Top critical review
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All-Inclusive Invitation to Lead Combined with Rants about What Not to Do
on November 28, 2008
This book's theme is unconventional leadership, taking a cause or idea and gathering support without a firm institutional foundation by finding like-minded individuals and connecting them. If that's a new idea to you, you will find the book to be flattering in its encouragement and motivational in its tone. If you are an unconventional leader already or know a lot about how to do this, you will search in vain for anything new in Tribes.
The book's substance is rather thin beyond the few examples and rants.
Here it is:
People are turned into a tribe by "a shared interest" and "a way to communicate" ("leader to tribe, tribe to leader, tribe member to tribe member, and tribe member to outsider"). A leader increases effectiveness for the people by
"transforming the shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change;
"providing tools to allow members to tighten their communications; and
"leveraging the tribe to allow it to grow and gain new members."
As you can see, he's describing the way causes, nonprofits, political pressure groups, and save the world organizations operate.
Some will be offended by the rants. For example, he takes off rather hard on all religions while being all in favor of faith that you can accomplish whatever you want. There's no real basis for his position other than generalities about how no religions ever favor any changes. Well, if that were the case, there would still be rampant slavery in many nations. It was religious organizations that led the antislavery movement from the beginning.
Mr. Godin is very well informed about things that happened recently on the Internet (or in his own life), but he doesn't seem to have a broader understanding of leadership or change leadership. If either subject interests you, I suggest that you read better informed authors like John Kotter (Leading Change, The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations, and A Sense of Urgency), John Maxwell (The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, and Developing the Leader Within You), and Peter Drucker (Innovation and Entrepreneurship).
I found his commentary that getting ideas is unimportant to be particularly unhelpful. He feels that leadership is all about passion and communication. But with the wrong ideas, you can be passionate about communicating harmful changes.
Ultimately, this is a book that will be enjoyed by those who cannot stop admiring themselves enough. Mr. Godin will encourage them to take actions so they can admire themselves even more. Whatever happened to servant leadership?
Seth Godin fans can't seem to get enough exhortations and rants directing them to be bigger, bolder, and more assertive than ever before about anything that occurs to them. I suppose I should review these books by comparing them to what New Age gurus suggest rather than serious books about accomplishing useful things.
I was intrigued to see that Mr. Godin addressed those who give his books critical reviews by noting that he's pleased that anyone takes the books seriously. Perhaps they aren't meant to be taken seriously. My mistake.