Tribal Leadership – A next gen approach to leadership

I wrote my first #6in6club book review of the 6 books that I read during H2 2017, back in December 2017 but omitted to include my main takeaways from reading the book Tribal Leadership which was read during July 2017.

On reflection I believe that this was due to the fact that whilst the ideas, concepts and vision all sat well with me, I was not in a position to be able to directly connect, through experience, with it all.  This I feel has changed.

Tribal Leadership cover

So what is Tribal Leadership?

Tribal Leadership is a leadership concept made up of 5 main stages and can be seen as below:


Through the authors research they have evidenced:

  • 2% if people are stuck at stage 1 “life sucks” – this can be seen to be people that are involved in gangs, see no chance for a positive existence etc
  • Whilst this is only a small %, in my humble opinion it is this 2% that cause the havoc, terrorism and other unsavoury aspects of life – however why do they feel that way, there must be a systemic issue?
  • What are we doing as citizens to help take accountability for moving them to stage 2 at least?  I feel lucky & grateful not to have ever strayed into this stage, but actively look to support others through volunteering as one way to stop people, young people in particular, dropping down into stage 1


  • 25% of people are at stage 2 “my life sucks” – Comments you may hear from people at this stage could include “We tried it before, it didn’t work then and it will not work now” – remind you of anyone …..?
  • This is a big % and as I reflect on my personal and work life to date in my first 41 years on this planet, if I am honest, I have spent more than 25% of my time in this mind-set – a shocking revelation to me personally in hindsight
  • I now know after a personal journey of transformation over the past 18 months in particular, through understanding my fears and clarifying my personal purpose and beliefs, that this higher % was fed by growing up challenges around bullying and other masks of fear that were worn from my early teens to early 30s.  Thank you to many but especially to for their support over the past 18 months


  • 49% of people are at stage 3 “I’m great and you’re not”- This stage is all about the “I” mindset
  • The bulk of people sit here and it is easy to see why.  Throughout the 19th & 20th century, society in general, has been set up to ‘win at all costs,’  Competition over collaboration.  Self over service.
  • I can for sure, if honest, state that I have spent a similar amount of time at this stage, positioning for pay rises, the next promotion, ‘beating’ the next person – but for what really?  Extrinsic motivation is always nice, but offers little long term value for your soul (nod to Dan Pinks work in his book Drive), when looking in a work context.
  • Of course technology has become a major enabler in allowing us as individuals to make different choices, to learn in a way like never possible before (across various mediums), to reach out to whoever we feel like & even to make comments on Twitter as the US president about big red buttons
  • Moving towards a more collaborative, meaningful, purposeful life in all areas including work, has to be the goal and that it what would take us to stage 4


  • 22% of people are at stage 4 “we’re great and you’re not” – The move towards a shared “we” language and away from “I” is noticeable at this stage.  A move towards service of others feeding ones growth from service of self.
  • I know very few people, personally or professionally, that are regular visitors at stage 4 or above which is where the huge opportunity lay for self, work and the wider world
  • That said, I have had the pleasure of being involved in and leading what can only be described as a transformational team culture change within my immediate work tribe where we have redefined core values,  strategy, strategic themes and now have our own tribal language that everyone believes in and buys into, a key component of evidencing that stage 4 is in operation.
  • This has been a deliberate change heavily influenced by external reading, learning from others and iterating our culture to something that works for us.
  • It is here that extending ones network outside of your immediate work organisation is invaluable and this is why I now feel the time is right to share my main takeaways on this book Tribal Leadership, as we now have a story to tell which evidences the transition from a stage 2/stage 3 tribe at best 2 years ago, to a tribe that is striving to stay in tribe 4 as a new minimum (and the positive results are starting to show too progressively)
  • It is at stage 4, both personally & professionally, that I find myself spending most of my time over of the past 18 months, which means 50%+ (and yes there is a causative link to me dealing with my fears and clarifying my personal purpose & values over the same period leading to a more robust growth mindset)


  • 2% of people are stage 5 “life is great” – At this stage a tribe is “in competition with what is possible, not with each other”
  • Could you imagine a culture and workplace where the people are so well connected, led and purposeful, that they spend most of the day focussing on what they can do better, how to innovate better, growing together vs worrying about the rear view mirror?
  • Tribal teams operating at stage 5 have dealt with much of the below waste that so many offices encounter around information hoarding, silo working, protectionism, ineffective meetings etc
  • I have not experienced much time in stage 5 as yet but my absolute ambition is to spend a lot more time at that stage and that will become my life’s work, both at home and at work, as I strive for more work-life integration and less work-life balance

Waste in the Office

What is very interesting to me is that this tribal model holds quite some parallels to the Teal model that Frederic Laloux espouses as follows:


In summary, for me, whether you research and review Tribal Leadership and/or TEAL as a concept, they are both actionable, do deliver real tangible results and have the potential to be transformational both for you personally but also for your work organisation.

I cannot recommend reading Tribal Leadership enough and after seeing WD40s business in action first hand in san Diego last year, a true tribally led public sector organisation under the strong but loving leadership of Garry Ridge (, I know that with the right level of self awareness, vulnerability, mindset, leadership and structure, this is possible for all.


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