Organizational Culture and Success: Dave Logan gives TED talk on Tribal Leadership

Click here for larger video, a full transcript, discussions, and extra information. This link will be provided again at the end of this entry.

Have you ever considered the possibility that the language we use in organizations can have a direct impact on the experience of an individual worker or larger group? How many times have you seen individuals or work groups that seem to exude a culture that undermines either their own stated goals or those of the organization as a whole? In what ways do they speak of themselves, their co-workers, and the work itself, and how has this correlated with their success?

Alternatively, have you seen individuals or groups within organizations that seem to “get it?” How do they speak about themselves and others, and what culture tends to form around them and spread to other parts of a larger organization?

Tribal Leadership, written by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright, provides a framework from which to understand the various “tribes” in an organization and the cultural stages in which they reside. One of their goals is to educate leaders on how to take a tribe (or set of tribes, if in a larger organization) from one cultural stage to the next, until they align around core values and a noble cause. This is achieved both through providing specific coaching tips and through addressing how a leader and an employee can speak about themselves and others.

In the video above, Dave Logan discusses the various cultural stages. Does the following expression sound familiar? “I’m great… and you’re not” Well, in Dave’s “cultural stage” model that’s a classic “stage 3” cultural expression that often leads to people attempting to outperform one another. And while healthy, good-natured competition in organizations is generally a good thing, unhealthy competition can breed negative consequences.

The authors provide concrete steps to lead groups from stage 3 to stage 4 behaviors that focus on more positive, healthy work relationships, and emphasize a project focus that is bigger than one person can do alone. Substituting “we” language instead of “I” language can have enormous impact. It allows a stage 3 individual to focus on the success of the team. The authors write that “The essence of tribal leadership is building the “we,” and as a person does this, his [or her] influence, respect, and power increase[s].” They also emphasize that a tribal leader’s goal is to find those core values and noble causes that unite the tribe. How many of you have attempted to do this in your own workplace or as a consultant, or witnessed it being done?

If you’re an outside consultant using Appreciative Inquiry or other models that utilize the consultant-as-partner perspective rather than the consultant-as-expert, then you’re already working within a stage 4 culture framework.

Stage 4 can produce extraordinary results. Take a look at the success of! Is it coincidence that they’ve chosen to give away the audio version of Tribal Leadership for free?  Zappos is an organization that has the potential to reach stage 5, and perhaps they have done just that. Stage 5 is exceedingly rare. The authors of Tribal Leadership believe stage 5 is “the future of business,” however it happens in limited bursts in the corporate setting. Its expression is “life is great,” and the people tend to form boundless networks of those who share their dream.

Stage 5 culture provides a level of performance that can make history. Have you seen this up close? It’s characterized by the unlocking of boundless potential and committing to something larger than the group would imagine is possible. We’ve seen it with Olympic teams and the authors’ research has uncovered it at times within business organizations. But they are committed to stabilizing business organizations at level 5!

For a moment let’s think beyond the level of any one organization. Given that we, as human beings, must take decisive collective action toward such complex matters as reducing global climate change and the stabilization of our global economic recovery, can we afford to wait for fleeting moments of stage 5 culture or shall we work toward it now? Recently CNN highlighted individuals who were called “Heroes” for their unwavering commitment to making a difference on this level. They think from Stage 5.

Many of you work with or work inside of large organizations. What are your experiences, both positive and negative, of the culture of your “tribe” or your organization, and what can you see as possible?

Link to video of Dave Logan explaining Tribal Leadership

Posted in Accelerated workplace, business, Collaboration, Groups/Teams, OD Insights, Workplace Culture Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
5 comments on “Organizational Culture and Success: Dave Logan gives TED talk on Tribal Leadership
  1. Casey says:

    Thanks for pointing this out. I really enjoyed the video.

  2. 0ri says:

    I'm a bit mystified by this alleged “stage 5 tribe” since the only attribute that is described about it is that “they can change the world” which seems to also describe the stage 4 tribe. In the video he gives the example that the Truth & Reconciliation commission in S.A. is a perfect example but then goes on to say it was a “stage 5 process” for bringing other tribes together. It seems that perhaps stage 5 doesn't really exist but is a product of stage 4 tribes? Or perhaps stage 5 by it's very definition expands beyond the tribe?

  3. I had quite a few conversations with Dave Logan the past few months. The biggest thing once I got past understanding the stages, is developing my own leadership (and as a consultant helping other people develop theirs) so I can lead in a way that empowers other people to take initiative and work with whoever they need to rather than be the bottle neck.

    I recording some of these calls with Dave and his co-author John here:

  4. Robert Richman says:

    There is a distinction here to add, which is whether the stage is stable or not. A tribe can enter a stage and leave it, and thus it is in the early stage (or not stable). In a conversation with one of the authors, I heard that they found no evidence yet of a stable stage five tribe.

    It's a great concept you thought of there that perhaps stage five transcends the tribe itself and becomes something else. Very cool!

  5. davelogan says:

    Hi Ori,

    A TED speech allows very little time. Stage 5 is a different world from 4, but tribes only move one stage a time, so you're on to something. Stage is where the “we/they” disparity drops away and groups' only compass is their values. That's why I said “make history.” The focus isn't on being better than another group, but on doing something impactful because doing so expresses the values of the group.

    By the way, there's a free audiobook available from Zappos. It goes into much more detail.

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