I just finished reading a book called “Tribal Leadership” by John King, Halee Fischer-Wright, and and Dave Logan. The authors have studied a number of organizations, and they suggest that all organizations are made up of tribes – roughly 150 people at the maximum.
Stage 1: Life sucks – In this stage, tribe members feel that life itself is stacked against them. An example would be prison gangs.
Stage 2: My life sucks – Here, members of the tribe feel and act like victims – powerless to make the company better.
Stage 3: I’m Great! (and you’re not) – The vast majority of the companies that the authors studied were in this stage, which is categorized by lone wolf type employees who do their damnedest to make sure they get credit. Note that the “(and you’re not)” part of this stage is subtle – by emphasizing their greatness, employees in this stage are indirectly emphasizing how the rest of us are not.
Stage 4: We’re great! (and they’re not) – For stage 4 tribes, its all about the team and defeating a common enemy. Tribe members in this stage have moved beyond the selfish stage 3 and realize that tribe success is more important than individual success.
Stage 5: Life’s great! – In stage 5, the tribe has moved to a point where they are working towards a “noble cause”, with no competitors. As you might imagine, getting to this stage is very difficult and requires leadership rarely seen in corporate America.
I got to thinking about this after reading an article by Liz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace. You can find her blog here, but the opening paragraph is what really caught my eye:
I dreamed about Albert Einstein the other night. I dreamed I was reading dear Albert`s resume, and it said …”Results-oriented scientist, researcher and author with a broad range of experience in cosmology, astrophysics and related areas. Extensive background in laboratory research, mathematical computation, writing and lecturing.”
This got me to looking at titles in LinkedIn, and while I don’t have statistics to back up this comment, I will tell you that, anecdotally at least, LinkedIn is filled with Stage 3 tribe members. In fact, almost all of us on LinkedIn are Stage 3.
Seriously, take a look at LinkedIn tag lines for people. Generally, they fall into the following categories:
[Job title] at [Some company]:
[Really important job title] at [Some company]
Accomplished [Whatever] Executive
Chief [Whatever] Officer at [Some Company]
Look, I’m not suggesting that the titles are misleading, or maybe a bit embellished. I’ll take everyone at their word. What is difficult to argue with however is the fact that we are ALL pushed into categorizing ourselves in a way that we get noticed. We’re forced into being a Stage 3 leader. I’m great!
I’m not even sure how you would brand yourself on LinkedIn without being a Stage 3 tribe member! What would a Stage 4 tag line in LinkedIn even look like?
Member of a great team at [some company]
Supervisor of the best [whatever] team at [some company]
Chief [whatever] Officer but just plain lucky to have a great team at [some company]
Who’s going to hire people with those tag lines? No one.
So here is the challenge to all you readers – try and come up with a LinkedIn title that implies you are a Stage 4 tribe member – send it to me and I will write a follow-up blog on the results when I get enough feedback.