Seth Godin on the tribes we lead

Marketer and author Seth Godin talked about leading tribes at the annual TED conference in February 2009. I found the video of that talk on the incredible and inspiring TED Web site. What follows in the blog post are my notes after studying his presentation. I take no credit for the ideas below. They came straight from Mr. Godin. I do hope this summary of his presentation inspires you to get up and go change the world!
As leaders, we try to change everything every day. We challenge the status quo. We try to make big, permanent, important change. We must connect with the community, not professionals, to create big change.

Three ways to spread ideas

  • Factory model
    • Based on Henry Ford’s efficient factories that enabled him to increase employee wages from 50 cents an hour to $5 an hour.
    • Builds on the idea that you could change the world with an efficient “factory” churning out change.
    • The problem is you need ever cheaper labor and ever faster machines and we’re running out of both.
  • Television model
    • If you have a big enough mouthpiece and can buy enough ads, you can create change.
    • Spend a lot of money to show your idea to a lot of people.
    • Mass marketing – using lots of advertising to push average ideas
  • Tribes model
    • Leading and connecting people and ideas
    • People form “tribes” around religion, around work, and around community.
    • The Internet provides a way for people with very specific interests, the people on the fringes, to connect with each other

“It turns out that it’s tribes—not money, not factories— that can change our world, that can change politics, that can align large numbers of people. Not because you force them to do something against their will, but because they wanted to connect. That what we do for a living now, all of us I think, is find something worth changing and then assemble tribes that assemble tribes that spread the idea and spread the idea and it becomes something far bigger than ourselves. It becomes a movement.”

The Internet enables people of a tribe who are scattered all over the globe to connect with each other. It is tribes, not money and power, that can change the world.
Find something worth changing and assemble tribes to spread the ideas until it becomes a movement. Find 1,000 people who care enough to find more people who care. Start small. Find your true believers.
Most movements, most leadership that we’re doing, is about finding a group that is disconnected but already has a yearning; not about persuading people to want something they don’t have yet.

Some who led movements:

  • The Beatles did not invent teenagers. They merely decided to lead them.
  • The creators of “The Meatrix” didn’t invent the idea of being a vegan, but helped organize people.
  • Hugo Chavez did not invent the disaffected middle and lower class of Venezuela, he merely elected to lead them.
  • Bob Marley did not invent rastafarians. He just stepped up and said “Follow me.”

What these leaders have in common is that they are heretics. They look at the status quo and say, “This will not stand.”
You don’t need everyone. You just need a few people who will look at the rules, realize they make no sense and realize how much they want to be connected. We must work to connect others so they can share their passions with each other. We have to share stories people who want to hear. We need to connect a tribe of people who are desperate to be connected to each other. We can lead a movement to make change happen.

Three questions for leaders

  • Who are you upsetting? If you’re not upsetting anyone you’re not changing the status quo.
  • Who are you connecting? For a lot of people, that’s what they’re in it for.
  • Who are you leading? Focus on the who. That’s where change comes from.

You don’t need permission from people to lead them. They’re waiting for someone to show them where to go next.

What do leaders have in common:

  • They challenge the status quo
  • They build a culture, a common language, a way to know whether you’re in or out.
  • They are curious. They ask questions. They want to know about the people in the tribe and outsiders.
  • They connect people to one another.
  • They commit to the cause. They commit to the tribe. They connect to the people who are there.

Here is a closing thought for those who don’t think they have what it takes to be a leader:

“All tribe leaders have charisma, but you don’t need charisma to become a leader. Being a leader gives you charisma.”