GodTrib 10-05-062


We Need You to Lead Us


Seth Godin

Portfolio, 2008, 147 pp.   ISBN 978-1-59184-233-0



Seth Godin is the author of ten international bestsellers, including Permission Marketing and Purple Cow.  A tribe is any group of connected people and an idea.  With barriers eliminated by the internet, those with a passion have the opportunity to lead their fellow employees, customers, investors, readers, etc.  Individuals have far more power than ever before in history.  Rather than chapters, the book is divided into segments of ideas, principles, and suggestions.


A tribe needs only a shared idea and a way to communicate.  Plus a leader.  Tribes are about belief in an idea and a community.  Humans need to belong and many can’t resist the thrill of a new idea.  There is an explosion of new tools to help people connect around an idea.  So it’s easier to create a movement. 


A leader doesn’t market to his audience or manage it or push it.  He leads it.

Everyone is now a leader. 


People work a lot and it is much more satisfying to work on things they believe in.  Consumers are deciding to spend time and money on things they believe in. 


Heretics are the new leaders.  They challenge the status quo and make new rules. “Leadership…is about creating change that you believe in.” (14) 


“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.” (18)


Messages go from leader to tribe, sideways within the tribe, and back to the leader.  People are in it together.  People wanted to hear the Grateful Dead “together.”  “The movement happens when people talk to one another, when ideas spread within the community, and most of all, when peer support leads people to do what they always knew was the right thing.” (22)


“So a leader can help increase the effectiveness of the tribe and its members by

  • Transforming the shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change;
  • Providing tools to allow members to tighten their communications; and
  • Leveraging the tribe to allow it to grow and gain new members.” (25)


The ideas that spread are remarkable ones.


“An individual artist needs only a thousand true fans in her tribe.  It’s enough…because a thousand fans will bring you enough attention and support to make a great living, to reach more people, to do great work.” “…the real win is turning a casual fan into a true one.” (33) 


Organizations that destroy the status quo win.  The status quo could be the time that ‘everyone knows’ it takes you to ship an order.  Changing it gives you the opportunity to be remarkable.


Twitter doesn’t cause an event; it merely enables it to occur because of the respect and permission a tribe allows a leader. 


Organizations of the future will be filled with smart, fast, flexible people on a mission.  And that requires leadership.  (41)


Boring ideas don’t spread.  And ideas that spread, win. 


Great leaders focus not on their own glory but on the tribe.


A leader may first tighten the tribe by increasing communication among them.  This is more important than growing the tribe.  A tribe that communicates quickly with emotion thrives. 


You do not need a majority to win, only to motivate people who choose to follow you.  “Through your actions as a leader, you attract a tribe that wants to follow you.  That tribe has a worldview that matches the message you’re sending.” (65)


“Ultimately, people are most easily led where they wanted to go all along.  While that may seem as if it limits your originality or influence, it’s true.  Fox News didn’t persuade millions of people to become conservatives; they just assembled the tribe and led them where they were already headed.” (66) 


“Great leaders don’t water down their message in order to make the tribe a bit bigger.  Instead, they realize that a motivated, connected tribe in the midst of a movement is far more powerful than a larger group could ever be.” (67)


“Welcome to the age of leverage.  Bottom-up is a really bad way to think about it because there is no bottom.” (75)


Easiest: react.  Next easiest: respond.  Hardest: initiate.  Sometimes it makes more sense to follow.  If so, get out of the way and follow.


At first, the new thing will rarely be as good as the old thing.  If the new thing has to be better from the beginning, you’ll never begin.  Soon enough, the new thing will be better than the old.  But if you wait until then, it will be too late.  The music industry refused to understand this.  Industries don’t die by surprise.  It’s not as if you didn’t know it was coming. (95) 


The key elements in creating a micromovement:

  1.  Publish a manifesto.
  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.
  5. Track your progress publicly and create pathways for your followers to contribute to that progress.  (103-04) 


  1.  Transparency 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.
  5. Exclude outsiders.
  6. Build up your followers instead of tearing others down.  (104-05)


“Tribes are the most effective media channels ever, but they’re not for sale or for rent.  Tribes don’t do what you want; they do what they want.” (107) 


The transactional costs of tribes are falling fast while the costs of formal organizations keep increasing. 


Initiative is an astonishingly successful tool because it’s rare. (112)


“I despair for most of the top fifty nonprofits in the United States.  These are the big guys, and they’re stuck.  …the top charities rarely change.”  (115)


“The big win is in turning donors into patrons and activists and participants.  The biggest donors are the ones who not only give, but also do the work.  The ones who make the soup or feed the hungry or hang the art.”  (116)


“The Internet allows some organizations to embrace long-distance involvement.  It lets charities flip the funnel, not through some simple hand waving but by reorganizing around the idea of engagement online.  This is the new leverage.  It means opening yourself up to volunteers and encouraging them to network, to connect with one another, and yes, even to mutiny.  It means giving every one of your professionals a blog and the freedom to use it.  It means mixing it up with volunteers so they have something truly at stake.  This is understandably scary for many nonprofits, but I’m not so sure you have a choice.” (116)


“Growth doesn’t come from persuading the most loyal members of other tribes to join you.  They will be the last to come around.  Instead, you’ll find more fertile ground among seekers, among people who desire the feeling they get when they’re part of a vibrant, growing tribe, but who are still looking for that feeling.” (119) 


There is a huge penalty for being too late.


Real leadership rarely comes from the CEO or senior VP.  “Instead, it happens out of the corner of your eye, in a place you weren’t watching.” (122)


“Hope without a strategy doesn’t generate leadership.  Leadership comes when your hope and your optimism are matched with a concrete vision of the future and a way to get there.  People won’t follow you if they don’t believe you can get to where you say you’re going.” (122)


“Caring is the key emotion at the center of the Tribe.  Tribe members care what happens, to their goals and to one another.”  “If no one cares, then you have no tribe.” (125, 26)


“People what to be sure you heard what they said—they’re less focused on whether or not you do what they said.” (128)


“Tribes grow when people recruit other people.  That’s how ideas spread as well.  The tribe doesn’t do it for you, of course.  They do it for each other.  Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.” (129) 


“Part of leadership (a big part of it, actually) is the ability to stick with the dream for a long time.” (132)


“(Jerry) Sternin went to Vietnam to try to help starving children.  Rather than importing tactics that he knew would work, or outside techniques that he was sure could make a difference, he sought out the few families who weren’t starving, the few moms who weren’t just getting by but were thriving.  And then he made it easy for these mothers to share their insights with the rest of the group.  This seems obvious, but it’s heretical.  The idea that an aid worker would go to a village in trouble and not try to stamp out nonstandard behavior is crazy.  ‘The traditional model for social and organization change doesn’t work, he told Fast Company.  ‘It never has.  You can’t bring permanent solutions in from outside.’” (133)



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