Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King & Halee Fischer-Wright (2008) challenges school leaders to rethink the organization principles undergirding our schools.  In some ways the book reads like another business tome, but there is some real insight here that is worth considering.  The authors set out to explain a theory of leadership types:

  • Level 1 is a selfish stage characterized by “Life Sucks” philosophy. These proponents are apathetic and difficult to motivate.
  • Level 2 is another selfish stage characterized by “My Life Sucks” philosophy. This victim mentality is a negative influence on a company culture.
  • Level 3 is a competitive but selfish stage. Interestingly, the authors (in 2009!) use Donald Trump as the personification of this stage.  In this stage, people are seeking personal glory to the detriment of their peers.  Success comes at the price of putting others’ down.  There is no central vision.  The vast majority of workplaces are Level 3.  After all, when we celebrate the personal achievements of remarkable teachers and allow silos to foster, we are residing in Level 3.  On a side note, there has been quite a brouhaha over the leaks coming out of the White House.  But these self-serving leaks would seem to fit the modus operandi of the president himself!  When your only vision is personal glorification, you can’t expect your followers to act any differently.
  • Level 4 is tribal leadership where organizational boundaries matter little and collaboration is the priority. Organization values are articulated and a vision for the company is present, promulgated, and understood by all.  A noble cause (read: vision) unites the company.
  • Level 5 is where companies find a noble purpose to change the world around them. They are no longer fighting their competition, they are fighting endemic problems such as poverty, famine, ignorance, etc.

Level 5 has relevance to our Catholic school leaders.  What is our noble purpose?  It can’t simply be to provide the best education for our students or pave the way for college and heaven.  Those are all self-serving and seem like private school appeals.  How are we changing the world?

Stage Five accounts for just under 2 percent of workplace cultures.  It’s marked by “life is great” language, devoid of any competitor. It’s not that competition doesn’t exist; it’s that they don’t matter.  Values, which are important at Stage Four, are vital—a word literally meaning “life-giving.”  Without them, the tribal culture would collapse to Four and keep falling.  A noble cause…is the group’s only compass. (p. 241)

With a noble cause, our Catholic schools would think less about competition and more about how to impact our world.  And with this noble cause, it’s possible that our future would be brighter.

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