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Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  4,749 Ratings  ·  243 Reviews
Tribal Leadership gives amazingly insightful perspective on how people interact and succeed. I learned about myself and learned lessons I will carry with me and reflect on for the rest of my life.”
—John W. Fanning, Founding Chairman and CEO napster Inc.

“An unusually nuanced view of high-performance cultures.”

Within each corporation are anywhere from a few to hundred
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 7th 2011 by HarperBusiness (first published 2008)
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Jan 31, 2009 Marcus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would have never read this book had it not been for the free audio version I found through I was't looking for yet another business book, much less a management book, but this one really surprised me and hit me hard. The book in a nutshell talks about 5 stages that organizations and the members of organizations go through:

1 - Life sucks.
2 - My life sucks (but maybe there's something better).
3 - I'm in it for me.
4 - We're in it as a group with a core set of values; there is a higher
Jennifer (aka EM)
Jan 21, 2012 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it it was ok
Read for work. This is a low star-stage 3 (if anyone reads this, you'll find that hilarious, trust me). It was surprisingly tolerable given my intolerance for a) non-fiction; b) books written by MBAs; c)pseudo-scientific self-help manuals. It avoided for the most part a's tendency toward repetitiveness (although it was definitely filled with beating-a-dead-horse, jargony prose, and I think the copy-editor must have nodded off in the last third); b's insufferable superficiality and barely-below-t ...more
Jurgen Appelo
Nov 21, 2012 Jurgen Appelo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Important book with many great stories, but suffers from too much hyperbole and model-building.
Sep 11, 2012 Chantie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting take on social interaction and relationships. While the focus was more professional related, like does tend to self-select. The premise is there are five stages that people exist within, and they are as follows:

1. Life suck (this is the person that goes postal)
2. My life sucks (this is the person that sees everyone keeping them down)
3. I'm wonderful (I'm so wonderful - the ME culture)
4. We're great (cooperative for better of group)
5. Life is great (group works for the better of th
Oct 10, 2014 Erika rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While I'm not a manager, nor do I foresee a career in becoming a "tribal leader coach" anytime soon, if you're a leader of any group of people, you may find this book useful. You'll find it especially useful if you already recognise the power of a tribe or have the need to leverage a groups' already existing talents.

I picked up this book because I teach middle school, a natural environment for tribes and cliques, and figured I might gain insight into how to manage their day-to-day. Instead, I ga
Jun 15, 2011 Jay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book reminds me of Jim Collins book Good to Great in that both are presenting findings from lengthy research studies. While Collins book talked more about their underlying methodology, Tribal Leadership shows five cultural levels and describes the transition from one to the next. Briefly, the five statges are:

1. Life sucks
2. My life sucks
3. I'm great
4. We're great
5. Life is great

As tribes (groups of 20 to 150 people) improve culturally through the five levels, vallues change and a noble ca
Erika RS
I want to give this book 5 stars on content and 2 stars on presentation. Every time I worked on reading this book, I got something valuable out of it. Oftentimes, something I could apply that very day. But the whole time I read it, I was vaguely bored.

I think that this is because, while the content is valuable, the book itself is quite repetitive. I feel it could have been half the length (or even less) and contained all of the same content. And a good fraction of that reduction could have come
Dec 25, 2016 Katie rated it it was amazing
This book, ironically, was required reading for a place I formally worked which I would classify as strongly "stage 2" or "stage 3."

I really enjoyed not only the material of this book, which seemed very well researched and applicable, but also the format. I thought there were perhaps a few too many examples, but in-general what information it had was what it needed. I don't really know how to summarize the book, but I would definitely recommend it for anyone who is a leader in an organization, o
Jul 24, 2015 Graham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Graham by: Mike Cannon-Brookes, via Jost Stollmann
So, the story goes that our CEO, Jost Stollmann, asked Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder & co-CEO of Atlassian and one of Tyro’s board members, something along the lines of…
“If you had to recommend just one book to your leadership team, what would you choose?”

And Mike recommended: Tribal Leadership. I think I can see why.

What’s the book about?

