David Logan on tribal leadership

David Logan is Associate Dean and Executive Director of Executive Development, and Associate Professor of Clinical, at USC’s Marshall School of Business. He talks about how we human beings have always form tribes. These tribes differ most significantly in culture and he classifies them in 5 stages. (Figures in brackets are approximate statistical occurrence of such tribes)

  1. Life sucks (2%)
  2. My life sucks (25%)
  3. I’m great, you suck (48%)
  4. We’re great (22%)
  5. Life is great (2%)

He quotes his book (the three laws of performance),  “As people see the world so they behave”. Thus, the tribe you are in affects you and you affect the tribe. These tribes are dynamic, they can change stages with the right kind of leadership (positive or negative).  In a tribe if individuals think about themselves more than about others then they will remain or go into a lower stage. He quotes an example from a company where employees are asked to be a little bit weird. They decorate their office, they have a tap-tap dance machine in their corridor, they clap when they have visitors, in short they enjoy themselves. He concludes from this example that if people think beyond themselves towards something greater than their own individual competence then they can move a stage higher. He defined the office to be a Stage 4 tribe. For stage 5, he takes the example of Desmond Tutu and his work in South Africa, bringing together millions of tribes for one cause. Doing something extraordinary, that’s what tribes in stage 5 can achieve. He stresses that Leaders need to talk all the levels as tribes can hear only one level above and below where they are. He also points out that the toughest move is from stage 3 to stage 4 and that TED represents values which help such tribes movements.

All in all, a fairly good talk. Studying human crowd is a challenging task but Logan’s tribal classification makes quite a lot of sense. The only thing that made me uncomfortable as the talk progressed was Logan seemed to be a strong example of Ayn Rand’s description of Ellsworth Toohey in the Fountainhead, a person who tries to shun away Individualism. It was one of the few TED talks where I disagreed strongly to a certain point-of-view, specially the mention of how things would always be better if one thinks beyond individual competence.

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~ by Akshat Rathi on October 9, 2009.

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