Review: Tribes (Seth Godin)

I have read so much about the book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin. This is a new book that was released in October of 2008. I was not sure why it was such a hit, so I had to read it and find out.

The first thing that caught my attention was its format. It is a small book. While it is hardback, the format was more like a trade paperback size. At fewer than 160 pages, it is also very quick to read. The second interesting thing about the book is that there are no chapters. I love reading books with lots of chapters. The shorter the chapter, the more I enjoy the book. I like to read a chapter in each sitting if possible. This book was even better. Instead of chapters he just had sections that ran together only separated by a bold section title. Some sections were a couple of pages while others were only one paragraph. Most were somewhere between the two.

The concept behind a tribe is that you, as an individual, can gather/motivate/assemble a group of people with a common interest and lead them to accomplish a task. While you are a leader you will not have to be the one doing the work if your tribe has people with common interest and goals. They will be just as motivated to get the job done as you are. You, as the leader, may not need to do anything more than be the person that causes the tribe to assemble in the first place.

Godin is a philosopher. This book was not so much about the tools that make tribes work. Rather, it explained why tribes work and gave a set of principles to help you understand the concept of them. By doing so you can make a tribe work in your favor with many different tools. He gave specific examples using tools available today, but with the principles of the book you could make a tribe effective for you even if these tools don’t exist 5 years into the future.

A tribe does not have to be led from a position of authority. A person in the mail room of a company can see something that needs to be done and assemble like minded people to accomplish the task. You don’t have to be the boss to be a leader. He does not think that everyone needs to have a tribe assembled around them. But, if you do have a desire to lead, you can. Right now. You don’t have to wait until you have the authority to be a leader. Be one where you are today.

Why is this book popular? I think it taps into the reason social media is such a hit today. As a podcaster one can become a leader of a tribe. Bloggers can lead their own tribe. Twitter and Facebook allow us to assemble our friends and share information that may help us accomplish a task. You don’t have to be the leader of a tribe of 400 people. If you can gather 5 like-minded people around you then you can lead a tribe and accomplish a task.

As a missionary this is a great concept. My goal is one that is shared by millions of people around the world. We want to get the story of Jesus Christ to the masses. However, I can’t reach everyone. I also can’t motivate every church member to pray for me and my ministry. But, if I can inspire 3 people in each church to take a personal interest in my ministry and to connect with others who share the same goal, then I can lead a tribe that will uphold my ministry in prayer. What missionary doesn’t want that?

It is definitely a philosophical book. Some people are going to read this and not get it. They want to follow a formula. There is none presented in the book. But if you can wrap your brain around the concepts of the book you will be well on your way to leading your small group of people. Or, 6 groups of people for different purposes.

It is a book about leadership that I can highly recommend.

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin, Portfolio Hardcover, 2008, 160 pages.

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