Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

Reading Time: 3 minutes


I picked up this book to learn more about how to build a stronger online community. While it lacks depth, I enjoyed Godin’s ideas about leadership, pursuing ideas, fear, and challenging the status quo.

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Key Takeaways

What is a tribe?

“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.”

Humans have formed tribes since the beginning, and our tribal tendencies heavily influence how we form friends, interact with our families, and build our businesses. At the core, tribes are about connection – connection to one another, a leader, and an idea.

Be a generous and authentic leader

“Generous and authentic leadership will always defeat the selfish efforts of someone doing it just because she can.”

“Great leaders create movements by empowering the tribe to communicate. They establish the foundation for people to make connections, as opposed to commanding people to follow them.”

People follow individuals who are willing to be authentic and generous in their efforts over those who are motivated by selfish aims. Leaders empower their tribe by facilitating communication and connections, instead of telling people what they should do or who they should follow.

Life’s too short…

“Life’s too short to fight the forces of change. Life’s too short to hate what you do all day. Life’s way too short to make mediocre stuff. And almost everything that’s standard is now viewed as mediocre.”

“‘Life’s too short’ is repeated often enough to be a cliché, but this time it’s true. You don’t have enough time to be both unhappy and mediocre. It’s not just pointless, it’s painful. Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from. The amazing thing is that not only is this sort of life easier to set up than ever before, but it’s also more likely to make you successful. And happy.”

Life is finite, and it’s important you spend your short time here wisely. Fighting change, suffering through a job you don’t like, and creating mediocre products is not worth your time.

On ideas and fear

“There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of ideas. Ordinary folks can dream up remarkable stuff fairly easily. What’s missing is the will to make the ideas happen. In a battle between two ideas, the best one doesn’t necessarily win. No, the idea that wins is the one with the most fearless heretic behind it.”

Many people have ideas, but most fear what it means to pursue those ideas. The ideas that win are pursued by the leaders willing to overcome the fear stopping the majority.

“What people are afraid of isn’t failure. It’s blame. Criticism. We choose not to be remarkable because we’re worried about criticism. We hesitate to create innovative movies, launch new human resource initiatives, design a menu that makes diners take notice, or give an audacious sermon because we’re worried, deep down, that someone will hate it and call us on it.”

Fear of failure isn’t what stops people from pursuing ideas; it’s fear of criticism. It’s the fear of creating something that you believe in and having people reject your creation. If you want to lead, you need to be aware of and overcome this fear of criticism.

Be curious

“Once recognized, the quiet yet persistent voice of curiosity doesn’t go away. Ever. And perhaps it’s such curiosity that will lead us to distinguish our own greatness from the mediocrity that stares us in the face.”

Curiosity will take you far if you let it. It’s a mindset that you need to develop over time, and it becomes stronger with practice.

Faith and innovation

“Faith is critical to all innovation. Without faith, it’s suicidal to be a leader, to act like a heretic.”

“When you lead without compensation, when you sacrifice without guarantees, when you take risks because you believe, then you are demonstrating your faith in the tribe and its mission. Of course it’s difficult. But leaders will tell you that it’s worth it.”

To innovate, you need to believe. Without belief, you’re just a crazy person with an idea. But when you overcome the difficulty of developing and conveying your unshakeable belief in your mission, people will recognize this and get onboard.


“Leaders have an extraordinary amount of curiosity about the world they’re trying to change. Leaders use charisma (in a variety of forms) to attract and motivate followers. Leaders communicate their vision of the future. Leaders commit to a vision and make decisions based on that commitment. Leaders connect their followers to one another.”

People follow leaders because they’re different and inspire change. Be different. Inspire change.

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