, use charisma in a variety of forms to attract and motivate followers, communicate their vision of the future, commit to a vision and make decisions based on that commitment, connect their followers to one another
  • If the people don’t care, you don’t have a tribe. If you don’t care you can’t lead
  • Leadership and charisma is a choice, not a gift
    • Ronald Ragan’s secret is to listen, value what you hear, and then make a decision even if it contradicts the very people you are listening to
  • Tribes grow when people recruit other people. That’s also how ideas spread as well
    • The tribe doesn’t do it for you, they do it for each other. Leadership is the art of giving people a platform or spreading ideas that work.
  • Obligation: don’t settle. To have all these advantages, all this momentum, all these opportunities, and then settle for mediocre and then defend the status quo, and then worry about corporate politics, what a waste
    • Never use the word “opportunity,” use the word “obligation”
  • Real leaders don’t care about getting credit, and actually want other people to take credit
  • Imagination. Leaders create things that didn’t exist before
    • They do this by giving the tribe a vision of what could happen but hasn’t yet
    • People always believe stories they tell themselves. Leaders give people a story they can tell them selves stories about the future and change
  • There are tribes out there just waiting to be coalesced and led. All they need is a dedicated leader eager to do the right thing
    • You’re not born a leader, leaders don’t have any common traits except for a decision to lead
    • The very nature of leadership is that you doing something that has not been done before. If you were, you’d be following

Closing thoughts:

Another fantastic book by Seth Godin. Everything you could possibly want to know about how leadership works and leading a tribe is in this book. There are plenty of solid principles about leading a tribe, becoming a good leader, principles to follow, and the overall importance of leading.

Seth’s style definitely takes a bit getting used to. After reading Linchpin, I started to realize that he writes in short bursts. There are a ton of small sections with a main point, and then a short blurb or so on that line. I definitely appreciate the pearls of wisdom in each passage and its easy to see when he’s on the next point.

Overall, this is a great book for anyone who wants to be a leader, has been put in a leadership position, or just wants to make a change in a big way. This book will help you see that the power of leveraging a tribe and stepping up as a leader is the way to go.

Nutshell: Seth talks about the power of a tribe and creating change through leadership.

Rating: 4/5

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