You know how sometimes you read a book and it changes your entire perspective on the world? I want to introduce you to the author of a book on my personal list of those books. The book is Tribal Leadership and the author is Dave Logan.
Dave and my husband, Abraham Mertens, became friends over the course of one very long day, much of it spent in the car, a few years ago. My husband came home that day with an inscribed copy of Tribal Leadership. We both read it and use Dave’s insights regularly, in daily conversation, years later.
The book lays out a framework for understanding and transforming group culture that suddenly made many experiences I had struggled with, especially in my work life, as both an employee and a CEO, totally understandable. With huge apologies to Dave for any concepts I mangle in attempting to summarize them, I am going to present the “Tribal” paradigm as briefly as possible here because this is such an important idea, I want everyone to know about it.
First of all, he spent more than a decade analyzing how groups of people rally around and perform based on shared—conscious or unconscious—core beliefs about themselves and their situation. These beliefs were measured by Dave’s research team based on the language the subjects used to describe their situation.
Dave studied large companies, primarily, but you will immediately see parallels in social groups, religious groups, neighborhoods, families, writing groups, faculties, rock bands, and political parties. Here are the five stages—they are called stages rather than “types” because you’re not stuck forever wherever you or your team is now.
Stage 1: “Life sucks.” People in this group think life, and therefore work, is miserable and hopeless. They are destructive and self-destructive. They quit or get fired. Everyone is a victim in this worldview; no one wins. They believe there is no way out.
Stage 2: “My life sucks.” These people see themselves as victims and they hate people whom they perceive have it better than they do. I would venture to say these are often the saboteurs and whiners. They don’t take responsibility for their behavior. They should quit or get fired, but if the dominant tribal culture is stage 2, they won’t.
Important Note: Keep in mind—these stages are not meant to describe individual people, as in “he is sooo stage 2,” but to describe beliefs that groups use to bond over, and these beliefs drive their actions and results as a team. Plus, many people can change. You might have been stage 2 at one job at one point in your career, and now are stage 4 on a very different team at a very different stage of life.
Stage 3: “I’m great.” Think about a star salesperson who thinks other departments are holding them back and who competes with the other salespeople. Stage 3 players have some allies whom they have deemed also great, yet they tend to have self-centered conversations and to horde assets or contacts. They are self-directed and do perform well, as individuals.
Stage 4: “We’re great.” At this stage, people value their team and know they can achieve more with others than without them. They show respect for others, trust others, and are happy to share knowledge and assets. They mentor others and tend to make helpful introductions (which Dave calls “triads”). They are high-performing as a group and are ready to beat all the other teams. This is like a high-performing football team that’s going to win the Superbowl.
Stage 5: “Life is great.” This is the stage that Dave and his team did not anticipate existed. They came across companies that did not see other companies as competitors but instead saw a larger picture, such as a biotech company that saw “cancer” or “premature death” as their competitors, not other biotech companies. These organizations believe there is unlimited potential for everyone, and that their work will raise all boats. No one can threaten what they’re doing. They are self-directed with enlightened self-interest. They are the happiest and best-performing teams and individuals.
Tribal Leadership teaches how to ease a tribe slowly up, one stage at a time, from where they are, since so few are at stage 4 or stage 5.
Dave also found that the leader of the tribe was not as powerful as “cult of CEO” thinking might have you believe. Sometimes a great “stage 5 CEO” comes in and can’t turn a company around because you have stage 2 or stage 3 teams the CEO isn’t able to connect with. Without the ability to define the disconnect and know what methods work to bridge the gap, one stage at a time, the disconnect will remain.
The funniest thing in the book is that most teams that think they are stage 4 are actually stage 2. The best thing about the book is that you suddenly see something crucial, something that was there all the time that you didn’t have the ability to see, until Dave and his—I am assuming—stage 5 team found it and named it.
Tomorrow, Dave and I are presenting an exciting workshop on the best way to write a book, combining his expertise and mine. It’s called “Bestseller Bootcamp: Write Your Book in 100 Hours.” The workshop is in conference-call format, so you can call in from anywhere in the world. Join us Tuesday, May 8, Wednesday, May 9, and Thursday, May 10, 2012, from 5:00PM – 6:30PM PDT (-7:00 GMT/BST).