Summary of Tribes by Seth Godin
Created by on 6/27/2016 8:47:26 PM




Notes from Seth Godin on Leadership in Tribes


Gord Carkner




Heretics are the new leaders (people who see things differently and challenge the status quo).


It is about finding your tribe, getting out front and leading them into change, to pursue remarkable things. to build out to a new future.


Your message should stimulate discussion and develop relationships between people. The movement happens when they talk to one another, where ideas spread within a community. You must empower the tribe to communicate with each other as well. You must establish the foundation for people to make connections with other members of the tribe.


A leader must be about passion and ideas, a vision of a better way to see things, do things. You tell a story that motivates faith in a better future. You build soul into projects that are worthwhile, and make them great, or change directions entirely when you sense the effort is hitting a wall.


A leader can help increase the effectiveness of tribe by:


  • transforming the shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change
  • providing tools to allow members to connect and tighten their communications and build a community of like minds
  • leverage the tribe to allow it to grow and gain new members, but not too many. some must be excluded to build a strong tribe.


The members of your tribe are your true fans (someone in the tribe who cares deeply about you and your work). 1000 fans form a tribe. This person connects with other true fans and amplifies the noise made by your art, your ideas. They carry a commitment for the cause. Key for the leader is turning casual fans into true ones. Fans look for generosity and bravery in their leader. Time and genuine investment should strengthen the relationships with fans (your tribe).


The market rewards innovation, things that make a difference: things that are fresh, outside the box, stylish, remarkable and new. It is fun, engaging, motivating and joyful  to deliver on this front. It is about building something far bigger than yourself. The organizations of the future are filled with smart, fast, flexible people on a mission. A leader must have the will to make things happen, to raise a ruckus. Passion is the highest expression of your talent; release your curiosity and it will expand your creativity. Don’t let a million excuses or fear of failure or family life get in the way.


Barriers to Leadership Fear is number one; it paralyzes us and encourages us to hide our ideas and our talents. People are afraid of blame, criticism and failure. Many of us have great ideas but we fear the cost of implementing them, taking them to market, fear that they might fail or get us fired. Fear is the opposite of faith and creative breakthroughs. We have to admit that we are often driven by fear and then begin to manage it, dance with it, channel it wisely. The tribe can help you accomplish much more than you think, build momentum and help you overcome your fears. The strength of your vision as you refine it can help to overcome fear and develop momentum. Criticism and resistance by naysayers may be a prime sign that you are onto something great. Remember the Dip, that difficult phase of hard work after the honeymoon is over; it is a negative activation energy but necessary to make it through; get help.


Almost all the growth available to you exists when you aren’t like most people and when you work hard to appeal to people who are not like most people--your unique tribe. The key: not everyone will like your ideas. Get used to it. Work with this reality. 


Faith is the key ingredient to help you change things. One individual can bring much leverage to a situation, now especially in the Internet Age. Explore its potential to help you find your tribe and build your ideas. People who challenge the status quo overcome the resistance of people they trust, people they work for,  live with, people in their community. Faith is the unstated component in the work of a leader. Faith leads to hope and overcomes fear. Faith is critical to all innovation. Sometimes religion can get in the way of faith; it comes in various forms: spiritual religions, cultural religions and corporate religions. Religion can be used to enforce the status quo, and block the inspiration and adventure of faith. Bottom line: everyone needs faith; it makes life flourish.


You must have faith in yourself, your ideas and in the people within your tribe, in your mission/calling. Faith gives you the edge to take risks, sacrifice, push the edge of the envelope. It helps you go the extra mile and discover new things , new possibilities unimagined. Ordinary thinking and ordinary effort are almost never enough to generate leadership. It takes something extraordinary, a call to action that is irresistible, and a cause worth fighting for to make people actually join in. At the end of the day, Seth Godin is talking about what Don Page calls Servant Leadership, which involves a lot of listening to your followers: with a view to feeding them, developing them, educating them, inspiring them.


Sheepwalking (96): Godin says that in school and university today, we often train people for conformity, compliancy, mediocrity, fitting in, in essence boring grunt work as per a factory. Kids are taught to work to the exam not to a creative breakthrough, not to leadership and innovation. This is the way people get stuck and trapped. Shocking Fact: Leadership in today’s world is actually the opposite of the trajectory of most of our schooling. It is the opposite of management which is all about conformity, not creativity. It is about taking initiative and making things happen (making a ruckus). You need to be able to develop a purple cow, i.e. something completely new and out of the box. It may get messy, but that’s not a bad thing necessarily.


Here is his outline for action towards leadership of a movement:


  1. Publish a clear manifesto of your vision.
  2. Make it easy for followers to connect with you.
  3. Make it easy for followers to connect with one another.
  4. Realize that money is not the point of a movement.
  5. Track your progress. I don’t do this enough. 


Effective Elements of Leadership involves tremendous commitment. Stick with the dream for a long time. Make it past the Dip to the flourishing of your leadership, to that great career and great organization. Get over the old idea of competence. Watch some TED Talks on YouTube for inspiration to break the mold.


  • Leaders create a culture around their goal and involve others in that culture.
  • Leaders have an extraordinary amount of curiosity about the world they are trying to change.
  • Leaders use charisma to attract and motivate followers. But charisma or good looks are not the secret of good leadership.
  • Leaders communicate their vision of the future regularly, consistently.
  • Leaders commit to a vision and make decisions based on that commitment. Look for markers in their work calendar.
  • Leaders dedicatedly connect their followers to one another. That’s part of the key ingredient to mobilization and momentum.
  • Leaders understand that change is key to success. Doing things in the same old routine way grinds vision to a halt and destroys motivation.
  • Leaders employ intense imagination; they give people stories to tell about a new future that is coming down the pike. They can see the possibilities that  others do not yet see.


Seth Godin is a visionary extraordinaire. He writes presciently: “I think we have an obligation to change the rules, to raise the bar, to play a different game, and to play it better than anyone has any right to believe is possible.”


See also TED Talk by Ken Robinson, How to Escape Education’s Death Valley.

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