“Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us” by Seth Godin


A heretic, as defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary is: “a dissenter from established religious dogma; especially, a baptized member of the Church who disavows a revealed truth; one who dissents from an accepted belief or doctrine; a nonconformist”

If you understand why this actually a very good thing, and not a very bad one, you’ll understand where tribes come from. In a way, it’s Heretical to start a new religion. But that’s what great leaders do. Let me explain.

We’ve seen a lot of marketing trends in the past 10-20 years. The question is obvious: how do you get people excited about buying stuff? Well as it turns out, people aren’t really exciting about stuff, they’re excited about human achievement, like breaking rules, changing the world, it turns out people don’t care about buying stuff, what they really want is to be inspired.

And what’s inspirational about doing the laundry with Brand X over Brand Z. Not much. It’s not exactly William Wallace taking on the English.

So ask yourself this question: What evil empire are you trying to overthrow? If you don’t know, or can’t answer that, you just answered why your job/company is so dull, and why it’s so hard to get your customers amped. We have to have big huge massive hulking challenges here: Think Death Star huge. Think Microsoft huge. Think Egypt huge.

This book is not about getting ‘tribes’ of people (eg. lunatic customers) talking about the TVs your company makes. Forget it. It doesn’t make sense, and wouldn’t work. What you want them to do is carve the company logo in the back of their heads, because being a customer means being part of a group of cool, smart, confident, independent people. Or maybe it means something completely different.

We are hard-wired to belong to a group. Think of a fraternity. It’s exclusive, it’s important, and you have to go through an embarrassing/painful test to get in. It actually means something to be on the inside, and it means something to be on the outside. It means something qualitatively whether you’re in or out. And we wanna be in. Why? Because there’s something exciting going on. THere’s a group of people that are fired up. They’re going somewhere exciting and groundbreaking. That’s why you want to join the journey.

So who gets these crazies together? Godin discusses huge difference between Leaders and Managers. I could have sworn Manager was a cool job title. Turns out, according to Seth, it’s totally lame. Organizing things so that nothing gets out of control. Keeping people in check, making sure they’re doing the same thing (essentially) they did last month. Mediocrity.

Instead, as a leader, your responsibility as the leader is to:

a) transform a shared interest into a super passionate goal. Specific. Not just wild arbitrary angst.
b) Give people the tools to do this, and tighten communications. Yes you can sell them the tools, if you must, but remember, any barrier to entry is gonna keep the tribe small.
c) Help the tribe grow.

As a leader you don’t just tick these 3 boxes, done, done, got it. Nope. You keep pushing your tribe to do something bigger, and better. You exist not to keep the tribe ‘managed’ or ‘status quo’ but to keep the passion alive, so the tribe can grow.

As I said, it’s a Heretocracy out there. We need nutjobs like Arnold Schwarzzenegar, Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein. People with principles are considered crazy, because humans are expected to break, to trip, to have weaknesses. Great leaders may have weaknesses, they may be unattractive, they may be ditzy, but they do not break when it comes to character. Their tribe aspires to have that resilience, and thus keep coming back for more.

Heretics don’t ask for permission, as for forgiveness. They are needed not just for their electricity and their energy. They are needed because they are solutions to a problem that the status quo can’t solve!

They don’t ask for money (unless they’re selling books, making movies, touring around the country giving speeches). Heretics don’t even ask for credit (even though much is given). Credit isn’t the point, Change is. As long as the Heretic is trying to change the world, the crowd of supporters, the fans, the tribe will follow. Not because they have to, but because they have faith.

In sum, to get your team inspired, take a look at your target. Are you just another laundry detergent? Or are you changing the world, one customer at a time? Your tribe will fight for you, given just the right enemy.


4 thoughts on ““Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us” by Seth Godin

  1. Pingback: “The Art of Non-Conformity” by Chris Guillebeau | 21tiger [新代老虎] books. biz. asia.

  2. I’ve read his newest book, Linchpin, and thought it was fantastic, but a bit redundant after a while. Aphoristic writing kinda gets boring. Is this book in any way the same?

    • Yeah, I couldn’t tag this book ‘recommended’ this book for that very reason. I was able to cobble together a theme, for the purposes of the review, but while I was reading it, I felt like, he didn’t really have much in the way of substance. At the end of the book, he actually says, “Some people are gonna give me flak for this, because I haven’t given the step by step to leadership”… This guy is very ‘clever’ but I’m not really sure how valuable that is. I’m not being sarcastic. I know he’s smart, and he has worked in very successful teams doing amazing stuff, it’s just hard to justify a whole book on a handful of ‘cool ideas.’

      The notion of a tribe (like the oft cited “Apple fanatics”–Btw. That story is here->> http://goo.gl/cmY9Y ) is very cool, and a fresh (somewhat) new idea for how to think of your customers and most importantly, your employees and teammembers… But he just doesn’t deliver, because he doesn’t really bring the proverbial meat.

      One huge takeaway I got from this was the idea that your company/team has to be trying to do something really really big. There has to be something almost EVIL in the world that you want to stop, or overthrow (like the Nazis).. If you can’t compare you competitor or the ‘thing’ that you’re trying to destroy to the Nazis, you can’t expect your customers to rave like lunatics about how awesome your product is. Again, the best rock bands, and shoe brands, have these kind of fans, who almost want to hurl when they see the ‘competition’. The trick is to go after something really big, either an idea, or an enemy. That’s what inspires people.

      Now if only there was a book that told you how to do that!

    • Haha! Oh wow, I just saw ur picture. Simon from EYK.com?! Hilarious! I watch your guys’ stuff all the time!! Please check the Korean Slang book. It’s hilarious and very useful 😉

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