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on July 2, 2012
I read a lot of business books and a lot of books on leadership - most of them have at least a few good ideas in them, but this is the first leadership book I've read that's driven me to look at organizations and the art of leadership in a completely different way. Another reviewer mentioned that it was liking having someone giving you glasses and suddenly being able to see in a completely different way - I felt that way as well. Even better, this isn't a book that just shares some opinions or ideas, with over 10 years of research across 24,000 people it's pretty clear the authors did a lot of hard research to figure out Tribal Leadership.

What is Tribal Leadership - in a nutshell it's a completely new framework for how to look at leadership and creating high performing organizations. It's not about strategy and it's all about the culture and the evolution of the organization. It turns out there are 5 distinct stages of organizational culture that all build on one another.

Stage 1 - Life Sucks...equivalent of a street gang mentality, not really a factor in most professional settings
Stage 2 - My Life Sucks...Dilbert, the employees at Dunder Mifflin (The Office) or the employees at Initech Software (Office Space) are great, if a little over done examples of Stage 2 cultures.
Stage 3 - I'm Great! (and you're not) - the lone warrior who is very competent and effective by themselves, but doesn't share well with others. Office politics, bad management practices and Stage 2 Cultures all come from Stage 3 managers.

Stage 4 - We're Great - the language changes from I, Me to We and Us. It's all about the success of the team vs. individual accomplishments. The only way to really get to Stage 4 is to really 'own' stage 3. Stage 4 organizations will significantly out perform Stage 3 and lower organizations in terms of financial results and ability to get things done.

Stage 5 - Life is Great...this stage occurs sporadically when Stage 4 organizations rise to a significant challenge and do something borderline miraculous (Think the 1980 Miracle on Ice US Hockey victory).

In order to get an organization to Stage 4, the majority of people within an organization need to be at Stage 4...they need to have reached an epiphany in Stage 3 that doing everything yourself isn't productive in the long run - you've got to have a team that you can count on if you really want to make things happen.

A couple of key ideas that are critical for Stage 4 include:
Triadic relationships - basically the idea that a group of 3 people can form a very effective and stable relationship when they all 3 share the burden of making the relationship successful.
Core Values - In order to reach a stage 4 culture, a group must have clearly stated alignment on core values...the types of values that make getting up in the morning important!
Noble Cause - Finally, Stage 4 cultures revolve around ideas that are bigger than any 1 person...you must have a Noble Cause that everyone understands and gets behind.

It's tough to summarize these really big ideas - but hopefully that gives you a taste. The book has a lot of interesting stories and examples and the authors do a nice job of stepping you through the ideas in a logical flow that makes a lot of sense. If you're looking for a set of ideas that will really shake up how you think and how you create a team that will do more...a lot more than you need to check out Tribal Leadership!
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on June 24, 2017
This book is remarkable. It describes the journey a team takes through the five stages toward becoming a real tribe in an easily recognizable, repeatable and practical way. Thank you, John King and Dave Logan for writing this masterpiece. It is thoroughly enjoyable to read and a soothing treat for both the leadership mind and soul. Highly recommended for anyone looking to create a breakthrough with a team or an organization as well as for someone looking to become an even better leader.
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on December 25, 2017
The authors present a believable theory that our choice of language affects organizational performance. But after 280 pages of anecdote and hand-waving, we're left thinking that "Tribal Leadership" is _at best_ necessary but not sufficient. At worst it's irrelevant.

Another reviewer commented on the authors' inappropriate use of George Washington as an example of tribal leadership. Here I provide a nitpick but I think it will illustrate the larger point about the quality of this work:

The authors said Washington led America by "getting [his officers] to talk about... valuing freedom, hating the king's latest tax, or wanting to win the fight." If you've read any history, for instance David McCullough's "1776" or Gordon S. Wood's "Revolutionary Characters," you will find this description of Washington as a highly verbal, touchy-feely leader unrecognizable. They go on to say, "As [Washington] built the common cause, a mission gelled and they embraced 'we're great' language." In fact, nothing could be further from the reality of conversation in near-hopeless 1776 than "we're great." The authors mention Washington twice more, both times indicating a lack of having done their homework.

Throughout the book, the authors give many more examples, all presumably subject to similar lack of critical thinking. Since I haven't met or read biographies of the contemporary CEO's they're describing, it's impossible for me to know if there might be evidence contrary to their theory. They don't provide it. They do make much about their experience, and anecdotes, and 24,200 datapoints (sounds legit!).

They write, "If you want to see the academic side of our research, start with 'Appendix B.' " Therein I found no data about performance. Worse, I read the following astonishing admonition: "A company with a great culture and low strategic performance will, over time, find that its culture erodes." In other words, if you're a hopeless tech startup with a 'we're great' language, your choice of words will decline to lower levels and your organization will still fail. This was an exceedingly important point to explore, but they glossed over it like authors working to a deadline, or careless scholars, or both.

What we're left with is a way to *categorize* organizations by language. If their five-point scale has any power to predict individual or corporate performance, the authors don't share this fact with us. They make reference to "30% productivity improvement" and "history-making projects," but again these are presented as anecdotes without the strength of correlation, let alone the power of causation.

