Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
by Seth Godin
131 pages, Piatkus Books, 2008
Warning: this book might get you fired
If you follow Seth Godin’s (Purple Cow, The Dip) advice you might lose your job. You might lose the respect of your peers. You might find yourself sleeping on a friend’s couch, at least for a while. That’s the risk of being a leader.
But failing to lead is worse. Imagine the global warming cause without Al Gore, or designers without Apple’s Steve Jobs. Innocent drinks founders Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright didn’t just found a company, they established the smoothie market and have put the humanity back into business.
The thesis of Seth Godin’s latest book is simple: be a leader. Be the change you want to see in the world. If you see a problem, lead a group of people to solve it. A leader builds a tribe. A tribe is a group of people connected to each other, via the leader, to a dream. The internet offers the opportunity to find, reach and connect people who would never have been able to communicate. There’s never been a better time to be a leader.
In today’s society, people are exhausted by marketing messages they don’t believe in. Most people spend their lives sheepwalking, in his word. If you can create a message people can believe in, people will pay attention. And where attention flows, money follows.
But leadership is hard work. You have to connect people to your vision. You have to find the resources to make reaching that vision possible. You have to show your tribe the way to reach your vision. You also have to confront critics, sometimes head-on. Every day can seem like an uphill struggle against doubters, naysayers and people that don’t get (or don’t want) what you’re trying to achieve.
Practically, this book tells you to lead the moment you walk through the door of your first graduate job. You can make things happen just by connecting with people who believe in your vision, and ignoring the rest. As an Account Executive at my first PR agency I led the agency to get involed with social media. I noticed the problem, I launched the blog and it soon became an integral part of the company’s client strategies.
Don’t be fooled into believing this book has all the answers. It’s not a blueprint for leadership. There’s no step-by-step guide here. There are no tactics that you can use to make people believe in your dream. There’s no strategy for dealing with your boss. Jerry Maguire fans will know writing memos to your boss is a hazardous preoccupation. Godin thinks companies will willingly pick up employees fired for leading without authority, but he doesn’t offer any examples.
If you’re a graduate about to start work there’s an important lesson in this book. There is an infinite number of leadership opportunities. You can lead from day one. You can lead on things you believe in, you can lead against things you don’t believe in. Leaders are the ones that makes a difference. Leaders are missed when they’re gone.
It can be a long and difficult road to success, but it’s certainly worthwhile.