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Tribal Leadership

Tribal Leadership is a great place to start when in pursuit of cultural change

A Good Foundation

If you want to change your company culture Tribal Leadership is a good foundation. Based on five stages of corporate culture, the Tribal Leadership model creates an environment that encourages agile leadership growth, increased performance, and greater individual job satisfaction.

At a high level, there are two concepts central to Tribal Leadership: Cultural Stages and Triads.

Cultural Stages

Implementing a Tribal Leadership culture begins with understanding where you are today in the context of Tribal Leadership’s five cultural stages. Each stage is identified by the language members of the tribe use in their daily jobs. Figure 1 provides a quick view of these stages.

Understanding these stages lets everyone see where they are. Tribes and individuals can only progress one stage at a time. For example, you cannot go from Stage 2 to Stage 4. You need to experience Stage 3 before moving to Stage 4.

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Stage 1 – “Life Sucks”

At this stage life truly “sucks.” Think gang members, criminals, or the homeless where survival is the behavior driver.

Stage 2 — “My Life Sucks”

In this stage people have jobs but they don’t see hope for change. They perceive themselves as victims. Their approach to work is apathetic.

Stage 3 — “I’m Great”

This stage is the dominant stage in most businesses today. Based on heroic individual leadership and decision making, “I’m Great” implies “You’re Not.” Stage 3 is typified by a spoke and wheel management model where the leader has dyadic one-to-one relationships with his/her team. All information flows to, and is controlled by, the center with minimal cross team interactions.

Stage 4 — “We’re Great”

At this stage collaboration and collective achievement dominate. Interactions are based on Triads, or groups of three. Core values are identified and shared and become a central part of the culture. Tribal leaders emerge and lead change.

Stage 5 — “Life is Great”

This is a true value based stage. The distinction between work and non-work blurs into seamless whole. The tribe is focused on achievement of a noble cause and less concerned about competition.

Triads – Powerful Change Agents

Triads are the basic building blocks of Stage 4. A triad is a relationship of three people based on an opportunity — it is created to accomplish something — and on shared values. In a triad each person has a one to one relationship with each of the other people in it. Each member is also responsible for the quality of the relationship between the other two people.

In order for triads to be successful each member should know the values, aspirations, and current projects of each person in their group (tribe). Each member should also be an expert in something — remember to function at
Stage 4 (We’re Great) requires that you have been through Stage 3 (I’m Great).

Triads use a methodology that gives direction and provides a structure to set and achieve objectives.

It involves three conversations: what we want to accomplish — OUTCOMES, what resources we have or need — ASSETS, and what specific actions are necessary to achieve our outcome — BEHAVIORS.