Internet tribes

Recently, I read Seth Godin‘s new book Tribes. It is a short clever book full of insights on what it means to build and lead a tribe. Godin’s main argument is borrowed from one of Hugh McLeod‘s one-liners:

The Market for something to believe in is infinite.

Or, as Woody Guthrie put it: “Basically, man is a hoping machine.”

As a marketing guru, Godin’s spin on this is a bit more basic, and goes as follows: Rather than “building a brand” or “marketing your product” or “staying on message” in order to win supporters, customers, members, fellow travellers – or whatever you call the people that you want to interact with you – you have to build a tribe.

A tribe in Godin’s understanding is a group of people with shared interest, shared faith that you do together matters – that is it: A tribe is something to believe in – a group of hoping machines working in unison. And with the proliferation of the Internet, the costs of organizing, building, and leading a tribe has been lowered immensely.

Thus, the book focuses on the non-technical (that is: the social) barriers that remain which is hindering people building or leading a tribe. Reading the book, I underlined a few passages, which I’ve turned into a short one-page remix of the book’s main points:

It takes only two things to turn a group of people into a tribe:
– A shared interest
– A way to communicate

A tribe has three elements:
– A narrative that tells a story about who we and the future we’re trying to build
– A connection between and among the leader and the tribe
– Something to do – the fewer limits the better.

If no one cares, then you have no tribe. If you don’t care – really and deeply care – then you can’t possibly lead.

The art of leadership is understanding what you can’t compromise on.

The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.

Leadership is uncomfortable:
It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers.
It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that might fail.
It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo.
It’s uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle.
When you identify the discomfort, you’ve found the place where a leader is needed.

So what’s holding you back?


But what you are afraid of isn’t failure. It’s blame. Criticism.

What you have to ask yourself is this: “If I get criticized for this, will I suffer any measurable impact? Will I lose my job, get hit upside the head with a softball bat, or lose important friendships?”

If the only side effect of the criticism is that you will feel bad about yourself, then you have to compare that bad feeling with the benefits you’ll get from actually doing something worth doing.

Consider this: If someone gave you two weeks to give that speech or to write that manifesto or make the decision that would get you started making an impact, would that be enough time? How much time do you think you’d need? What’s preventing you from starting right now?

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