Tribes – Book Summary
In Tribes, Seth Godin defines a tribe as a group of people, who are connected to:
- One another
- A leader
- An idea.
Seth Godin uses this definition as a framework to discuss various groups he has picked as examples of successful Tribes. The examples range from Mich Matthews who inspires a team at Microsoft, to Joel Spoelsky, the owner of a software service business, who also has a number of engineers that follow him via his blog, and Nathan Winograd who is on a mission to stop (or limit) the number of dogs put to sleep at animal shelters – one shelter and one city at a time.
The book is laid out in a series of division, but I would hesitate to call them chapters. Seth Godin jumps around quite a bit, but the subtitle highlights the message of this book: We Need You to Lead Us. Throughout the book Godin encourages readers to find their Tribe, step up, and lead.
Another current running throughout the books is that tribes used to be more localized – however the web has changed all that. New technology and modes of communication such as blogs, online video publishing and social networking are making it easier to find and nurture geographically dispersed tribes.
Godin’s Tribes is not a how to manual – rather, he picks examples from society and then discusses Tribes in the context of “this is how it’s done”. The main themes running through the book are those of leadership and that anyone can do this – it’s just a matter of stepping up.
My Personal Review and Experience
I have read Tribes 6 or 7 times in the past year. Every year I read a number of books, and a handful of them turn out to be life changing – for me, Tribes is one of those books.
Tribes is a book I could not put down the first time I read it. Part of this may be my personal bias however – I had no idea what to expect when I first purchased the book, and was surprised to see the introduction open with an anecodate about Joel Spoelsky. I immediately felt connected to the book, because I consider myself a member of Joel Spoelsky’s tribe. Not only am I regular reader of his blog, I have used the software Fog Creek sells (Fogbugz), and for a long time was a subscriber to the StackOverflow podcast that Joel co-hosted with Jeff Atwood.
Some of the other examples also hit close to home, such as Gary Vaynerchuck, whose work and videos I have found inspirational and motivational. I am excited about reading Gary’s book, Crush It, when it comes out.
Ultimately, Tribes is a book about leadership and community, and I found it to be an inspirational read. I will pull out some quotes about leadership that I found especially inspirational, however much of what I got from the book was reading the stories spread over a number of pages. There weren’t necessarily bite size quotes or sound bites that jumped out at me, just those stories as a whole.
Nonetheless, here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
Favorite Quotes From Tribes about Leadership
“The very nature of leadership is that you’re not doing what’s been done before. If you were, you’d be following, not leading”
– from Tribes, page 146
“The Elements of Leadership
Leaders challenge the status quo.
Leaders create a culture around their goal and involve others in their culture.
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.”
– from Tribes, page 126
“It’s rare that it’s obvious when to lead. Sure, there are times when you know you need to stand up, take a position, spread an idea, clear out an obstacle and be brave.
But more often than not, great leadership happens when the tribe least expect it. The nonobvious moments are the ones that count. Like now, perhaps.”
– from Tribes, page 109
Additional Media and Video of Seth Godin and Tribes
Seth Godin spoke the TED Conference about Tribes, about 20 minutes:
Seth also gave a more in depth presentation about Tribes in New York in October 2008. This is really long, but I found it very interesting. It’s not really an introduction to the book – it’s a related discussion. Be warned this is almost 2 hours long – sit down with a cup of coffee, hit full screen, lean back and enjoy!