Friday’s 4-1-1, Tribes Style

Tribes | Seth GodinI’m big on leadership. I think anyone, regardless of title or age, can step up and be a leader. I don’t believe that leadership is something that you’re born with. It’s out there for the taking and there are many situations throughout our days that are just waiting for someone to step in and be a leader. So, any one of us has the ability to do it at any given time. The problem is, it’s hard. It’s hard to get up enough courage or confidence or just sheer faith to do what no one else is doing. But it requires us all to do it. Lead. You can do it.

I just finished reading, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us – a great leadership book – by Seth Godin. The book has been out a few years, so I acknowledge that I’m a little late to the game. But better late than never. If you haven’t read the book, I’d encourage you to do it. It’s a quick read and I bet you’ll walk away feeling as inspired as I did. While leadership is the common theme running throughout, it’s also a call-to-action to form your own movements (of tribes) around something you’re passionate about and no one else can do that other than YOU. So, what are you waiting on? Lead. You can do it.

Before I get into the details, it’s important to know this – the description of a TRIBE. A Tribe is a group of people connected to:

  • One another
  • An idea
  • A leader

This is important because this is the context that he talks about leadership. Leading people. Active leadership. Leadership that is intended to make a difference.

So, today, I’m going to devote this week’s Friday 4-1-1 to my takeaways.

1. Crowds – He draws a lot of distinctions in this book. One of which is the distinction between Crowds and Tribes.

Crowds and Tribes are two different things.

A crowd is a tribe without a leader. A crowd is a tribe without communication. Most organizations spend their time marketing to the crowd.

Mass marketing is marketing to the crowd. It’s marketing to as many eyeballs as you can. All those eyeballs are not connected in any other way than by seeing the ad. They’re not connected by experience or passion or knowledge. Now, this is not a marketing book, per se. But if you look at it through the eyes of a marketer, you can take away a gold mine. If tribes are centered around an idea and follow a leader, then as a marketer, it’s important to know a) what that idea is and b) who the leader is. It’s a hard thing to do – getting to the leader – but the concept totally flips the traditional marketing model. That model was based on reaching as many people as you could. This model – which I would argue is today’s model – is all about reaching the right select few people who will then, in turn, reach many more. In this model, since the message is coming to the tribe through the right select group, it’s much more likely to have a true impact. It’s more likely to turn apathy (or disbelief) into belief.

Too many organizations care about numbers, not fans. They care about hits or turnstile clicks or media mentions. What they’re missing is the depth of commitment and inter-connection that true fans deliver. Instead of always being on the hunt for one more set of eyeballs, true leaders have figured out that the real win is in turning a casual fan into a true one.

2. Managers – Another distinction and an important one, especially for “Managers.” I walked away from this book hating everything that he paints “Managers” to stand for. Being a manager, it’s tough, because part in parcel with “management” comes leadership. Defacto leadership, though. True leadership goes further and it’s about inspiring and fighting for change. Not for change’s sake. But because change is required.

Management is about manipulating resources to get a known job done….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.

Fresh and new is welcome. In today’s evolving world – both as a consumer and as a regular ol’ person – nothing stays the same. Rarely do the same tactics work now that worked 5 years ago. Or even 1 year ago. Or even 1 month ago. Our environment is changing and to be special requires change.

Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.

Deciding to lead, not manage, is the critical choice.

What do you do for a living? What do you make? Leaders make a ruckus.

Now, I walked away from reading this with the impression that change = disruption. And I don’t necessarily agree with that. I don’t think that change always has to be disruptive to make an impact. Sometimes, the subtlest changes can make the most impact and nothing is disrupted at all. It’s all about making it better. The point is – each one of us has the ability to make things better. We have to find it inside ourselves, though. One of my favorite lines doesn’t have to do with management at all, it has to do with empowerment.

You can’t manage your way to initiative.

3. Faith – It’s hard to believe something that you can’t see, or that you haven’t experienced before, or that hasn’t been done before, or that challenges the status quo. To me, faith is one of the single-most important beliefs to have in everything you do. Faith leads to belief and belief leads to confidence. And confidence kills fear and intimidation. With confidence, you can lead.

All you need to know is 2 things:

1. The first thing you need to know is that individuals have fare more power than ever before in history.

2. The second thing you need to know is that the only thing holding you back from becoming the kind of person who changes things is this: lack of faith.

You just have to know inside yourself that what you’re doing is right. And that it’s powerful enough to make change. I like this:

Faith is critical to all innovation.

Amen, brother.

4. Mediocrity & Fear – It’s perfectly reasonable for fear to guide any one of our decisions throughout a day. We each have a litany of responsibilities and it’s important to keep all of them in order. So, I don’t think the “fear” message here is to shirk all responsibilities for the sake of making change. I think it’s more about recognizing all of the things that guide our decisions and trying to put fear in its proper place. And a lot of times, we’re afraid of something that doesn’t exist or will come to fruition. We’re afraid of what we imagine failure to be.

What people are afraid of isn’t failure. It’s blame. Criticism.

I’d like to paraphrase the Peter Principle (“in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”). I think what actually happens is that, “in every organization everyone rises to the level at which they become paralyzed with fear.”

I think one of the results of operating in fear is mediocrity. Mediocrity, any way you cut it, is only ever, at best, good. Good is never great. To be great, you must not accept mediocrity. Ever.

You don’t have enough time to be both unhappy and mediocre.

Time is one of the only precious resources we have. Perhaps the most precious resource we have. How much time do you want to spend NOT being mediocre?

Defending mediocrity is exhausting.

“Duh” – I don’t like prescriptive lists. I don’t think anything is ever the same for you as it is for me. But what I like about lists is the guide they provide. With a guide, you can deviate and mold to what works for you. You actually have something you can learn (and grow) from. Since this book is about leading through “movements” to make change, it’s only right to leave you with the most important lists in the book. The key elements in creating a micromovement consist of five things to do and six principles:

To Do:

  1. 1. Publish a manifesto.
  2. 2. Make it easy for your followers to connect with you.
  3. 3. Make it easy for your followers to connect with one another.
  4. 4. Realize that money is not the point of a movement.
  5. 5. Track your progress.


  1. 1. Transparency really is your only option.
  2. 2. Your movement needs to be bigger than you.
  3. 3. Movements that grow, thrive.
  4. 4. Movements are made most clear when compared to the status quo or to the movements that work to push the other direction.
  5. 5. Exclude outsiders.
  6. 6. Tearing others down in never as helpful to a movement as building your followers up.

I’m taking bits and pieces out of this book and leaving with some of the things that stuck with me. But like I said, the context to look at everything through is leading a group of people (tribes) to affect change (movements).

“Uh-huh” – There are so many little things I’m taking away from this book, all of which are thrown into the Leadership Pot that I’m brewing. It’s all good stuff. But one of the most important takeaways for me and for anyone reading this or the book –

You don’t have to be in charge or powerful or pretty or connected to be a leader. You do have to be committed.

That’s all.

There you have it. I don’t consider myself a “by-the-books” type person. I’m much more of a “hands-on” person. I find these books good for perspective. They’re a window into other people’s minds and philosophies and when I can’t talk to them, I think it’s priceless to have access to their perspective. I’ll leave you with what Seth leaves everyone reading the book with:

If you got anything out of this book, if you highlighted or circled or Post-it-ed, I’m hoping you’ll do something for me:

Give this copy to someone else. Ask them to read it. Beg them to make a choice about leadership.

We need them. We need you.

Spread the word.


If you want to read my copy, email me and I’ll send it to you. All I’d ask is that you send along to someone else. Thank you, as always, for reading. Now go lead. You can do it.


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