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Tribal Leadership

Every organisation, no matter where it is in the world, is really a set of small towns or tribes. Groups of 20-150 people that form naturally and that help their members survive and get things done.

Within each tribe it is the leader who sets the standards for performance: whether everyone aims for excellence, or does the minimum to get by. This book sets out five stages of tribal leadership we can measure our leaders and organisations against.

Stage one: people are despairingly hostile. They are likely to say ‘life sucks’.

Stage two: people are passively antagonistic and judgemental; they are likely to say ‘my life sucks’. You’ll notice them crossing their arms, saying that they’ve seen it all before and watched it fail.

Stage three: People at this stage are a collection of lone warriors who are motivated to win, out-work and out-think their peers. They are likely to say “I’m great and you’re not’. Knowledge is power that they hoard.

Stage four: People take pride in belonging to their tribe. They have a common purpose, shared core values and hold one another accountable. They say ‘we’re great and they’re not”. The competitor may be inside or outside their organisation.

Stage five: People are in competition with what is possible and with making a difference, or making a global impact. They say “life is great”. Tribes are likely to stay at this stage for short bursts of activity then return to stage four.

Moving up stages is about changing language, behaviours, relationships and mindsets for the majority of tribe members. This book gives ideas and examples, mostly from US companies, that tribal leaders can use to take their people with them.

It is a helpful tool for understanding our employees' mindsets, deciding if we are happy with where our organisation is, or want to move people to the next stage.

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