Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin is a self-help book about management principles. It encourages people, no matter their status or job position, to assume positions of leadership. According to Godin, leadership is needed to effect change at a grassroots level. The basic element of a tribe is the personal connections formed by communication and a shared goal.
This book is poorly written. It seemed to be no more than Godin’s daily blog entries thrown together on a similar topic. In fact, there were some elements of the rants common to blogs; daily annoyances that might fire up indignation and a post, but often subside upon further reflection. Unfortunately, these biases were not edited out of the final book. (Example: midway through the book, there is a chapter comparing tribes to religion and contrasting it with faith. These two topics are controversial and the analogy didn’t translate clearly. I can see where this may have seemed clever when first written, but I’m surprised that it survived the rigorous editing process.) In addition to the poor writing, the book was filled with references to popular culture and business figures. Not being steeped in that mileu, I was in the dark about a number of things he referenced. This did not endear the book to me.
Tribes is filled with self satisfied aphorisms that are like zen koans. They are also about as understandable.
You can’t have a tribe without a leader — and you can’t have a leader without a tribe.
Godin threw out broad statements in support of his theory, but the substance of the book did not support it. He did not explain the steps needed to create the groundwork necessary for stable leadership. He hinted at networking and hard work, but neglected to piece it all together for the reader. Godin talked about the Internet in general, but damned it with faint praise when he insisted it was just a “tool” that might not endure. Considering the longevity of his cultural references, I think he could have been more expansive about the specific tools available on the Internet to facilitate communication among a tribe!
One of the strengths of Tribes is the short chapter length. In fact, the entire book is no more than 160 pages. The information was presented in short, digestible chapters with bold headings. Another strength of this book is the empowering message. I think Seth Godin is probably a good motivational speaker. His message is bold and confident. It makes me feel like going out and starting something. (In fact, writing this blog is one of the side effects of reading his book!)
If you choose to read this book, consider it carefully. Enjoy the message, and maybe search online for further information about the examples he offers.