Tribes Book Cover Tribes
Seth Godin
Business & Economics

I can’t remember which Seth Godin book or podcast or blog posting talked about schools and the school system being designed to produce cogs not leaders. Tribes is about leadership. Its about being a change leader. I have the term “change agent” – “leader” is better conceptually. He name checks Kevin Kelley and his “1000 True Fans” – which is a must read.


“Great leaders are able to reflect the light onto their teams, their tribes. Great leaders don’t want the attention, but they use it. They use it to unite the tribe and to reinforce its sense of purpose.”

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.

Generous and authentic leadership will always defeat the selfish efforts of someone doing it just because she can.

Everyone is now a marketer.

This book says something new. Everyone is not just a marketer—everyone is now also a leader.

Tribes are about faith—about belief in an idea and in a community. And they are grounded in respect and admiration for the leader of the tribe and for the other members as well.

Heretics are the new leaders. The ones who challenge the status quo, who get out in front of their tribes, who create movements.

My thesis: • For the first time ever, everyone in an organization—not just the boss—is expected to lead. • The very structure of today’s workplace means that it’s easier than ever to change things and that individuals have more leverage than ever before. • The marketplace is rewarding organizations and individuals who change things and create remarkable products and services. • It’s engaging, thrilling, profitable, and fun. • Most of all, there is a tribe of fellow employees or customers or investors or believers or hobbyists or readers just waiting for you to connect them to one another and lead them where they want to go.

Leadership, on the other hand, is about creating change that you believe in.

Marketing changed everything. Marketing created leverage. Marketing certainly changed the status quo. Most of all, marketing freed and energized the tribe.

Marketing is the act of telling stories about the things we make—stories that sell and stories that spread. Marketing elects presidents, and marketing raises money for charity. Marketing also determines if the CEO stays or goes (Carly Fiorina learned this the hard way). Most of all, marketing influences markets.

Today, marketing is about engaging with the tribe and delivering products and services with stories that spread.

Leaders lead when they take positions, when they connect with their tribes, and when they help the tribe connect to itself.

New rule: If you want to grow, you need to find customers who are willing to join you or believe in you or donate to you or support you. And guess what? The only customers willing to do that are looking for something new. The growth comes from change and light and noise.

If leadership is the ability to create change your tribe believes in, and the market demands change, then the market demands leaders.

Leaders, on the other hand, don’t care very much for organizational structure or the official blessing of whatever factory they work for. They use passion and ideas to lead people, as opposed to using threats and bureaucracy to manage them. Leaders must become aware of how the organization works, because this awareness allows them to change it.

Most organizations spend their time marketing to the crowd. Smart organizations assemble the tribe.

Organizations are more important than ever before. It’s the factories we don’t need. Organizations give us the ability to create complex products. They provide the muscle and consistency necessary to get things to market and to back them up. Most important, organizations have the scale to care for large tribes.

In unstable times, growth comes from leaders who create change and engage their organizations, instead of from managers who push their employees to do more for less.

What people are afraid of isn’t failure. It’s blame. Criticism. We choose not to be remarkable because we’re worried about criticism. We hesitate to create innovative movies, launch new human resource initiatives, design a menu that makes diners take notice, or give an audacious sermon because we’re worried, deep down, that someone will hate it and call us on it.

Pema Chodron is a Buddhist nun working in a monastery in Nova Scotia. Millions of people across the world revere her work, read her books, listen to her recordings, and visit her if they can. Is she a raging egomaniac? Of course not. Listen to her for three minutes and you’ll know that she’s not doing what she does for glory; she’s doing it to help.

Great leaders are able to reflect the light onto their teams, their tribes. Great leaders don’t want the attention, but they use it. They use it to unite the tribe and to reinforce its sense of purpose.

Sending in your résumé, showing up at the networking reception, hanging out at the singles bar—these are dumb ways to lead the tribe, and they’re not even useful ways to be seen as a valued member. Showing up isn’t sufficient. Friending ten or twenty or a thousand people in Facebook might be good for your ego but it has zero to do with any useful measure of success.

No one anoints you as leader.

Change isn’t made by asking permission. Change is made by asking forgiveness, later.

the only thing holding you back from becoming the kind of person who changes things is this: lack of faith. Faith that you can do it. Faith that it’s worth doing. Faith that failure won’t destroy you.

scale isn’t the same as power; in fact, scale can hurt.

The art of leadership is understanding what you can’t compromise on.

“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.

Leadership is very much an art, one that’s accomplished only by people with authentic generosity and a visceral connection to their tribe. Learning the trick won’t do you any good if you haven’t made a commitment first.

The Elements of Leadership Leaders challenge the status quo. Leaders create a culture around their goal and involve others in that culture. Leaders have an extraordinary amount of curiosity about the world they’re trying to change. Leaders use charisma (in a variety of forms) to attract and motivate followers. Leaders communicate their vision of the future. Leaders commit to a vision and make decisions based on that commitment. Leaders connect their followers to one another.

What leaders do: they give people stories they can tell themselves. Stories about the future and about change.

Today, of course, you can publish a book all by yourself. Just visit and you’re done.

Perfect is an illusion, one that was created to maintain the status quo. The Six Sigma charade is largely about hiding from change, because change is never perfect. Change means reinvention, and until something is reinvented, we have no idea what the spec is.

I’m a huge fan of Cory Doctorow’s. His books are terrific (not to mention the blog). A few years ago, I read Eastern Standard Tribe, and the idea of tribes started to stick with me.

Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired, wrote a post he called [1,000] True Fans, which I reference here. He captured some critical thoughts about tribes and their power.

Tribal Leadership, by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright. It has a terrific title.