The book is about the results of ten years of research by the authors and how they found that people in organisations form tribes; that each tribe has a
Ali Sohani
Jan 11, 2011 Ali Sohani rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leadership
An excellent book on a leadership, draws heavily from a research, the 5 stages for cultural transformation:

Stage 1 - "Life Sucks" - pathological, gang-like, angry.
Stage 2 - "My Life Sucks" - a mix of learned helplessness, bitterness.
Stage 3 - "I'm Great" (and you're not) - Productive and dynamic but egocentric.
Stage 4 - "We're Great" (and they're not) - tribe-oriented, creative, productive, tight.
Stage 5 - "Life Is Great" - Big-picture, tribe-connecting.

"Change the language in the tribe, and you
John Norman
Read this if you have great performers in your company who think they're great, but also secrretly think others are not great . . . Such a company needs to evolve to understand how everyone in the "tribe" can say: "We're great."

The basic message here is compelling, but it is so involved in dubious philosophical / psychological claims about human development, I just can't give the book a very high rating.

Like a lot of self-help books, the rhetorical strategy starts from the assumption that you ar
Feb 11, 2015 Daniela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: development
Logan states that there are 5 stages when comes to tribes and how people define themselves and their contribution to life:
1. Life / everyone sucks
2. My life sucks
3. I'm great, and you're not and I have the means to prove it to you
4. We're great
5. Everything is great - our goal is global.

What captures the attention the most is the epiphany of an authentic tribal leader, which is the central theme of this book is that you are only as smart and capable as your tribe, and that by upgrading your tri
Dionysis Doul
Nov 11, 2015 Dionysis Doul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An eye-opening book about what are the different stages in company cultures, and what could make them succeed really big things. The majority of them operate in a "stage three" culture, where everyone operates for themselves, with a "i'm great (but you're not)" mentality. Whereas, a "stage four" tribe operates with a "we're great" mentality, but the ultimate goal is a "stage five" tribe, where the mentality is "life is great".
I believe that the principles of the book apply to life in general.
Oct 25, 2011 Angelique rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really liked this book. Unlike a lot of leadership books that tell you what a good leader "looks like", this book tells you how to grow them. It does a great job of explaining the development cycle a person must go through to get to "Stage 4" which is considered a "Tribal Leader". The emphasis placed on relationships was powerful as well.

It got 4 stars instead of 5 stars because at times it was confusing as to whether the authors meant to be referencing the leader or the "tribe" when they were t
Sep 14, 2015 Quinn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think the more I read the less each book makes an impact on my life. This is one of those books that if I had just started reading business books it probably would have got a 5 out of 5 and had me getting extra copies for each bathroom. I felt like what was suppose to be a broad expanse of interviews and careful peering behind different corporate curtains by the authors ended up being a recount of handful of experiences that fit their mold. Although it was a quick read I found it a little long ...more
Hope Harris-Gayles
I'm listened to this as audiobook (free download from, and I really enjoyed it. As a budding leader, the book brought some behaviors to my attention that I will need to work on and improve so I can reach my full potential. I'm easily bored with audiobooks (mind wandering, etc) so its a true testament to Tribal Leadership that those didn't happen (or at least happened minimally). Recommended for leaders and leaders to be.
Mar 19, 2015 Ryan rated it it was amazing
I don't usually read books about organizational or "work culture" but this was a book I needed to read now. It was part manual, part autobiography. The book explains the different types of workers; and illuminates how their attitudes are critical ( or detrimental) to workplace culture. It is an important book for anybody working in a team of people to understand how the group attitude effects the outcome of the product or service.
Uttam Kini
Oct 21, 2013 Uttam Kini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: management-gyan
A great book that changes the way you look at teams and people. Whenever I see people now, I go, there's a typical stage 3 trying to sell himself, this guy is a stage 4 leader putting the team before himself. It will keep you interested till the very end.
Dan Graham
Jan 03, 2011 Dan Graham rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
There are some good parts to this book but overall it makes a bunch of claims that seem a bit made up to me. It puts business folks into 5 categories of development and asserts that certain traits are better than others without any data to back it up.
Nov 24, 2012 Jan rated it really liked it
Great book. I definetly need to reread or rehear it to come up with a meaningful review...
Omar Halabieh
Jul 25, 2011 Omar Halabieh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To begin the authors define a tribe as "a group between 20 and 150 people. Here's the test for whether someone is in one of your tribes: if you saw her walking down the street, you'd stop and say "hello"". The continue: "Tribes in company get work done - sometimes a lot of work - but they don't form because of work. Tribes are the basic building block of any large human effort, including earning a living. As such their influence is greater than that of teams, entire companies, and even superstar ...more
Jo Murphy
Feb 17, 2013 Jo Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teachers, coaches, students
A "tribe." is a network of 20 to 150 people. Everyone knows each other, or of everyone else within a collegiality.

