on February 9, 2011
A heretic, as defined by Merriam Webster's dictionary is: 'a dissenter from established religious dogma; especially, a baptized member of the Church who disavows a revealed truth; one who dissents from an accepted belief or doctrine; a nonconformist'
If you understand why this actually a very good thing, and not a very bad one, you'll understand where tribes come from. In a way, it's Heretical to start a new religion. But that's what great leaders do. Let me explain.
We've seen a lot of marketing trends in the past 10-20 years. The question is obvious: how do you get people excited about buying stuff? Well as it turns out, people aren't really exciting about stuff, they're excited about human achievement, like breaking rules, changing the world, it turns out people don't care about buying stuff, what they really want is to be inspired.
And what's inspirational about doing the laundry with Brand X over Brand Z. Not much. It's not exactly William Wallace taking on the English.
So ask yourself this question: What evil empire are you trying to overthrow? If you don't know, or can't answer that, you just answered why your job/company is so dull, and why it's so hard to get your customers amped. We have to have big huge massive hulking challenges here: Think Death Star huge. Think Microsoft huge. Think Egypt huge.
This book is not about getting 'tribes' of people (eg. lunatic customers) talking about the TVs your company makes. Forget it. It doesn't make sense, and wouldn't work. What you want them to do is carve the company logo in the back of their heads, because being a customer means being part of a group of cool, smart, confident, independent people. Or maybe it means something completely different.
We are hard-wired to belong to a group. Think of a fraternity. It's exclusive, it's important, and you have to go through an embarrassing/painful test to get in. It actually means something to be on the inside, and it means something to be on the outside. It means something qualitatively whether you're in or out. And we wanna be in. Why? Because there's something exciting going on. THere's a group of people that are fired up. They're going somewhere exciting and groundbreaking. That's why you want to join the journey.
So who gets these crazies together? Godin discusses huge difference between Leaders and Managers. I could have sworn Manager was a cool job title. Turns out, according to Seth, it's totally lame. Organizing things so that nothing gets out of control. Keeping people in check, making sure they're doing the same thing (essentially) they did last month. Mediocrity.
Instead, as a leader, your responsibility as the leader is to:
a) transform a shared interest into a super passionate goal. Specific. Not just wild arbitrary angst.
b) Give people the tools to do this, and tighten communications. Yes you can sell them the tools, if you must, but remember, any barrier to entry is gonna keep the tribe small.
c) Help the tribe grow.
As a leader you don't just tick these 3 boxes, done, done, got it. Nope. You keep pushing your tribe to do something bigger, and better. You exist not to keep the tribe 'managed' or 'status quo' but to keep the passion alive, so the tribe can grow.
As I said, it's a Heretocracy out there. We need nutjobs like Arnold Schwarzzenegar, Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein. People with principles are considered crazy, because humans are expected to break, to trip, to have weaknesses. Great leaders may have weaknesses, they may be unattractive, they may be ditzy, but they do not break when it comes to character. Their tribe aspires to have that resilience, and thus keep coming back for more.
Heretics don't ask for permission, as for forgiveness. They are needed not just for their electricity and their energy. They are needed because they are solutions to a problem that the status quo can't solve!
They don't ask for money (unless they're selling books, making movies, touring around the country giving speeches). Heretics don't even ask for credit (even though much is given). Credit isn't the point, Change is. As long as the Heretic is trying to change the world, the crowd of supporters, the fans, the tribe will follow. Not because they have to, but because they have faith.
In sum, to get your team inspired, take a look at your target. Are you just another laundry detergent? Or are you changing the world, one customer at a time? Your tribe will fight for you, given just the right enemy.
More reviews like this at
Books. Biz. Asia
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.