Leadership and the Tribe

A tribal tattoo by Nissaco from Chopstick Tattoo.
Photo courtesy of Tao of Tattoos.
by douglas reeser on May 9, 2012
Does anyone remember the social network called "tribe"? It was something like the anti-social network, where people who practiced alternative lifestyles gathered online instead of creating profiles on myspace. Facebook wasn't in the picture yet, and at the time, the idea of the tribe appealed to something more primal than mainstream society had to offer, and it had the feel of going against the grain (I decided to check to see if it's still up, and to my surprise, it's still going - tribe.net). The idea of the tribe has fallen a little out of vogue these days, and I wonder if it has something to do with the proliferation of "tribal" style tattoos among more mainstream youth.

Whatever the case, while chatting with a visiting friend from Miami, she brought up a talk about tribes and leadership from TedX (see below) that had made an impression on her. It turns out the talk is by David Logan, and his TedX lecture is about his theory on a human typology - and he claims that all humans fall into one of five different tribes. Having only watched the TedX talk, I feel like I have a limited understanding of his typology (he has also authored a book titled "Tribal Leadership), but I'll attempt to give a short recap:

There are five levels of tribes. Level one is comprised of about 2% of the population and includes violent and criminal people - he mentions "jail culture" as an example. Level two claims about 20% of the population and is comprised of people that hate life and feel sorry for themselves - a step up from level one, but still highly negative. Level three, about 35% of the population is where most people reside - they are "one-up" types, or people who will listen to you and then jump in and explain why they're that much better than you. Level four, another 20% or so, are a bit more positive, and have a type of self awareness that allows them to encourage others to move "up" to the next level. Finally there is level five, again only about 2% of the population, who are people that are leaders in that they can bring people from disparate groups together and let them work together for the benefit of all.

I don't love this typology, but I found the talk fairly interesting. As an anthropologist, I realize that most attempts to put humans into a strict typology have been largely left in the past by scholars - mainly because such generalizations gloss over too many individualities and peculiarities. However, Logan's ideas allow for an understanding of how negativity and positivity can affect our outlook on life and our relationships with others. It allows for self-improvement, and even the improvement of humanity as a whole. And perhaps most important, Logan explains how bringing people together who may not otherwise meet is a unique, effective and highly valuable type of leadership that we can all strive to practice.

Check it out here, and share your thoughts and impressions below >>>

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  1. I agree that the "boxing in" aspect of this is problematic and old school. But I do like that a person can learn something from these levels. You can really self assess where you fit and if the ultimate is level five then you know exactly where people desire you to be and it is just a matter of getting there. Easier said than done. On a strictly personal level I think these steps could be useful.

    1. Tender, I had the same thought - I didn't love the categorization, but at the same time, they seemed useful. I think there is definitely something to be taken from this, even if it's just for reflection during our own attempts at self improvement.

      Thanks for reading!


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