Tribal Leadership

I've just finished listening to a book called Tribal Leadership Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright. I listened to an abridged audio version of the book that you can get for FREE! here, compliments of

The authors define a tribe as a group of up to 150 people that share time and common interests.  You're in several. Those tribes, however, all fall into 5 stages, characterized by their prevailing attitudes.  The distribution of the stages is very much like a normal bell curve.

Stage 1

The first stage is the equivalent of a gang, where the members believe that all life is unfair.  The comment that defines this group is "All life sucks."

Stage 2

Stage 2 is defined by the futility and hopelessness of bureaucracy where members and victims who believe that "my life sucks," but that other people, luck, a higher power, or winning the lottery could make it better.  They believe their life is what it is through no fault of their own.  They are just victims of circumstances.

Stage 3


The third and largest group consists of people who are fighting, scratching, and clawing to get ahead.  It's them against everyone else and they're phrase is "I'm good " or "my life is good."

Stage 4

In this stage we start to see a different kind of tribe. They begin to associate their personal success directly with the success of the tribe.  Shared goals and the success of the group become the central purpose of their individual effort.  They're identified by the sentiment that "we're good" or "our life is good."

Stage 5

Finally, in the rare air of Stage 5, the tribe becomes all about the cause.  This tribe is so focused on the cause, that they believe "life is good."

One of my favorite ideas from the book regards the break between Stage 3 and Stage 4.  An important distinction occurs as tribes cross that divide.  We create different types of relationships. I made a reference to this in Open Source Leadership.  At Stage 4, we begin to create what the authors call Triad Relationships. Rather than a group of relationships that look like hub-and-spoke diagrams, our relationships begin to look more like a triangles or points on a grid. In a typical hub-and-spoke relationship, people remain connected through others.  In effect, if I introduce two of my friends, but they never establish any relationship of their own, that's a hub and spoke relationship. However, when I connect two friends in a triad relationship, they establish a relationship that no longer requires me to be involved.  Those individuals take the relationship beyond the point of interaction with me. These triad relationships form in the context of a cause: something greater than the individuals.  Stages 1-3 have no higher cause than the individuals involved.

When we're living for something bigger than just ourselves, our relationships take on a new dimension. We live on purpose. The cause becomes the focus and relationships create energy rather than draining it.

Are you living on purpose?

You can see some hints in the types of relationships you're creating. As you invest your life in a purpose bigger than yourself (or other individuals) you'll begin to form triads and you can celebrate the success of your friends and coworkers.  People you connect may have a huge impact on the world.

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