It's too bad, because I wanted to love this book and the classification system. Instead I'm left hoping I didn't fill my head with half-truths. If you're interested in practical conversation you'd be much better served with Roger Fisher, or for serious theory something by Deborah Tannen.
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on February 11, 2016
This book is unique in the genre of business and management as it looks to describe how teams think and communicate. The nomenclature is similar to Collin’s “Level-5 Leader”, Maxwell’s “5 Levels of Leadership” and Clinton’s “The Making of a Leader”. However, Tribal Leadership focuses on language and relationships within teams. “Tribal Leadership is not about changing Ideas or gaining knowledge; it is about changing language and relationships.” (P.37)
Logan, et al. develops their ideas by walking us through the five levels of teams and leadership and the common language that is found in each tribe (team). Furthermore, after thoroughly explaining each of the five levels of tribes and the team’s mantras we are taught how to move our teams from a “life sucks” worldview to a “life is great” perspective.
The description of level 3 teams and tribal leaders at level 3 harmonizes with what we see in the majority of our government, corporations, and churches. The essence of level 3 tribal leaders are, “I am great, and you are not.” (P.77) Furthermore, in this stage leaders are often driven by their own ego and are crippled by their own insecurities. The real tragedy of these underdeveloped tribes is that they will not tap into the collective gifting and resources that healthy tribes will achieve as a result of teamwork and partnership.
This book will create a hunger to grow beyond a stage 3 leader and transform your tribe to aspire to higher levels of teamwork, relationships, and tribes that realize “life is great!” I gave this book 4-STARS because it is too wordy and the authors could have communicated the same message just as effectively in 200 pages in lieu of the 300 pages that were used.
I also recommend the TEDTalk by Dave Logan - [...]
-Edwin
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on November 29, 2017
The great book on managing team dynamics, with many great practical collaboration and coaching tips.
The book is dealing with “Tribes,” defined as a group between 20 and 150 people, passing simple test—whether you saw someone of one of your tribes walking down the street, you'd stop and say “Hello!”. Authors classify tribes into five stages, which are summarized by mottos:
1: “Life sucks”
2: “My life sucks”
3: “I am great[, and you are not]”
4: “We are great[, and they are not]”
5: “Life is great”
The main focus of authors is transition from late Dilbertian stage 2 to Crowd of competitive professional of stage 3, and especially next step to Collaborative teams of stage 4. Interestingly, the diagnostics is based not on what people believe or personal psychological characteristics. Contrary, they use language talked (“I” at stage 3, “we” at stage 4) and relationships patterns (dyads at stage 3 and triads at stage 4). Each chapter provides hints and tips for each stage, including transitions from one stage to another, stabilizing tribes at this stage, and living in this stage.
Overall, I find the book insightful, very nuanced, and at the same time very practical.
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on January 25, 2015
This book reminds me of Jim Collins book Good to Great in that both are presenting findings from lengthy research studies. While Collins book talked more about their underlying methodology, Tribal Leadership shows five cultural levels and describes the transition from one to the next. Briefly, the five statges are:

1. Life sucks
2. My life sucks
3. I'm great
4. We're great
5. Life is great

As tribes (groups of 20 to 150 people) improve culturally through the five levels, vallues change and a noble cause for the organization is found. The discussion about how tribes can get stuck in the interaction between stages 2 and 3 was interesting and explains why there are so few organizations at the hiher levels.

The big aha moment for me in this book was the discussion of developing three person relationships (triads) and how this can be vastly more effective for an organization than the 1:1 relationships found at lower levels.

My recommendation: read this book, share it with others, and tell them I said so.
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on December 4, 2011
To begin the authors define a tribe as "a group between 20 and 150 people. Here's the test for whether someone is in one of your tribes: if you saw her walking down the street, you'd stop and say "hello"". The continue: "Tribes in company get work done - sometimes a lot of work - but they don't form because of work. Tribes are the basic building block of any large human effort, including earning a living. As such their influence is greater than that of teams, entire companies, and even superstar CEOs. In companies, tribes decide whether the new leader is going to flourish or get taken out. They determine how much work gets done, and of what quality." The key question is then what makes the difference between tribes that excel and others that do not? The authors argue it is the presence of Tribal Leaders. The continue by defining what tribal leaders do: "Tribal Leaders focus their efforts on building the tribe - or more precisely, upgrading the tribal culture...Divisions and companies run by Tribal Leaders set the standard of performance in their industries, from productivity and profitability to employee retention. They are talent magnets, with people so eager to work for the leader that they will take a pay cut if necessary...Their efforts seem effortless, leaving may people puzzled by how they do it. Many Tribal Leaders, if asked can't articulate what they are doing that's different, but after reading this book, you will be able to explain and duplicate their success."

The book's main focus after having defined the tribe and Tribal Leadership is to "give you perspective and tools of a Tribal Leader: someone who can unstick the conveyor belt - and make it run faster for whole groups of people, no matter which stage they're in. The result is more effective workplaces, greater strategic success, less stress, and more fun." This conveyor belt is an analogy for what the authors define as the tribal stages 1 through 5. Each stage is characterized by certain language and behavior.

