Seth Godin’s latest book Tribes follows his successful formula of being short and like many good books, based around a set of stories.
The key points of the book, as indicated by the title, are tribes and leadership. But, leadership delivered very differently from say Stephen Covey in The 8th Habit. Seth’s perspective of leadership is the leader as a heretic – which fits with his Big Moo (be/represent something remarkable) approach.
A heretic here is someone with unconventional beliefs, someone who has an opinion that doesn’t confirm to the status quo. If you add to that passion for their heretical view, you have the core makings of a leader.
The reason that passionate heretics should lead is that they are a force for change and their very heresy is a reason they will be listened to – or at least listened to by a key set of people who like their particular flavour of heresy. And if the passionate heretic leads those people who want to listen, they become a tribe… and even a small tribe of say a thousand people can create change; and change is what makes the world go around.
In fact, Seth’s view is that stability is an illusion and that the ‘fad focused early adaptors’ are the people that buy and the people that talk. The fad focused early adaptors inspired by the heretic become partisans – passionate tribe members supporting the shared purpose of the tribe.
So the two key elements of a tribe are a shared purpose and a way to communicate.
It’s important that the communication happens not only from the centre or leader to the tribe, but from tribe members to tribe members. It’s this element that really differentiates this new style of marketing. Even in the current digital marketing world with permission email marketing and pay-per-click, the centre is the source of the communication. Whereas a tribe of partisans communicating with each other will create a much stronger bond and so momentum for the cause.
The ‘cause’? – what happened to ‘product’? I think the point here is that if the passion comes first, passion for a new way, a new style of product, a new ‘thing’, the product sales will follow. And one way to describe that, is as a cause or a movement.
This passion/cause/movement first approach is also what defines a great leader - along with authenticity, able to create a culture, inclusive, curious, committed, able to communicate their vision and connect their followers to each other. Oh, and that inclusiveness is at the expense of those that are excluded. Excluded because they don’t get it, or don’t revolve in the right circles or… whatever. Include passionate partisans and exclude everyone else.
Seth clearly points out that being a leader isn’t the same as being a manager; far from it. A good leader can come from anywhere in an organisation – in The 8th Habit Stephen Covey uses the term ‘trim-tabbing’ to describe leaders in a company who lead from outside the management chain (the trim-tab is a small ‘rudder’ on the end of the big rudder that turns an entire ship – also check out the Buckminster Fuller description on Trim-Tab).
A leader could be an individual with no connection to an existing organisation at all. Gandhi is commonly sited as a model for leadership. He had no given authority, no business or firm to back him up. Yet, his leadership lead to India’s independence.
There’s much more to TribesTribes. I really enjoyed it and as usual with a Godin, it’s the snap that brings into focus a concept or in this case a trend that is happening right in front of you, but just outside of conscious awareness.
It’s also a call, as is apparent by the title, to would-be leaders, to start leading.
Format: BookBook 147 pages, Audio 3hrs 42 mins
Author: Seth Godin