A good friend shared the book “Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us” after seeing the author, Seth Godin, at the catalyst conference.

It’s rather interting assortment, the book.  I had some thoughts (I know, I know, what a surprise.)  Maybe these thoughts will be worth while even if you haven’t read the book. 

A raised an eyebrow at the subtitle: “We need You to Lead Us.”  It reminded me a bit of that radio commercial.  It’s basically some sort of scam to put computers on a payment plan.  The commercial is full of statements like “You deserve a new computer” and “it’s not you’re fault you have bad credit.”

Just for the record, my credit is epically horrible.  So I’m not casting stones here.  But I get it that I deserve those things I can honestly pay for.  If my bad credit isn’t my fault, I’m curious just who’s fault it is.  And really?  Does the world need me to lead them?

Perhaps yes, perhaps no.  But the subtitle says the same words to everyone.  And I’m not just taking the subtitle out of context.  There is a basic assumption that everyone should be a leader of a tribe.  How he defines a tribe isn’t terribly important to my point here.  But the idea that everybody should be a leader is a little questionable.

Pages 8-9 say, “everyone now is a leader.  The explosion in tribes, groups, covens, and circles of interest means that anyone who wants to make a difference can.  Without leaders, there are no followers.  You’re a leader.  We need you.”

To be fair, he says a lot about leaders stepping back and not stealing the lime light and not being control freaks.  But it doesn’t seem like a tribe could have more than a few leaders, at most.  It makes me wonder where all the followers are supposed to come from.

He hails mavericks and rule-breakers and people who think outside the box.   “Suddenly, heretics, troublemakers, and change agents aren’t merely thorns in our side- they are the keys to our success. ” (11)

I’m not the most conservative, rule-crazy, egineerish guy that’s ever been born.  But I recognize that we need conservative rule-following, egineerish people in the world.  If everybody was like me the world would be fun, and random, and unpredictable, and chaotic, and surprising, and scary and inconsistent.  I think if the author got his way that this is what we’d end up with: a world much less reliable in both the best and worst senses of the word.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

7 thoughts on “”

  1. Thanks for taking the time to review the book. Alas, you’ve totally missed the point, which is my fault…

    Obviously, everyone can’t lead us all at once. Just the successful, happy, engaged people can. My assumption, from the front cover on in, is that is who is going to read my book. People who care, people who want to make a difference, people who want to change things for the better.

    The other people won’t bother.


  2. i think i might be doing some over-thinking.

    As i read the quotes from this fellow i’m led to contemplate the nature of the spirit. In a man it is his ‘human nature’ simply by virtue of him being human. We deduce from the Bible (anyway) that the spirit of a man is that which is made in the image of God, and is that through which the Spirit of God communes with man. We are also told that it is this same spirit that has gone astray to seek its own way.

    Does this not make us all leaders?

    There needs to be but one follower to make a leader. Where does it say that they can’t be one in the same?

    What this man, Godin is saying is simple and seductive to the wayward spirit of a man. The man who is his own king has a fool for a leader. (i think i stole that from somewhere)

    Is that any different from a man who is his own god?


  3. For clarity’s sake:
    garret wasn’t able to read Mr. Godin’s comments before he posted. My blog holds up first-time commentors until I approve them. Garret was responding to my blog.
    Which I feel a bit convicted about. There were several positive things about the book. They didn’t really fit in with that particular post. It’s much easier to focus on the negative when you’re out of touch with the fact that the words were written by a real person… And then when that person turns out to be all nice and respectful and stuff, even if you were kind-of a knucklehead…
    Anyway, I have a big mouth. I’ll have some other things, perhaps a bit more balanced, to say about “Tribes” in a day or two.


  4. haha.. pretty funny seth actually responded
    he was really good this year at catalyst – i’ve spent years studying marketing and he is spot on with about 95% of what he says – the other 5%, I’m probably wrong about


  5. No, I don’t have any desire or need to edit anything you said. I agree with you and think that was fine.
    Mostly, my concern was that comments got published in the order they were submitted. The problem is that you couldn’t see the first comment because I hadn’t approved it. I thought it somebody were reading later it could be confusing. They might wonder why you weren’t responding to the stuff in the comment, for example.
    (I hope it’s clear that I felt a bit convicted about my blog and not your comments. The wording of my comment left this ambiguous.)


  6. Good concerns, Jeff. I had the same ones as I read thru Tribes, and I came to the conclusion that Seth’s comment was right on — not everyone is going to lead, but those who read the book may, and thus, it is an encouragement to those people to step out boldly and do what they’re called to do. Tribes (along with the Holy Spirit) has certainly sparked a new passion in me to lead… and to do boldly (maybe even heretically).


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