Tribal Leadership – improving your business culture part IV

Tribal Leadership – improving your business culture part IV

…this blog is continuation to the Tribal Leadership series in The previous articles discussed the foundation of the tribal leadership as well as introduced you to the stages 1 through 5 in detail. The previous articles can be found under these links:

Does your business focus on meaningless details and micro management?

Tribal leadership – improving your business culture part I

Tribal Leadership – improving your business culture part II

Tribal Leadership – improving your business culture part III

This article goes to practice telling you how how to move your (business) culture from one level to another. Please note that the key to improvement is to understand on which stage you are now. Most of the people rate themselves too high. Don’t make the same mistake. As important to know is that you can only take one step at the time. Example: if your culture is at stage 2 and you aim to stage 4. You have help your team to climb on to the step 3 first and after that to the stage 4. That is why large cultural changes take time.

From stage 1 to stage 2

Here are some practical tips how to help people to move from stage 1 to stage 2:

  • Encourage him to meet other people. Simple thing like having a lunch together will do.
  • Encourage him to participate meetings.
  • Help him to notice that not everyone’s life sucks.
  • Encourage him to cut off his ties from the groups of people who think their life sucks.

You have succeeded when you notice that:

  • He start talking that “My life sucks” instead of “Life sucks”.
  • He appear passive and apathetic rather than aggressive and desperate. This may sound harsh but as a matter of fact it is a huge leap forward to him,  because now he feels that he has hope instead of despair.
  • You notice he stops hanging out in stage 1 groups.

+ + +

From stage 2 to stage 3

Here are some practical tips how to help people to move from stage 2 to stage 3:

  • Encourage her to network one on one (to form dyads)
  • Encourage her to find mentors who are firmly on the stage 3.
  • Praise her for her achievements. Do it personally.
  • Tell her how talented she is and how important her work is.
  • Give her projects where she can experience feelings of success quickly.

You have succeeded when you notice that:

  • She starts using me, mine and I language.
  • She behaves like a “lone warrior” comparing her achievements with the achievements of the others.
  • She often comes to the conclusion that she is better and the others are worse.

+ + +

From stage 3 to stage 4

Here are some practical tips how to help people to move from stage 3 to stage 4:

  • Encourage him to network in groups of three or more (to form triads)
  • Encourage him to understand that the real power is not in the information but in your network.
  • Encourage him to involve himself in projects which are far too complex to complete alone.
  • Give positive feedback for personal achievements, but remind that improving from here onwards requires real team collaboration.
  • Describe him how people behave and act on stage 4.
  • Tell your own story how you got from stage 3 to stage 4.

You have succeeded when you notice that:

  • He starts using we, our and us language when he is talking about success.
  • He starts forming triads.
  • He works less but achieves more.
  • He starts sharing information openly with anyone.

+ + +

From stage 4 to stage 5

Here are some practical tips how to help people to move from stage 4 to stage 5:

  • Stabilize her onto the stage 4 using values.
  • Encourage her to continue building triads.
  • Encourage her to discuss and further develop values with others.
  • Encourage her to think about the reason of existence of the team/company/business. This is the so called “noble cause”.
  • Encourage her to see the unlimited possibilities there are for further business and development.
  • Encourage her notice that this team could truly make history.
  • Help her to understand success can be reached by offering solutions to real needs of people.

You have succeeded when you notice that:

  • She starts using “Life is great” language instead of we/us/our language.
  • She stops referring to traditional competitors. Instead is improving the lives of people.
  • Her network and the diversity of her network grows.
  • Her time management is based on values and noble cause.
  • When she talks about achievements she sounds surprised and shows respect rather that celebrates for another victory.

+ + +


The tribal leadership offers relatively simple framework for continuos cultural development. However you may wonder why should you do it. There is one simple answer to it. You find it from this picture:

This picture tells you simply how many business can be found on each stage. Yes, you got it right! The stages 4 and 5 are not exactly very common in business. I would like to remind you about the underlying reason for the whole tribal leadership. The reason is: each higher stage outperforms the lower stages on the long run.

(Source: Dave Logan & co, Tribal Leadership 2008)

My question to you is: can you really afford not focus on improving your business culture?

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2 Comments so far:

  1. How do you separate the “authentic” stage from the “wanna be stage?” Once an ego learns there is a hierarchy it usually wants to be at the top of the ladder or the furthest along. It then pretends, both to itself and to others to be further along than it is. This creates the illusion of being safer in a dog eat dog world.

    I imagine someone could be in a Triad from a Stage Two place. They could talk the talk but not necessarily walk the walk. They would be faking it.

    How can this be observed, discussed and overcome in a culture that is currently enamored by Tribal Leadership?

    Many thanks.

  2. avatar Juhana says:

    That is a very good point Layne! I guess there is one easier case and two more difficult cases here. The easier case is when the person was on stage 4 and eager to advance to stage 5. One of the characteristics of the stage 4 is that you genuinely think “we are good”. This means that your personal ego really stays more on the background. Of course you could try to fake it, but especially under the pressure you might notice people getting very selfish, trying to save their own butt, making excuses why it was not me but someone else or using other typical stage 3 language and postures. That could be one possibility to tell that this person is not really on stage 4 but rather on the “i am good and you are not” stage 3.

    The more difficult case is the stage 3 wannabees. It is very easy to fake being ego driven. However, when people start complaining that the system sucks or the bosses are not doing their job or generally acting like they where the victims of the system you could draw a conclusion that they are on a stage 2, even though they try to fake stage 3 or stage 4 (by for example by participating in triading).

    So i guess you should try to keep your eyes open and try to observe the deepest behavior of people. Trying to find out how they really feel. They can fake short period of time and when everything goes well. On the long run and in the stress situations people will show their real nature and therefore also their true tribal stage.

    Does that make sense to you? Any comments or further ideas how you see it?

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