Great Finds: Tribal Leadership

hhibner —  June 3, 2013 — 1 Comment

Tribal Leadership: How Successful Groups Form Great Organizations

By Dave Logan and John King

© 2008

This is one of the better books I’ve read on leadership. It combines the trust of research with the readability of stories from the field.

The basic idea is that corporations are like small towns, and small towns are made up of tribes.  Tribes are groups of people who are like-minded, who do similar work, and who have similar goals.  Tribal leaders help the tribe to be successful, and lead them to upgrade what the authors call “tribal culture.”

There are five tribal stages:

First, people realize that there is something wrong, or unfair, about their world. They band together to get ahead. Most companies skip this stage entirely.

Second is where individuals still feel that something is unfair and are resigned to it, but passive. Tribal leaders must work to get their tribes “unstuck” from stage two or nothing will get done.

Third is where most corporations become stuck. Here is where employees hoard information because “knowledge is power.” They try to out work and out think each other for personal gain, rather than working hard for the good of the company.

At stage four, employees go from “I’m great” to “We’re great.” Employees are happy, work gets done, and the company moves forward. The problem at this step is that employees can lose self-awareness and self-confidence, believing that they can only be successful as part of the tribe and not individually. Occasionally, tribes will reach stage four, working well together, but still competing with other tribes.

Finally, there is stage five.  Here, employees are “in competition with what’s possible, not with another tribe” (p.25). These employees are innovative and visionary, creating global impact.  Often, there are spikes into stage five and then tribes settle back into stage four.

This book has all kinds of great advice on how to become a tribal leader and how to lead tribes from one stage into the next.  In libraries, tribes can be both departmental employees or even specific types of library users.  Tribal leaders are the department heads that upgrade the culture of the department to keep the library moving forward through the stages. They inspire staff to continually create new and exciting services for library patrons, fulfilling their career goals, while also moving the library forward into a place patrons never dreamed a library could be.

While written with a focus on corporate culture, the information in this book is very relevant to library leaders. Highly recommended!



Adult Services Coordinator at the Plymouth District Library with a mild obsession for collection quality. Ok, maybe not so mild. Find me on Twitter at @hhibner and over at Awful Library Books (!

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  1. Found: June 3 – 7, 2013 | Library Lost & Found - June 8, 2013

    […] We discovered the book Tribal Leadership: How Successful Groups form Great Organizations. […]

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