Tribal Leadership


TEDTalks – David Logan on Tribal Leadership

Tribal Leadership is one of my favorite books.

I first read it several years ago and came to the realization that I was paralyzing the organization I worked for instead of empowering it. In the book they discuss the Five Stages of tribal culture; it was a really tough pill to swallow when I read about Stage 3 and realized that it was me:

In Stage 3, the dominant culture in half of U.S. workplace tribes, the theme is “I’m great” or, more fully, “I’m great, and you’re not.” In this culture, knowledge is power, and so people hoard it, from client contacts to gossip. People at this stage have to win, and winning is personal. They’ll out-work, think, and maneuver their competitors. The mood that results is a collection of “lone warriors,” wanting help and support and being disappointed that others don’t have their ambition or skill. What holds people at Stage 3 is the “hit” they get from winning, besting others, being the smartest and most successful. Tribal leaders intervene in Stage 3 by identifying people’s individual values and then seeing which cut across the tribe. (Excerpt from Tribal Leadership)

When the book goes into examples about Stage 4 and Stage 5 organizations (like Zappos), I realized I wanted to be a part of that and took action to do so. First, I owned the ugliness of my behavior and accepted that all of my complaints were my own fault. Then, I worked to shift my world paradigm from external to internal control. It took (and still does take) concerted effort on my part, but I consistently focus on how my actions are cause in the matter of every situation in my life. When I started viewing the world differently, I began acting differently as a result. When I took a day off work, I wouldn’t check my email. No one ran the company into the ground. People figured things out on their own and were happier as a result. I only changed my own behavior, but began to see others as more capable, competent and motivated. Eventually, I began to have an impact on the organization and others that was empowering. The sense of fulfillment I received from those interactions far outweighed anything I’d ever accomplished on my own.


6 thoughts on “Tribal Leadership

  1. Hi Kiersten,

    Great blog! I love that you choose to blog about leadership, I think are professional goals are very similar. I want to work in the leadership development and assessment team at J&J. I may have to go read the book Tribal Leadership, that is when I have time :).

    Thanks for sharing your career goals!


  2. Thanks, Abby! It really is a great book – it had a PROFOUND impact on the way that I work with other people and drastically enhanced my ability to lead others. I have mentioned this other book that I love – The Three Laws of Performance – in class quite a few times, and I didn’t even realize until I was halfway through the book that David Logan co-authored that book as well! The stories in both books really inspired me to start this grad school program because they show how you can have this significant emotional impact on people and their lives when you empower them in the workplace.

  3. One of the many benefits from college is the ability to find new points of view and theories. I have not heard of this book and look forward to reading this. It sound exciting and challenging for it must be hard to relearn what you have been conditioned to respond too. Thanks for the new perspective.

    • Thanks, Curtis! It really is a great book that I would encourage everyone to read. I had a visceral reaction to that excerpt I posted above….it was the first time that I really “got” that I was the one responsible for what I had for so long felt was “happening” to me. It’s crazy how, as humans, it is so easy to lie to ourselves and complain about things that we really have no business complaining about! Again, it still takes a lot of conscious effort to maintain that outlook (something I am not always great with – especially when trying to manage work and school), but it is really empowering to know that I have the opportunity to create my own present and my own future from moment to moment.

  4. Kiersten, from the sound of it, I think you’re well on your way to being the executive leader you’re aiming to be. I love leadership topics (I’m particularly interested in exploring transformational and servant leadership more), and one of the things I notice I respect most about leaders is their authenticity and transparency. In that, I found your blog refreshing and exciting… it challenges me to consider which tribe I’m living in, as well! Great blog!

    • Thanks, Damola! I was moved by your comments and inspired to create a new post on “being authentic”. I did not expect to get this kind of reaction from my classmates and I truly value your feedback….it has motivated to continue this blog beyond the classroom! I hope you will share your own experiences and continue to be a part of this as well!

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