Tribes: Cultivating Leadership, Passion, and Community in the Digital Age

Seth Godin’s book Tribes is a radical reimagining of the concept of leadership.

He argues that for the first time in history, everyone now has the potential to be a leader. Because of the rise of information technology and the internet, a near-infinite number of niche interests and passions can become focal points for people to organize around and form what he calls tribes.

But in order for this to happen, someone needs to lead them. Someone needs to imbue the tribe with energy and a way to come together. More than an opportunity to make money or found a new business, it’s an opportunity to create a shared sense of purpose and passion.

The book is a call to action for each and every one of us to identify our calling and bring it to life by creating, organizing, and leading our tribe.

What follows is a selection of my favorite quotes from the book along with my own brief thoughts and reflections on each.

On Tribes

A group need only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.

It feels tragic to me that there are so many people out there who share very similar interests and passions, and yet, feel alone because they haven’t been connected yet.

The internet is the perfect tool for this but we’re still surprisingly bad at utilizing it like that. We have enormous social networks with billions of people and trillions of connections. And yet, we still feel alone and isolated.

Maybe the trick is to go small. Start a local hiking group on or create a slack group and invite those 5 people who always comment on your Medium articles.

You don’t need permission or funding to build a community and find your tribe; you have a smartphone and passion.

On Desire

People want connection and growth and something new.

No matter what you’re marketing—whether it’s an idea in a blog post or a business pitch to investors—these are the three fundamental things we all crave:

  • Connection.
  • Growth.
  • Novelty.

But don’t forget that small is okay. Small meaningful connections are still meaningful. Tiny, incremental spurts of growth are still growth. Slightly new shifts in perspective are still novelty.

Connection. Growth. Novelty.

Let these be your guiding lights.

On Belonging

Human beings can’t help it: we need to belong.

Help people create meaningful connections with each other and you will be a success by virtually any metric there is.

On Rules

It’s clearly more fun to make the rules than to follow them, and for the first time, it’s also profitable, powerful, and productive to do just that.

The trouble is, we have decades of conditioning that says always follow the rules.

I suggest you cultivate the ability to tell the rules to take a hike.

On Leadership

Leadership isn’t difficult, but you’ve been trained for years to avoid it.

What would early life experiences and education look like if it was genuinely leadership-encouraging rather than squashing?

I like to think that when I patiently allow my 2-year-old to take whatever time she needs to put on her sandals by herself I’m fostering leadership. Or that when my 4-year-old asks “what game should we play, daddy” I respond by asking her back, “What looks fun to you?”

If you want to be a leader, start by fostering leadership in those around you.

On Change

Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.

I might qualify this slightly: Leaders inspire and enable change.

On Leaders

Leaders make a ruckus.

Love that word, ruckus.

Leaders don’t mind messy, playful, creative, unorthodox, and counter-cultural if it’s in service of the right end, the higher propose, the ultimate value.

Get messy. Cause a ruckus.

On Movements

There’s a difference between telling people what to do and enticing a movement.

True change arises organically. Give people fertile soil plus plenty of water and sunshine and watch what grows.

On Marketing

Most organizations spend their time marketing to the crowd. Smart organizations assemble the crowd.

99% of the internet is crap.

Be interesting. Be messy. Be vulnerable. Cause a ruckus.

Your crowd will find their leader.

On True Fans

Fans, true fans, are hard to find and precious. Just a few can change everything. What they demand, though, is generosity and bravery.

A great question for new leaders: How can I be both brave and generous with my most loyal fans?

On Failure

What people are afraid of isn’t failure. It’s blame.

You should strive to fear failure over blame. At least then your fear is about disappointing yourself and your own values.

On Purpose

It’s easy to hesitate when confronted with the feeling that maybe you’re getting too much attention. Great leaders are able to reflect the light onto their teams, their tribes. Great leaders don’t want the attention, but they use it. They use it to unite the tribe and to reinforce its sense of purpose. — Seth Godin, Tribes

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