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Tribal Leadership

In “Tribal Leadership” (the audio version of the book is downloadable for free here), the authors summarize the results of their ten-year, 24,000 person research. Their tag line is: “Birds flock, fish school, and people tribe“. As a result of their experience, they’ve categorized organizational cultures into five “staged” types based on the general attitude of tribe participants.

The figure below and its accompanying annotations show my understanding of the TL authors’ message.

Notice that as one moves up the scale, the focus shifts from “me” to “we” and “all“. That’s why the authors assert that an epiphany is required to make the leap from stage 3 to stage 4. Successful people who are tired and frustrated at playing the dog-eat-dog game against other individuals at stage 3 shed their “it’s all about me” mindset and transform into sharers and effective catalysts for group advancement. Books and articles of techniques and tips for getting ahead, a multi-billion dollar industry targeted at the Donald Trump wannabes of the world, instantaneously become useless and irrelevant to stage 4 leaders. Those books and articles that concentrate on platitudes, community, and inspiration, formerly considered to be useless new age drivel, take on new meaning and serve as guidance for stage 4 leaders.

Reflecting on my behaviors and modus operandi over the years, I’m seemingly stuck in the isolationist world of stage 3 and impatiently waiting for the epiphany. How about you? Where are you, and are you at peace with your position?

  1. woodfish
    September 22, 2010 at 12:23 pm

  2. September 22, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    🙂 That CGH looks like a member of the…………


    Do you think those cones are painted and sculpted blocks of impenetrable granite? Probably not, because if they were, the coneheads would fall over and they wouldn’t be able to get up.

  3. PhilN
    September 22, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    I think life teaches us humility over time if we listen. With humility comes empathy and respect for others capabilities. I think I have had the “epiphany” a couple times in my life where I really REALLY respected the people I was working with and was super happy and felt honored to work with them. But alas, layer four has been “fleeting” for me. I just know I want to get back there! People can lift each other up if they work at it. It may be as simple as circumstances and chemistry between the people.

    • September 23, 2010 at 5:38 am

      I think you hit the nail on the head with “humility”, “listening”, and “empathy”. All of these terms are externally connective with other people as opposed to “arrogance”, “one-way talking” and “apathy”.

  4. fishlostopher
    September 23, 2010 at 7:54 am

    But based on your group distribution, there should be at least 25% of those orgs that fall into the Tier 5 and Tier 4 categories, so there is SOME hope.

    What we really need is a detection system that finds those org’s and gives you a job there. Sort of a “Metal Detector” for good ‘tribes’ to hang out in.

    Oh yeah, that’s what this Blog is for…

    • September 23, 2010 at 12:43 pm

      Yes, there’s always hope. If you believe the TL writers, it’s real easy to regress from stage 4 to stage 3, and even easier to regress from stage 5 to stage 4. From my own “unscholarly research” here are my stage 3.5 -> 4 companies at the moment:

      fave companies

      Note that two of them aren’t American. I’m sure there are many other smaller, and thus, unknown stage 4 companies out there. Like you said, the trick is finding them to learn how the hell they do it and, more importantly, sustain it.

  5. fishlostopher
    September 23, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    now what you need to do is figure out the sweetspot withing your little cluster and develop a product/service that somehow touches and is touched by each of these orgs.

    it would be the ultimate pet rock.

    • September 24, 2010 at 8:26 am

      Interesting seed of an idea. Maybe a service to genuine altruistic job seekers who want a list of “hidden” level four companies to which they can send their resumes to. I don’t mention level five orgs cuz, according to the TL authors, it is such a fleeting state that by the time someone discovers a level 5, it has snapped back down into level four. L5 orgs are like sub-atomic quarks and bosons who live for only fractions of a picosecond.

      Of course, my list of level fours was generated on anecdotal data and it’s totally subjective. I don’t think they are, but they could be imposters with highly clever Karl Rove-like spinsters behind the ruse. Plus, even if they are currently at level four, they too can snap back into level 3 with a change in leadership or sabotage by lower layers in their orgs.

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