Stage 1: "The person at Stage One is alienated from others, expressing the view that "life sucks."

Stage 2: "Stage Two people are surrounded by people who seem to have some power they lack. As a results, their language expresses "my life sucks."

Stage 3: "The person at Stage Three is connected to others in a series of dyadic (two-person) relationships. the language of this stage expresses "I'm great," and in the background - unstated - is "and you're not."

Stage 4: "The person forms structures called triads, in which they build values-based relationships between others. At the same time, the words of Stage Four people are centered on "we're great" and, in the background, "and they're not." The "they" is another tribe - in the same company or in another.

Stage 5: "A person at Stage Five expresses "life is great." Five shares the same characteristics of Four, except that there is no "they." As a result, these people form ever-growing networks with anyone whose values resonate with their own. The only Stage Five cultures we have observed (in corporate settings) exists as long as a history-making project lasts or as long as the tribe is so far ahead of its competitors that they are irrelevant."

Simply put the role of Tribal Leaders is "do two things: (1) listen for which cultures exist in their tribes and (2) upgrade those tribes using specific leverage points."

A very interesting, educative and fun read. It helps one look at companies through a new viewpoint with a specific focus on the culture and relationships/dynamics within it. It is filled with practical real-life examples and applications and backed by substantial empirical research. Highly recommended!

Below are excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- "People at Stage Three approach leadership as though it were a set of tasks they could check off their to-do list (e.g., "set the vision," "get alignment," and "listen with intention"). The moment leadership becomes cookie-cutter, it isn't leadership at all - it's management. By making the person aware that he's behaving in a Stage Three fashion toward leadership, you might help him see that he isn't a leader at all. This realization may propel him into the set of epiphanies of the next chapter."

2- "...The two most important aspects of owning Stage Four: identifying and leveraging core values, and aligning on a noble cause. Everything else the tribe does should be sandwiched between these constructs. Projects, activities, initiatives, processes - unless they are fueled by values and reach toward the tribal vision - should either be rethought until they are consistent with these guiding principles, or pruned. By definition, core values and a noble cause can never be "checked off," in the same way that companies complete an upgrade to computer technology."

3- "...Values must be core, and that means universal...Second, the unity resulting from core cause and a noble cause must be alignment, not agreement...Alignment, to us, means bringing pieces into the same line - the same direction."

4- "The Tribal Leadership Strategy Map: Start with core values and noble cause in the center, then move to outcomes and go counterclockwise around the model (assets and behaviors). Test Questions: Assets sufficient for the Outcomes? Enough assets for behaviors? Will behaviors accomplish outcomes?"

5- "An outcome, by contrast (to a goal), is a present state of success that morphs into an even bigger victory over time."

6- "A stage five tribe can work with any group that has a commitment to values that are core and that apply to everyone, even if those values are different from its own."

7- "While Tribal Leaders do their work for the good of the group, not for themselves, they are rewarded with loyalty, hard work, innovation, and collaboration. The tribe gets work of higher quality done in less time. The person is often seen as a candidate for op organizational jobs or for positions in government."
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on December 21, 2016
This book has inspired me on how to dig deeper to leave the "I am great," to look at the organization I am a part of and see how "we are great." I have always wanted to make a difference and have my life impact the world. This book has helped me understand how to do just that and has made me one step closer to accomplishing that goal.
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on February 24, 2018
The books offers clear definitions for various stages and types of cultures and behavioral patterns that exists in companies or any group of people. Tribes or groups of people operate with certain unwritten rules that help or hinder them in becoming most effective as a group. It’s not the cafeteria, beer kegs, massages and other amenities that makes one company better than the other but it’s the rules of engagement and incentives that help drive the optimal behaviors that make one company better than the other.
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on August 1, 2010
The first of two books I picked up as a result of Tony Hsieh's "Delivering Happiness".

Although nearly all the books I make the time to thoroughly read have immediately applicable material, it's been a while since I read a book that so solidly nailed several of the situations I was presently in and took immediate action.

In fact, upon arriving at an overseas client, I shared several insights I'd already read and was applying. Then, as I was returning from this same client I read a chapter I wish I read on the outbound leg rather than the return leg! It would have been tremendously helpful in a situation I found myself in -- to get past a specific challenge.

There was so much great material that I mostly ignored a serious flaw in one small section of the book. In fact, I imagined that the flaw was due to poor editing by the authors' publisher, and/or, that the oversight was influenced by the market at the time. In particular, the authors labeled something as "behaviors" that were patently *not* behaviors but nothing more than "tasks" in a plan... maybe even mini "action plans" in and of themselves. But, it's a leap to get from "tasks" or "action plans" to "behaviors", and, I believe using the term "behavior" can mislead less informed readers into believing that listing tasks or the facade of planning has the same depth as truly altering behavior.

One bit of advice for readers: The authors suggest you can skip ahead to parts of the book you might best relate to. DON'T DO IT. Read the whole book in the order presented. And, stop and reflect on the summary points at the end of the major sections. There's plenty of tactical content in the book, but reading the entire book provides the strategic context.
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