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Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us Hardcover – October 16, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Short on pages but long on repetition, this newest book by Godin (Purple Cow) argues that lasting and substantive change can be best effected by a tribe: a group of people connected to each other, to a leader and to an idea. Smart innovators find or assemble a movement of similarly minded individuals and get the tribe excited by a new product, service or message, often via the Internet (consider, for example, the popularity of the Obama campaign, Facebook or Twitter). Tribes, Godin says, can be within or outside a corporation, and almost everyone can be a leader; most are kept from realizing their potential by fear of criticism and fear of being wrong. The book's helpful nuggets are buried beneath esoteric case studies and multiple reiterations: we can be leaders if we want, tribes are the way of the future and change is good. On that last note, the advice found in this book should be used with caution. Change isn't made by asking permission, Godin says. Change is made by asking forgiveness, later. That may be true, but in this economy and in certain corporations, it may also be a good way to lose a job. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Tribes is a must read for all of us. It's up to each one of us to lead in today's new kind of world."
Former U.S. senator Bill Bradley
"Tribes is a short book--only 147 pages. But its short size belies its true importance. As I read it, I was literally underlining every other sentence. I went through two hi-lighters before I finished!
This is one of the most important books I have read this year. I highly recommend it."
"Tribes is a short book—only 147 pages. But its short size belies its true importance. As I read it, I was literally underlining every other sentence. I went through two hi-lighters before I finished!"
—Michael Hyatt, author of Platform and Living Forward
"Tribes is a must read for all of us. It’s up to each one of us to lead in today’s new kind of world.”
—Former U.S. senator Bill Bradley
"Godin...is uniquely respected for his understanding of the Internet, and his essays and opinions are widely read and quoted on and off."
"It's easy to see why people pay to hear what he has to say."
"If Seth Godin didn't exist we'd need to invent him."
—Alan Webber, founder, Fast Company
"If your idea, or issue, or candidate, or product isn't catching on, you haven't been reading Seth Godin."
—Micah Sifry, cofounder, Personal Democracy Forum
"Godin is endlessly curious, opinionated, and knowledgeable on a wide variety of subjects. He is a relentless marketer…and also a clear-eyed visionary."
Top Customer Reviews
My initial perception was that Tribes was a book about leadership. If you're looking for a book that teaches you how to lead, you would likely be disappointed in Tribes. My new view is that Tribes is meant to inspire people to lead, rather than teach them to lead. There's a big difference.
Did you have a class in school where the teacher simply presented the material in the textbook, you read it, took a quiz and that was it. If you were good at rote memorization, you probably got a good grade in that class. But were you inspired to learn more about that subject? I'll confess, my only motivation in a class like that was to get a good grade and move on to something more interesting. But then there were the teachers who led the class into interesting discussions and motivated you to want to learn more. That's leadership; that's connecting with your tribe.
Most of us can learn anything if we work hard enough at it. The big question is: are we motivated to learn it? We can do almost anything; the real question is are we passionate enough- do we care enough about it- to do something about it,to be a leader for that cause?
I see Tribes as an inspirational book, not as a "how-to-lead" book. Tribes is a "pep talk" to help us find that leader within each of us. You don't have to be the president or the CEO to lead. And perhaps your area of leadership doesn't even involve your work. Perhaps your inner-leader is what motivates you to be a boy scout leader, or a Sunday school teacher. Maybe there is a cause you feel so strongly about (AIDS, breast cancer, heart disease, disadvantaged children, whatever) that you feel compelled to step into a leadership role. Many times I've heard people lament the hardships and injustices in the world, and they act as if they're powerless to do anything about them. But the truth is, no one is powerless. We all have a voice. Seth Godin's Tribes reminds us that there is a leader living inside each of us. It is up to us to live up to the calling of leadership and to realize that we can lead the change we would like to see in our own corner of the world.
That's where you begin to see the problem. Godin doesn't explain how to go about doing the actual hard groundwork of leadership. He makes it sound like anyone with an idea and a cell phone can rally thousands of people to their cause in minutes if they just realize that it's not hard. Really? How does that work? First off, we can't all be leaders. The math just doesn't work. If every one of us is to be a leader to one thousand, it means that we must also take time to be a follower for 1,000 other leaders who also need their "tribe". Pretty basic arithmetic, and I don't think we've all got that kind of time.
Godin just skips from one shallow and unsupported, but grandiose statement about leadership to another. The one concrete example he gives in the book about how you might actually go about doing the work of leading comes when he describes his early work experience in a software company. He explains how he got the most out of shallow programming resources by starting a newsletter that created a sense of excitement around his project and attracted programmers to it. That's not only a great idea, it's a practical example a reader who wanted to lead could emulate. This book needs far more of those examples.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this book is Godin's repeated sincere insistence that what's important these days is to be stylish and new, not established and stable. I just kept thinking, "isn't this the attitude that's gotten us into the economic mess we're in right now? Throw out what works for something that sounds good?" I couldn't believe I was reading something so misguided.
In the end, this book ends up feeling like something Godin banged out in a couple of months in order to generate some sales for himself and his publisher. There's a distinct lack of substance in this book, and Godin's sole useful example is one he could pull from his own memory without getting up from his desk or even picking up a phone.
Good writing takes far more work than that, and so does good leadership. This book is an example of neither.