Mapping the Dynamics of Tribal Leadership

The authors show leaders how to assess their organization's tribal culture by listening to and ascertaining each members level. These stages will be recognised by the groups way of speaking. As levels are explained, strategies are suggested to elevate each stage to the next.
Through a rigorous eight-year study, the authors refine and define thi
Samantha Welker
Mar 15, 2015 Samantha Welker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tribal Leadership was really interesting to me because I saw a lot of similar threads from Traction. It's interesting because we (WBI) can not technically be considered a tribe yet because you have to have at least 20 people to be a tribe. However, the tribe can be no bigger than 150, which is the number we established in the early days of Traction as our maximum amount of people. Tribes are different from companies because they get work done, but thy don't form because of work. Tribes are the b ...more
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan was chosen by Soundview Executive Book Summaries as one of the Top 30 Business Books of 2013.


Companies have been trying to organize more effective work teams for decades. Whether they’ve realized it or not, the highest-performing organizations have taken a different approach. According to researchers Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright, there are naturally occurring groups
Paul Sullivan
Feb 25, 2017 Paul Sullivan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love the perspectives in this book. Listen to the organizational language, and you'll know their tribe. I use this when I teach leadership topics. Very good read.
Gene Babon
Nov 01, 2016 Gene Babon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leadership
Wow. Insightful. This book is a gem. I've come across this 2008 book on several "best of" lists and finally got around to reading it.

At the core resides the concept of a tribe which is a number of people between 20 and 150. A small company might be a tribe; whereas, a large company will consist of many tribes -- a tribe of tribes.

What makes some tribes more effective than others is culture. The words that tribe members use on a daily basis describe this culture.

Here is a brilliantly simple test:
Oct 26, 2008 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
You can get the audiobook version free here:

This book gives you a great way to talk about behaviors types in your workplace by ranking them in stages. In order to get to people to a higher stage, you need to take people from one stage to the next, you cannot skip stages. One someone does soemthing that cause you to "go down to their level," it is actually means to behave in a way that is one or more Stages below your own current stage.

Stage 1 is gangsters and c
Aug 31, 2011 J rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tribal Leadership offers insight regarding Human nature. More importantly, it identifies how group dynamics are influenced and defined by the types of people who, by nature, are attracted to group interactions. The authors identify five different levels of groups based on levels of sophistication and what draws people to them.

This is more than a self-help book. It attempts to describe the nature of various tribal associations, how they come about and why they can be utilized as vectors to effect
Nov 19, 2013 Jade rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Without being life-changing, I think this book was valuable in providing a framework for evaluating the work culture around you. Whether or not you are in an official leadership position, it will make you reflect about what type of leader you are, how your company's culture influences you, and how you can influence your company's culture. While reading it, I definitely caught myself trying to assess at what "stage" my workplace was at, and asking myself how I can contribute to make it evolve to ...more
Andy Konwinski
Did like:
the underlying theory. e.g. evolutionary stages of groups ("tribes"), the importance of culture in groups. the use of language as the metric to measure a groups functionality.

Didn't like:
feels like they've tried to turn empirical/quantitative social science into an easier to digest story but they want you to continue to believe that the story only came after the quantitative science and thus they actually have both the scientific *and* the narrative. I believe that both approaches are v
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“Change the language in the tribe, and you have changed the tribe itself.” 5 likes
“[Don Beck] said, after hearing about the three stages of epiphany, "There's a word in the Bantu languages that [Archbishop Desmond] Tutu has used to help bring the entire country of South Africa together: ubuntu, meaning 'Today I share with you because tomorrow you share with me.'" The word can also be translated "I am because we are.” 3 likes
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