Book Reviews, Leadership, Professional Development

Book Review: Tribes

This year, I have challenged myself to read more often – both professionally and for pleasure! I’ve really gotten out of the habit of reading over the last couple of years as life has become quite busy. Therefore, my goal for this year is two read a minimum of two books per month and one of these books must have a focus on growing professionally. I’m excited to share these books with you and hope you will find something to read that will help you grow professionally, too!


The Book

For the month of January, I read Tribes by Seth Godin. Here is a shortened version of the summary for the book:

A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea…Who is going to lead all these tribes? If you think leadership is for other people, think again—leaders come in surprising packages. Ignore an opportunity to lead and you risk turning into a “sheepwalker”—someone who fights to protect the status quo at all costs, never asking if obedience is doing you (or your organization) any good. Sheepwalkers don’t do very well these days. Tribes will make you think (really think) about the opportunities for leading your fellow employees, customers, investors, believers, hobbyists, readers…. It’s not easy, but it’s easier than you probably imagine.

The Audience

This book is aimed at people in and/or aspiring to be in a leadership position. It’s not aimed directly at education but it would probably tie into a variety of leadership roles, such as district leadership, site administrators, department chairs and academic coaches.

The Review

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

The first half of Tribes was very strong, however, the second half of the book felt a little repetitive. Tribes is not structured as a typical book. It almost feels as if it is a hundred short blog posts compiled into a book. This makes it a very easy read because it quickens the pace of the book to a new topic every page or two. It keeps readers engaged and leaves very little time for you to become bored on a specific topic. That being said, I also felt like it was a little too disjointed at times. It was often hard to follow the overall message of the book and didn’t give a lot of practical tools on how to put these leadership skills into practice.

That being said, I feel that the overall message of the book could be summed up to this:

It’s not the quantity of the people that you lead, it’s the quality in which you lead them. People follow those that are transparent, passionate and tenacious. They follow those that inspire and encourage them. Ultimately, true leaders create other leaders.

Each excerpt within the book discussed these ideas and shared real-life examples of leaders all over the world. It was interesting to read about some of the most successful companies and how they got to where they are today.

While Tribes felt like it did not have enough practical advice on how to put all these ideas into place, it certainly had enough stories to inspire readers to lead differently and to regularly consider the quality of their leadership.

The Best Quotes

“Generous and authentic leadership will always defeat the selfish efforts of someone doing it just because she can.”

“Leadership, on the other hand, is about creating change that you believe in… Leaders have followers. Managers have employees.”

“Leaders, on the other hand, don’t care very much for organizational structure or the official blessing of whatever factory they work for. They use passion and ideas to lead people, as opposed to using threats and beaucracy to manage them. Leaders must become aware of how the organization works, because this awareness allows them to change it.”

“So a leader can help increase the effectiveness of the tribe and its members by: 1.) transforming the shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change, 2.) providing tools to allow members to tighten their communications, and 3.) leveraging the tribe to allow it to grow and gain new members.”

“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 their sense of purpose.”

The Takeaway

My big takeaway from this book is that leadership isn’t about a title. You can have an important title and not be a leader. A leader is someone who inspires people to follow them, not because of their title, but because they have created an inspiring, passionate and transparent culture. A leader is someone who doesn’t care about the title or the attention. They care about the mission and vision of the organization.

Personally, Tribes inspires me to reflect on the leader that I currently am and the one that I want to be. I want to be a leader that inspires people to do what is best for our students. I want to be a leader that is passionate about what I do and how I can support students and teachers. However, I also want to be a leader that is transparent so that others feel comfortable to talk to me and come to me with their struggles. Finally, Tribes has inspired me to think about how you create a clear vision that others will be interested in following. I think this may be the trickiest part of this book, however, I am fortunate to work in a place where I am able to see this part of the book modeled on a daily basis.

Overall, Tribes is an enjoyable and quick read. You will definitely find the bulk of the inspiring messages at the beginning, while the second half of the book is somewhat repetitive. Although there are part of it that is repetitive, it’s still worth a read.

The Next Book

Currently, I am reading Disruptive Classroom Technologies: A Framework for Innovation in Education by Sonny Magana. Stay tuned for the next book review!


What book did you read this month? Share in the comments below!

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