Book Review: Tribal Leadership

Published on June 1, 2015

When I was kid, I thought if I were to be a boss one day, I would call it a “tribe”, instead of a “company”.

Hence when I first saw this book, I was allured to it, thinking it will describe the concepts of how a tribe works together as an effective organization.

But nope. This book is more about identifying the 5 stages that a company could be in, and how a leader could progress to the next stage.

Some disappointment. Nonetheless it is still a good book on organization and culture.

What is a tribe?

A tribe is a group of 20-150 people, who know one another enough to say “hello” on the street.

A small company is a tribe, and a large company is a tribe of tribes.

The Five Tribal Stages

The aforementioned “theme” is also the kind of language used by the people in the tribe. The language used is a good indicator of which stage a tribe is in.

Stage 3 is the most common stage for most companies, whereby personnels believe “I am great, but you are not”. They are competent individually, yet they don’t work as a real team, yet.

Tribal Leadership

A tribal leader focuses on language and behaviour within a culture.

Leader do 2 things:

  1. Listen for which cultures exist (there could be multiple stages)
  2. Upgrade to next stage using specific leverage points

Upgrade from Stage 1 to 2

  • Cut ties with people who share the “life sucks” language
  • Notice that others life is pretty good, and it’s possible that his may improve

Upgrade from Stage 2 to 3

  • Have a mentor who is in stage 3
  • Form dyadic (two-person) relationships
  • Find areas where he is competent
  • Assign projects that he can do well in a short time

Upgrade from Stage 3 to 4

  • Form triads (three-person) relationships
  • Introduce his contacts to one another by
  • Shared core values
  • Overlapping self-interest
  • Specific opportunity where each can contribute to the work of the other
  • Work on projects that are bigger than anything he can do alone
  • Understand next level of success is going to require a totally different style (as a team, not as an individual)

Upgrade from Stage 4 to 5

  • Stage 5 is about “global”, not just your tribe
  • It is based on resonant values - core values that everyone globally shared