This post is written in conjunction with the “Becoming a Public Scholar” course and is directed by Dr. Monica A. Coleman.
I begin by stating that Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us is my first introduction to author Seth Godin. I have not read any of his other books and was not familiar with his work. I state this to preface my next comment. How in the world does one writing a book on leadership, primarily targeted to the business sector in 2012, draw on the 16th century’s Council of Trent with such ease? As one who enjoys church history, I found it interesting that a marketing/business book would dig deep into Christian church history to engage the world about leadership. If you were one of those who, while learning about church history thought, “Hey, they threw out all the good stuff and labeled it heretical…moreover, that’s what I think!”, then be on notice: Godin’s Tribes is calling you out.
According to Godin, heretics are the new leaders. Heretics, the ones who stand against the status quo because they understand “when you fall in love with the system you lose your ability to grow”; heretics, the ones who are passionate, engaged and powerful; heretics, the ones who lead by faith and not by religious dogmas; heretics, the ones who create movements; heretics, the troublemakers; heretics, the change agents; heretics, the ones who believe, like Einstein, (and Steve Jobs), that imagination is more important than knowledge. Heretics, says Godin, are not just thorns in our side—they are the key to our success.
If you self identify as a heretic, argues Godin, you are not like most people and your tribe is not going to be full of most people – but perhaps that is exactly the point. Whimsically, Godin ponders, “You can worry about most people all day long but I promise you they are not worried about you. They can’t hear you, regardless of how hard you yell.” Instead, Godin suggests focusing one’s energy on using one’s passion, imagination and creativity to both communicate the idea and to create a space where one can connect with the tribe and the tribe can connect to you and with each other.
To be sure, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us is not a manual or how-to book; it is rather an impassioned call to leadership. Though short and easy to read, it is full of nuggets for aspiring leaders of change in any arena. While it is short on the cost and consequences of such leaders, Godin does provide the anatomy, principles, and key elements needed to be a leader that turns a mere crowd into a tribe. For those who feel lured and inspired to make change in the world, Tribes is a worthwhile read.
Clemette Haskins, M.Div., Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Incarnational sacramental Eucharistic theologian. Former Division I All America Women’s Basketball player, former Division I Women’s Basketball Coach and Le Cordon Bleu Culinary trained Chef.