Tribes Seth Godin Cliff Notes

For a little book, this is packed full of gold nuggets and at times it feels like Seth Godin is just downloading his brain, which is actually priceless.

Tribes looks at the development of groups, especially niche groups which forms tribes – with or without you – and the value that is apparent in taking a leadership role of these groups.

Godin contends that people are desperate to believe in the elusive ‘something’ whether it’s animal welfare, software, tattoos, or orchids. But with this desperation, the despair is the collective sigh of all going nowhere believing in the one thing. This is where leadership enters the Tribes equation.

Godin looks at what makes a leader as opposed to a follower, what core values are needed and why so many don’t take up the challenge and why, it is essential that someone step up to the plate. He challenges our core fears of failure, apathy, discontent, the status quo and why all these fears need to be challenged and conquered – immediately.

Some of the core ideas include Leadership is Not Management, and with this, managers are not necessarily leaders. He cites examples of a single memo that changed the course of a company, written by an employee who rose to lead the company forward.

In these changing times, Godin warns that the market place is changing so rapidly that leaders need to rise to negotiate that change and in fact drive it forward. He demonstrates this with a study of Wikipedia, The Grateful Dead and many others, each filled with the smallest of golden tips.

He clarifies profoundly the difference between fans and followers. A follower is passive, who likes what you do and what you’re on about. A fan is an evangelist for you.

The balloon factory and the unicorn is one core example Godin uses to demonstrate how the status quo must be fought and why it is at times near impossible, but the key to hold onto, is that it is not impossible. With true leadership, someone who clearly demonstrates a mission statement and allows communication and activity between those who agree, can lead anyone, anywhere to do anything.

He talks extensively about the value of the heretic and how important it is to now listen to these people. Apart from this, Godin emphasises the need for these heretics to take charge of their own destiny and to lead. Sheepwalking versus tribe management and leadership is clarified. There are many sheep but very few shepherds.

In summary he looks at the key negators to leadership namely, timing and Not Now Not Yet, asks if Not Now When in such a way that you just can’t not disagree. By understanding care and charisma, elements of leadership including listening and mediocrity, he asks in conclusion Why Not You and Why Not Now?

There are no easy steps to leadership, no plan laid out or magic formula. But the totality of the information in this work equips the reader with a new outlook on what it takes to lead and who in fact you will be leading – but most importantly – WHY.

This is another one of those books to add to your collection if you’re a thinker or want to know more about the mechanics of leadership and social change.


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