Tribal Leadership (Part 1)

June 21, 2013

Tribal Leadership:  Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by David Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright.

Energy Leadership (which I use in teaching and coaching) and Tribal Leadership have much in common. Their levels/stages follow similar trajectories, and both books help leaders understand and improve their organization’s culture.

Tribal Leadership describes Stage One as “Life Sucks.” It is not that “my life sucks” (that is actually Stage Two), but rather all life sucks. Life has no purpose. At Stage One, there is no connection between the person and the group or team with whom they work. Life is unfair, so just about any behavior is permissible.

Level One in the Energy Leadership Index can be described as “I Lose” energy–pure negative (catabolic) energy that serves little or no purpose to the individual or organization’s success. At Level One, our Think-Feel-Act model is Victim-Apathy-Lethargy. People feel like victims, so when a coworker interrupts them, they “think” the interrupter is a jerk, they “feel” the anger begin to well up, and they “act” in a hostile and retaliatory way. With Level One energy flying around, leaders feel like they’re constantly in crisis-management mode.

Within both frameworks (Tribal Leadership and Energy Leadership), be aware of the language and actions that either put you in that state or keep you in that state. Change can only occur when you fully realize how your language impacts your actions–and it is difficult for you to actually hear your own (or your team’s) language. Think of it like this: people from Boston or New Orleans don’t believe that they talk with an accent. They believe that YOU talk with an accent.

Your team has an accent, whether you realize it or not. If your team uses a lot of victim or unfairness language and hostile actions/reactions, you are likely in Stage/Level One.

The good news, according to the authors of Tribal Leadership, is that only about 2% of teams operate in Stage One. Yet Stage One/Level One language exists and people can/will descend into these lower stages especially when they are pushed into self-protection mode.

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