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.