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Tribal Leadership:  Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization

Author: Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright, 2008

A leader leads from where people are, not a position of authority or superiority.
Anyone who leads people in an organization will find this book practical and helpful.  It teaches culture and values but it’s not academic.  It demystifies what actions are needed of leaders to unite people into authentic and committed action. 

Many leaders are unaware that organizations are made up of networks of informal relationships. These informal networks are where the real work gets done or not.  These groups of 20 to 150 are tribes. Larger organizations are tribes of tribes. In companies, tribes decide whether the new leader is going to flourish or get taken out. They determine how much work gets done, and of what quality.  Many leaders are blind to these informal networks and relationships. But this book can show how to influence powerfully with or without formal authority.  

The behaviors of these tribes define the “true” culture of an organization.  A great tribal leader knows how to influence the tribes and create intentional culture.

I like that this book shows how great Tribal Leaders are always tuning into the informal networks and underlying culture.  They ask:  what do the people want and need?  What do they think?  What are their aspirations?  What are their gripes?  People often are uncomfortable with and avoid conflict yet great leaders tune in to what’s going on.  The effective Tribal Leader listens to their people and facilitates addressing what is needed in a way that unites the people.  People who can do this are true leaders regardless of their formal titles!

I like that this book clearly shows how tribes, left to their own devices, can take the company down!  The book goes through 5 tribal stages, familiar to all of us:  from savage and dysfunctional to innovative and powerfully inspirational. What sets this work apart is its practical advice on both identifying the stage of the tribe and the means to advance to the next stage. Laced with real-life examples, the book is eminently readable. There is no doubt it will transform the reader, no matter where their own tribe finds itself. They will understand the difference between leading and commanding.