Tribal Leadership - A Review


Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups To Build A Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright; Harper Collins Business, 2008. 

Tribal Leadership is one of the more effective "how-to" books on tribalism in the workplace and marketplace that I have recently read.  Like Seth Godin's groundbreaking Tribes, Tribal Leadership casts a vision for leadership that reflects the new open-source, niche-oriented, localized and nimble business-model that is emerging from the Great Recession and into the 21st Century.  Unlike Tribes,  Tribal Leadership digs in to the nuts and bolts of what this looks like, based on data, countless interviews, and the insight of three authors, all of whom are experts in respective fields and all of whom are part of CultureSync. CultureSync is an innovative consulting firm that assists businesses and business leaders create vibrant strategies for the new marketplace.

Tribal Leadership asserts that there are 5 Tribal Stages that an organization can experience.  Those organizations that are extraordinarily dysfunctional, toxic and in danger of implosion are identified to be in Stage One.  This is the kind of organization with no employee loyalty, no hopefulness, widespread discontent and anger, and perhaps even the potential for violence or serious destruction.

Organizations that are marked by passivity, pessimism and individualism among the employees are said to be in Stage Two.  Stage Two organizations are most clearly recognized by businesses like the Department of Motor Vehicles in any given state, or the Transportation and Safety Association's employees that work for our nation's airports.  There is no concept of team, no concept of a noble goal for the organization and people see what they do as a job and nothing else.

Organizations that are more hierarchical, and competition driven are said to be at Stage Three.  These are organizations that are dominated by traditional leaders, who hoard knowledge and power, and who work to "best" others, and preserve the addictive "hit" they get from being successful.  These organizations are made up of  highly motivated, charismatic leaders and the people that it takes to support them.  This is the place where the majority of businesses and organizations live and breathe. 

Stage Four is where people begin to move beyond the "I'm great and you're not" mentality of Stage Three and into the "We're great," mentality that comes with embracing the tribe and the tribes noble goal.  In these organizations people sell out and sacrifice in order to advance the tribe.  In this stage, the leader feels pulled by the group.  Everyone seems happy and inspired.  Leaders are "chosen" by the tribe and essentially keep the vision in front of the tribe of a "foe" that needs to be vanquished.  Sometimes the foe is simply the way that they have always done things, a system or an actual competitor.

Stage Five is the place where only the rarest of businesses arrives.  Sometimes organizations will move into Stage Five for a moment and then slide back to Stage Four.  Stage Five groups will win Super Bowl rings and Olympic old medals.  The mood of the group is one of "innocent wonderment."  They have moved from thinking "We're great," to "Life is great."  This is an organization that has sold out for more than just a noble goal for the organization.  It is sold out for a noble goal that will contribute to betterment of humankind. 

Tribal Leadership is structured in such a way that it can be read by a group of leaders as a book discussion or visioning process.  There are plenty of practical steps on how to move your tribe from one stage to another, and how to recognize when this has happened.  Additionally, each chapter includes a "Key Points" section where you get to review what you just read.  This is also a helpful tool if you wish to return again to the book to brush up on your knowledge.  I got this book at a conference I attended recently at Northpoint Church in Atlanta.  Andy Stanley had his entire leadership team read this book, and they have put many of the pointers into practice as they are operating as a Stage Four organization that occasionally drifts into Stage Five.  So, I am convinced that church leaders and pastors have a great deal to learn from it. 

Click on the link to buy your own copy if you like.  I highly recommend it.

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