Delivering Happiness, Good to Great, and Tribal Leadership

In Zappos’ Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness, Jim Collins’ Good to Great and Dave Logan’s, John King’s, and Halee Fischer-Wright’s Tribal Leadership are always referred to in tandem.

In the books Good to Great and Tribal Leadership, the authors looked at what characteristics separated the great companies from the good ones. One of the most important ingredients they found was a strong company culture. Core values are essentially a formalized definition of a company’s culture.

We did not invent the idea that having a vision that had a higher purpose was important. We did not invent the idea that having a strong culture and core values was important. Both of those ideas were highlighted in Good to Great and Tribal Leadership, and have been around long before those books were published.

Both Good to Great and Tribal Leadership discuss how a company with a vision that has a higher purpose beyond just money, profits, or being number one in a market is an important element of what separates a great company (in terms of long-term financial performance) from a good one.

See Zappos’ Tony Hseih’s Delivering Happiness for more information.

Tribal Leadership: Tribal Leader

Tribal Leadership — which explores leveraging natural groups to build a thriving organization — distinguishes between five cultural stages and the notion of a Tribal Leader.

  • Stage 1: Language expresses “life sucks”, people are alienated, and relationships are undermining.
  • Stage 2: Language expresses “my life sucks”, people are separate from one another, and relationships are ineffective.
  • Stage 3: Language expresses “I’m great (and you’re not)”, people experience personal domination, and relationships are established for their usefulness (dyadic).
  • Stage 4: Language expresses “we’re great (and they’re not)”, people experience stable partnerships, and relationships are important (triadic).
  • Stage 5: Language expresses “life is great”, people experience a team of stable partnerships, and relationships are vital (triadic).

See Tribal Leadership in a Nutshell for more information.

Good to Great: Level 5 Leader

Good to Great — which explores high performance organizations and those that achieve greatness (stock returns at least 3 times the market’s for 15 years after a major period) — distinguishes between five levels of capabilities and the notion of a Level 5 Leader who it at the top of the hierarchy and who is necessary for transforming an organization from good to great.

Level 1: Highly Capable Individual – Makes productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills, and good work habits.

Level 2: Contributing Team Member – Contributes to the achievement of group objectives; works effectively with others in a group setting.

Level 3: Competent Manager – Organizes people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of predetermined objectives.

Level 4: Effective Leader – Catalyzes commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision; stimulates the group to high performance standards.

Level 5: Executive – Builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility plus professional will.

Tribal Leaders and Level 5 Leaders

Levels 1, 2, and 3 generally correlate to stages 3, and levels 4 and 5 generally correlate to stage 4. At stage 4, a tribe may enter in and out of stage 5, but a tribe does not generally stabilize at stage 5.

The Yin (Personal Humility) and Yang (Professional Will) of Level 5 offer a great description for a Tribal Leader.

Personal humility involves:

Demonstrates a compelling modesty, shunning public adulation; never boastful.

Acts with quite, calm determination; relies principally on inspired standards, not inspiring charisma, to motivate.

Channels ambition into the company, not the self; sets up successors for even more greatness in the next generation.

Looks in the mirror, not out the window, to apportion responsibility for poor results, never blaming other people, external factors, or bad luck.

Professional Will involves:

Creates superb results, a clear catalyst in the transition from good to great.

Demonstrates an unwavering resolve to do whatever must be done to produce the best long-term results, no matter how difficult.

Sets the standard of building an enduring great company; will settle for nothing less.

Looks out the window, not in the mirror, to apportion credit for the success of the company — to other people, external factors, and good luck.

As Jim Collins explains: “Good-to-great transformations don’t happen without level 5 leaders at the helm. They just don’t.”


2 thoughts on “Delivering Happiness, Good to Great, and Tribal Leadership

  1. Great summary, Si! A lot of people ask us (John, Halee and I) what’s the difference between TL and Good to Great. The answer is, they are totally different. We wouldn’t have written TL as we did if Good to Great weren’t out there already.

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