Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us by Seth Godin

The video above is Seth’s talk at a recent TED conference. His recent book is Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us. You can download an audio version of the book for free here.

A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. For millions of years, humans have been seeking out tribes, be they religious, ethnic, economic, political, or even musical (think of the Deadheads). It’s our nature.

Now the Internet has eliminated the barriers of geography, cost, and time. All those blogs and social networking sites are helping existing tribes get bigger. But more important, they’re enabling countless new tribes to be born – groups of ten or ten thousand or ten million who care about their iPhones, or a political campaign, or a new way to fight global warming.

And so the key question: Who is going to lead us?

The Web can do amazing things, but it can’t provide leadership. That still has to come from individuals – people just like you who have a passion about something. The explosion in tribes means that anyone who wants to make a difference now has the tools at her fingertips.

He makes a very important point here. It’s not about the technology. It’s about what the technology enables. One person now has the ability to be seen and heard by thousands, perhaps millions, without the filter of corporate mass media channels. As The Cluetrain Manifesto made the point previously, we can now be connected to each other, rather than just be absorbing one way communication. Yes, our technological society has also disconnected us in many ways, but it has also empowered.

Godin makes the point that a king has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Change is a danger to those in power. Something similar was said by Walter Brueggemann in The Prophetic Imagination. Brueggemann talks about how prophets are a threat to the royal consciousness, as they criticize and energize the people.

Godin’s focus is on leadership. Managers, in his view, are not necessarily leaders, nor are leaders necessarily in positions of leadership, though they do develop followings. I think that people want to be a part of something that matters, that they can put their heart into. More than that, I think people want to feel like they are part of a community. We have a lot of ways to be connected, but don’t always have community…a tribe…a common bond. Is that what we really want? Looking around, we could question whether that is so. I believe human beings do desire connection, but community takes work and commitment. And sometimes, we don’t know where to find it. Sometimes we fall in line with the status quo, which is easier. Leading takes courage, and fear sometimes gets the best of us.

Personally, I like being a change agent, but fear has stopped me plenty of times. It’s hard to stand up, not sure if anyone is going to follow, and perhaps even wondering if I am even standing up for the ‘right’ thing. While I like the idea of starting of movement, it’s not about the movement, it’s about putting our hearts out there for what matters to us, even in the face of fear. And as Christians who are to live by faith, that’s what I believe we need to do. But, much easier to say. If it isn’t questioning the idea, it may be questioning myself, but that’s another reminder, that I need to stop thinking about myself, and care more about the world around me, and lead.