Start-Up Tip: Leadership Is Not Management


In the book Tribes by Seth Godin, Godin suggests that anyone, anywhere can be a leader. The one thing holding most people back is the fear of failure.

Tribes is about making a choice – to lead or not to lead a group of people.

Using real world examples, Godin tells stories about how famous and not so famous people made the choice to lead and the amazing things they’ve accomplished. Their accomplishments aren’t amazing because they were grand or because major media publications wrote about them. They’re amazing because many of them seemed impossible or difficult.

One of the many lessons in the book is about management and leadership. Godin explains the difference:

Management is about manipulating resources to get a known job done … Managers manage a process they’ve seen before, and they react to the outside world, striving to make that process as fast and as cheap as possible. Leadership, on the other hand, is about creating a change that you believe in.

My thesaurus says the best synonym for leadership is management. Maybe that word used to fit, but no longer. Movements have leaders and movements make things happen.

Leaders have followers. Mananagers have employees.

Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.

Godin writes that it takes only two things to turn any group into a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.

So a leader can help increase the effectiveness of the tribe and its members by

  • transforming the shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change;
  • providing tools to allow members to tighten their communication; and
  • leveraging the tribe to allow it to grow and gain new members.

Most leaders focus only on the third tactic. A bigger tribe somehow equals a better tribe. In fact, the first two tactics almost always lead to more impact.

Tribes is an important book and I highly recommend you read it – especially if you see yourself only as a follower. If you want to learn how to lead tribes, I highly recommend you read my review of Tribal Leadership – and then read Tribal Leadership (or just skip my review and read the book).

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