Tribal Leadership: Tribal Stages and Leverage Points


Part 1: Tribal Leadership: Tribes and Tribal Leaders
Part 2: Tribal Leadership: Tribal Stages and Leverage Points
Part 3: Tribal Leadership: From “I” to “We”
Part 4: Tribal Leadership: Tribal Strategy


Tribal Leadership is a process for leveraging natural groups to build thriving organizations by focusing on language and relationship structures.

Tribes naturally move one cultural stage at a time on a scale of one-to-five. The cultural stage of a tribe emerges from language (theme), behavior (mood), and relationship structures.

Tribal leaders focus on upgrading tribes through cultural stages using leverage points, including nudging language and fostering relationship structures.

Tribal stages and leverage points reflect fundamental personal and social aspects (connectedness and community) concerning identity, engagement, and meaning.

Stage 1: “Life sucks” – Alienated – Undermining

At this stage, which is dominant in approximately 2% of workplace tribes, people are alienated (mood) from each other where their relationships are undermining; their behavior expresses despairing hostility (mood) and their language expresses “life sucks” (theme).

At this stage, people are generally more negative (than positive) about themselves, others, and life in general. This is a more negative world- or life-view. This is a lose-lose at micro-level!

A tribal leader intervenes by coaching people to recognize and appreciate any positive aspects of life.

Stage 2: “My life sucks” – Separate – Ineffective

At this stage, which is dominant in approximately 25% of workplace tribes, people are separate from each other where their relationships are ineffective; their behavior expresses being apathetic victims and their language expresses “my life sucks”.

At this stage, people are generally more negative (than positive) about themselves but view others’ lives as being more positive. This is a more negative My-focused view. This is a lose-win at a micro-level!

A tribal leader intervenes by coaching individuals to actualize themselves through efforts & results that can be accomplished individually, fostering authentic confidence and independence, and by coaching individuals to form dyads (dyadic relationships).

Stage 3: “I’m great (and you’re not)” – Personal Domination – Useful (Dyadic)

At this stage, which is dominant in approximately 49% of workplace tribes, people experience personal domination of one member over others where their relationships are established for their usefulness; their behavior expresses being lone warriors and their language expresses “I’m great (and you’re not)”; and they form dyadic relationships.

At this stage, people are generally more positive (than negative) about themselves and their efforts & results but view others’ efforts & results as being more negative (that is, less able and less dedicated). This is a more positive I-focused but negative You-focused view. Furthermore, there is significant focus on techniques & practices rather than values & principles as well as significant focus on management than leadership. This is a win-lose at a micro-level!

A tribal leader intervenes by coaching individuals to actualize themselves through efforts & results that require a team, fostering authentic confidence and interdependence, and by coaching individuals to form triads (triadic relationships).

Stage 4: “We’re great (and they’re not)” – Stable Partnership – Important (Triadic)

At this stage, which is dominant in approximately 22% of workplace tribes, people experience stable partnerships where their relationships are important; their behavior expresses tribal pride and their language expresses “we’re great (and they’re not)”; and they form triadic relationships organized around resonant core values and a noble cause, essentially, mutual cooperation around a common goal, typically competing against another organization.

At this stage, people are generally more positive (than negative) about their tribe’s efforts & results but view the efforts & results of other tribes as being more negative (that is, competing against their tribe). This is a more positive We-focused but negative They-focused view where there is interdependence among members of the same tribe. This is a win-win at a micro-level but a win-lose at a macro-level!

A tribal leader intervenes by coaching the tribe to actualize history-making efforts.

Stage 5: “Life is great” – Team – Vital (Triadic)

At this stage, which is dominant in approximately 2% of workplace tribes, people experience a team of stable partnerships where their relationships are vital; their behavior expresses innocent wonderment and their language expresses “life is great”; and they form networked triadic relationships organized around history-making efforts, essentially, intrinsic meaningfulness for universal benefit.

At this stage, people are generally more positive (than negative) about their tribe, other tribes, and life in general. This is a more positive world- or life-view where there is interdependence among tribes. This is a win-win at a macro-level and micro-level!

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