Tribes: We need you to Lead Us

Seth Godin
Seth Godin,
Author, entrepreneur, public speaker,

Excerpts from “Tribes: We Need you to Lead Us” used with permission from author.

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.

Tribes need leadership.  Sometimes one person leads, sometimes more.

You can’t have a tribe without leaders – and you can’t be a leader without a tribe.

Why should you lead?  And why now?

This book weaves together a few big ideas, which taken together, form an irresistible argument.

With tribes flourishing everywhere, there’s a vast shortage of leaders.  We need you.

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 isn’t difficult, but you’ve been trained for years to avoid it.  I want to help you realize that you already have all the skills you need to make a huge difference, and I want to sell you on doing it.  The best thing is that you don’t need to wait until you’ve got exactly the right job or built the right organizations or moved up three rungs on the corporate ladder.  You can start right now.

Leadership is not management

In a classic I love Lucy episode, Lucy and Ethel are working on a candy assembly line.  As the candies come faster and faster, the two of them panic, stuffing truffles into their mouths to keep up with the onslaught.

They had a management problem.

Management is about manipulating resources to get a known job done.  Burger King franchises hire managers.  They know exactly what they need to deliver and they are given resources to do it at a low cost.  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, on the other hand, is about creating change that you believe in.

My thesaurus says the best synonym for leadership is management.  Maybe that word used to fit, but no longer.  Movements have leaders and movements make things happen.

Leaders have followers.  Managers have employees.

Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.

Change?  Change is frightening, and to many people who would be leaders, it seems more of a threat than a promise.  That’s too bad, because the future belongs to our leaders, regardless of where they work or what they do.

Improving a tribe

As we saw earlier, it takes only two things to turn a group of people into a tribe:

  • A shared interest
  • A way to communicate

The communication can be one of four kinds:

  • Leader to tribe
  • Tribe to leader
  • Tribe member to tribe member
  • Tribe member to outsider

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.

Most leaders focus only on the third tactic. A bigger tribe somehow equals a better tribe.  In fact, the first two tactics almost always lead to more impact.  Every action you take as a leader can affect these three elements, and the challenge is to figure out which one to maximize.

The new tools and technologies available to groups are transforming what it means to think of tribal communication.  Smart leaders are grabbing these tools and putting them to work.

About Seth Godin

SETH GODIN is the author of 17 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip and Purple Cow.

In addition to his writing and speaking, Seth is founder of, a fast growing, easy to use website. His blog (which you can find by typing “seth” into Google) is one of the most popular in the world. Before his work as a writer and blogger, Godin was Vice President of Direct Marketing at Yahoo!, a job he got after selling them his pioneering 1990s online startup, Yoyodyne.

In 2013, Godin was inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame, one of three chosen for this honor.

Recently, Godin once again set the book publishing on its ear by launching a series of four books via Kickstarter. The campaign reached its goal after three hours and ended up becoming the most successful book project ever done this way. His latest, The Icarus Deception, argues that we’ve been brainwashed by industrial propaganda, and pushes us to stand out, not to fit in.