Tribal Leadership

Shannon Waller

One of the most exciting concepts I’ve come across in a long while is articulated extremely well in the book Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright.

What absolutely inspired me about the book is that it describes what I’ve experienced in so many organizations but never had the words for—namely, an underlying feeling that everyone is out for themselves. They’re so focused on their own success and their own growth that getting teamwork—especially Unique Ability Teamwork—out of that environment is a real challenge.

In the “Tribal Leadership” model presented in the book, there are five levels of “tribes” people can fall into. At each level, there’s a different value system and language that represents their way of relating to the world, and each higher level outperforms the others. Here’s a quick synopsis:

  • Level One: Survival (prisons, gangs). Attitude: “Life’s terrible.” Mood: Despairing hostility.
  • Level Two: Alienated (apathetic victims). Attitude: “My life is terrible.” Mood: Apathetic victim.
  • Level Three: Status, ego (governments, corporations, universities). Attitude: “I’m great (and you’re not).” Mood: Lone Warrior
  • Level Four: Partnership (values-based organizations). Attitude: “We’re great (and they’re not).” Mood: Tribal pride.
  • Level Five: Responsibility (people involved in a history-making project). Attitude: “Life’s great.” Mood: Innocent wonderment.

I know from my experience coaching teams that it’s really frustrating to try to pull a team together from a bunch of Rugged Individualists who are very focused on their own progress and not on the overall success of the project and the group.

If you want to operate at the level of Unique Ability—doing what you do best, love most, and get the best results from—your communication skills and your awareness of how other people function need to improve dramatically.

And this is what’s great about the book: It’s not only incredibly insightful about how people work together, it also gives step-by-step suggestions about what language to listen for, what to say, and then how to put groups together.

I’ll just share one concept from the book, and that’s to do with the way people communicate: At Level Three, people just talk person to person, or in what Logan calls a “dyad.” In a dyad, you’re basically telling people what to do—one at a time—making sure they take instructions only from you and don’t speak to one another.

The shift to Level Four begins when you link in a third person to form a “triad.” This means putting people together based on shared values and alignment on a common goal. That cooperation lifts each person out of their own idea of what they think is great and connects them to the larger purpose of what the team thinks is great.

If you’re looking for a breakthrough in your productivity and profitability, go in the direction of Tribal Leadership. Get the book, and experiment with this method of expanding your communication into triads. Let me know how it works for you.

Previous Article
Would you pay someone $2,000 not to work for you?
Would you pay someone $2,000 not to work for you?

At Strategic Coach®, we get lots of compliments on the quality of our team. This is no accident: We’ve been...

Next Article
The Trouble With Titles
The Trouble With Titles

I have a problem with titles. There, I’ve said it. People aspire to have a big title, but I think most titl...