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Book Review: Tribes – We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

Tribes by Seth Godin

Weekly Leader Book of the Month – October 2008

Seth Godin has written a new book and lucky for us it’s about leadership. Tribes – We Need You to Lead Us is a typically Godin work: short, easy to read, great stories and useful insights

Tribes reminds me of another great little classic, Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf. Their sizes are basically the same, both are full of useful stories and anecdotes; the writing is broken down into bite size pieces and it’s possible that you could find yourself referring back to them from time to time as you work on their subjects.

In fact, golf and leadership have a lot more in common than one would first imagine. Both are often referred at as exercise though you’ll rarely break a sweat in either. Both LOOK simpler than they really are. And finally, the more you practice, the more you’ll improve. Nobody has become a decent golfer by sitting on the couch and according to Seth, you can’t be a leader without choosing to lead.

One of the reasons I enjoyed this book is because I’m very interested in how technology and social media are impacting the traditional arts of leadership. The ways we communicate are changing and how that impacts our relationships and communication is changing too.

Seth uses Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales as an example.

“Wales connected the tribe members to one another with ever-evolving technology that made it easier and easier to engage the outside world.
That’s it – three steps: motivate, connect, and leverage.”

Twitter, Facebook, BaseCamp and Ning are all mentioned briefly as tools to connect tribes members.

Tucked away on the bottom of page 108 is what I believe is some of Seth’s most useful leadership advice: “The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.”

I also enjoyed his analogy between magic and leadership and his short section on Belief and the power of stories.

Seth spends a lot of time trying to build an argument for heretics but I’m not so sure this is particularly effective. Well, at least it wasn’t for me. And if I have one other criticism it’s that the book doesn’t have an index. (Pet peeve)

All in all, this is a good little book that while it might not make required reading lists in graduate level leadership courses, it would fit nicely on every student of leadership’s bookshelf and I enthusiastically recommend it.

About the author

Peter A. Mello, Founder/Editor Founder of Weekly Leader and Sea-Fever Consulting, LLC, a leadership development and strategic communications consultancy. Previously, CEO of an international nonprofit organization and COO of a national insurance/risk management services firm. Peter has been leading people and managing organizations for over 30 years, writes a leadership column for MarineNews magazine and blogs about maritime culture at Sea-Fever. Follow him on Twitter.

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