Book Review: “Tribes,” by Seth Godin

Posted: June 26, 2009 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church

By Matt Horantribes 

Need that the book intends to meet:  The book seems to recast the role of a leader.  Formerly the common leadership model was one where the leader imparts direction based on their wisdom, experience and skill exceeding those of everyone else.  Today, leadership is… more about facilitating connections between people who have common values and purpose.


Content: (It’s a short and very readable book)

Organizations don’t grow much anymore through one-way communication from leaders to followers.  21st century growth happens by facilitating tribal relationships.  You find people who have something in common, and then provide a way for them to interact.  We don’t do or say things to the tribe, but rather for the tribe.

The way forward is almost always heresy.  Heretics believe deeply enough in something in order to be criticized by the status quo.  But every evolution begins with some sort of heresy.  Heretics reject their religion in order to enhance their faith.  What has to die so that something else can be born?

Leading a tribe requires:

1.)    Challenge

2.)    Culture facilitation

3.)    Curiosity

4.)    Communication

5.)    Sacrifice for the tribe.  If they see the leader give of themselves, then others will follow.

Tribal leadership is cultivating a system that facilitates interactions through which tribe members help each other achieve their important purpose.  This will be a key learning for postmodern leaders, especially in the church; for God’s call will often come from the margins, rather from those institutionally on high!


Quotable: (This is one of the most quotable books ever.)

  • “A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” (Pg. 1)
  • “People want connection and growth and something new.” (Pg. 2)
  • “Generous and authentic leadership will always defeat the selfish efforts of someone doing it just because they can.” (Pg. 7)
  • “It’s much more fun to make the rules than follow them.” (Pg. 11)
  • “Suddenly, heretics, troublemakers, and change agenst aren’t merely thorns in our side—they are keys to our success.” (Pg. 11)
  • “A true fan brings three friends with him to a Jon Mayer concert or to the opening of a Chuck Close exhibit.  A true fan pays extra to own the first edition, or buys the hardcover, instead of just browsing around on the website.  Most important, a true fan connects with other true fans and amplifies the noise the artist makes.” (Pg. 33)
  • “Tribes are just waiting to be turned into movements (and occasionally stop to have a beer together).” (Pg. 38)
  • “In every organization everyone rises to the level at which they become paralyzed with fear.” (Pg. 44)
  • “What people are afraid of isn’t failure.  It’s blame.  Criticism.” (Pg. 46)
  • “One bad review doesn’t ruin my day because I realize what a badge of honor it is to get a bit of criticism at all.” (Pg. 47)
  • “No one is going to listen to your idea for change, sagely shake his head, and say, ‘Sure, go do that.’  No one anoints you as leader.  Nobody is going to see your PowerPoint presentation and hand you a check.  Change isn’t made by asking permission.  Change is made by asking forgiveness, later.” (Pg. 70)
  • “The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in.  Paint a picture of the future.  Go there.  People will follow.” (Pg. 108)
  • “If your organization requires success before commitment, it will never have either.” (Pg. 132)
  • “Real leaders don’t care who gets the credit.” (Pg.135)
  • “People don’t believe what you tell them.  They rarely believe what you show them.  They often believe what their friends tell them.  They always believe what they tell themselves.  What leaders do: they give people stories they can tell themselves.  Stories about the future and about change.” (Pg. 138)
  1. Matt Horan says:

    Check out the blog article by Ginghamsburg Church’s Mike Slaughter about Tribes. It’s at


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