“Remember that Tribal Leadership is not about changing ideas or gaining knowledge; it is about changing language and relationships. It’s not about intellectualization; it’s about actions.” Dave Logan
According to Dave Logan, the author of Tribal Leadership, there are five stages of tribal culture that are indicated by the relationships between people and their behavior as reflected by the language they use.
His book is based on a 10-year research study with 24,000 people across 24 organizations worldwide. The research only looked at the factors that can be directly observed: language and behavior. It did not address cognitions, beliefs, attitudes or other intangible factors.
Logan defines a tribe as “a group of 20 to 150 people who know one another enough so that, if they saw another working down the street, would stop and say ‘hello.’” A tribe is defined by its culture.
Its culture is what makes a tribe more effective than others. Logan defines culture as a product of the language people use (since words create reality), and the behaviors that accompany the words we use to describe ourselves, our work and others.
The goal of Tribal Leadership is to learn how to get people “unstuck” from unhelpful language and behaviors, so the members of the tribe can transition into higher performance, less stressful and more fun states of being.
Here are the five stages:
At Stage 1, individuals are alienated. They believe that “All Life Sucks” and so they are despairingly hostile, undermining others to get ahead. 2% of organizations are stuck at this level.
At Stage 2, individuals are apathetic victims, believing that “My Life Sucks.” They are passively antagonistic, because they’ve seen it all before and watched it fail. They are quietly sarcastic and resigned, very judgmental but not interested enough to spark any passion. 28% of organizations are at this level.
At Stage 3, individuals are focused on personal domination, believing “I’m Great and You’re Not.” They act as lone warriors, hoarding knowledge because knowledge is power. They’re in it to win it, and winning is very personal. The mood is one of wanting help and support yet being continually disappointed that others don’t share their level of ambition or skill. 49% of organizations are at this level.
At Stage 4, there are stable relationships and a sense of tribal pride, believing “We’re Great.” Everyone seems happy, inspired and genuine. The culture emphasizes shared core values and interdependent strategies. There is always a foe and the bigger the foe, the more powerful the tribe. 22% of organizations are at this level.
At the penultimate Stage 5, the team has a sense of innocent wonderment, believing that “Life is Great.” The language revolves around infinite potential and how the group is going to make history- not by beating a competitor but instead because doing so will have a positive global impact. In other words, the group is in competition with what’s possible, not with another tribe. 2% of organizations are at this level.
Logan feels the evolution to each higher stage is not done through training seminars and change management techniques. Instead, it requires helping each person to change the words they use and the types of relationships they form. Change becomes internal and radiates outward as others observe the changed language and behaviors.
For a summary of the way to move people to Stages Four and Five and to lead that movement, see https://emergentbydesign.com/2012/06/28/a-step-by-step-guide-to-tribal-leadership-part-1-the-five-stages-of-tribal-culture/
So, what level is your tribe on?
May your learning be sweet.