Leadership at Work: 5 Pointers from Professor Godin

Close your eyes. Now picture a friendly, calming, avuncular drill sergeant. With natty eye glasses. Not much hair. Loves to tell stories.

A gent, not so much lecturing as confiding in you, from his book-lined study, which may have brightly colored figurines on the jumbly shelves.

Know who I’m talking about?

Seth Godin

Seth Godin, of course, best-selling marketing guru, the 21st century’s answer to Socrates. Seth is obsessed, in the best possible way, with Leadership. He is a connoisseur of principles and best practices on the subject, and he wants to share them with you. So you can use them. Starting now.

Any one of us can join Seth’s tribe simply by subscribing to his blog, or reading one of his books, cuing him via YouTube or Facebook. If you’re really committed, you can apply for his altMBA program. Which I did, when he first offered it, last summer.

I’m hooked. I receive Seth’s blog every morning via email’at 6:17am EST. Sometimes I share it. More often I swallow it like a vitamin and use it as an intention, a welcome foothold during a busy day.

You’ll soon be speaking in Godinese: peppering your presentations with concepts like lizard brain; throwing your writer’s block under the bus where it belongs; whittling your vague impassioned impulses about changing the world into actionable plans that have a shot; and referring to classic Sethisms, e.g., A manifesto for small teams doing important work.

I believe Seth’s wish is to create as many leaders as he possibly can, and for a noble reason: to make the world a better place. Despite the reptilian inclination to poke successful people until we find their self-serving flaw, I honestly don’t think Seth does it for the money or the celebrity. He does it because he is very good at it. He is absolutely superb at teaching people to Lead.

You will not be shocked that Trust is one of Seth’s ever-burgeoning principles for Leadership. It’s pretty amazing to me that he can build solid trust with so many people who honestly don’t even know how tall he is.

1. Earn Trust.

The most important question: Do they trust me enough to believe my promises? Without that, you have nothing’. Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest. (From The Most Important Question)

2. Aim High, aim low, but Aim. Stop looking for unanimous approval. Decide who you need to reach, and focus on them. Don’t worry about everyone.

3. Keep your promises. Accountability is key. Otherwise how can people follow you? If you say you’re going to be there at 10, be there at 10. If you guarantee a post every morning, ship it.

4. Don’t forget Rule 6. Ooooh, how I love Rule 6. Rule 6 is, do not take yourself so damn seriously. Take your goals, your people, your promises seriously. But do not forget to have a sense of humor, or you might turn into an shrill blood-curdler who nobody can stand, much less follow.


Please close your eyes again, and think of a leader who inspires you.

Tell why. What do they say? How do they think? What do they do, and how do they do it?

Here’s one: Christiana Figueras. In a TED talk this week, she recalls the moment when she decided to lead:

Impossible is not a fact, it’s an attitude. I decided, right then and there, that I was going to change my attitude, and I was going to help the world change its attitude on climate change.

Figueras’s term ends on July 6th. One thing I know for sure: she won’t let her tribe down: we will all be fascinated to learn what’s next.

Now it’s your turn.

Who inspires you? And how do they do it?