TED as Resource: David Logan speaks on Tribal Leadership

In a previous blog post I mentioned that it is possible to learn about leadership informally through resources like TED. The following is a brief summary of a TED talk which provides some insightful advice for aspiring leaders whom wish to improve and increase their influence in the world through how they interact, lead by example, and inspire the people around them.

In contrast to Dudley’s (2010) previously posted TED talk and the notion that leaders don’t have to think that they can “change the world” to be leaders, Logan (2009) asks, “How, exactly, do we create this world, “shattering,” if you will, innovation?” In his TED Talk, Logan (2009) illustrates what he refers to as the, “…five kinds of tribes that humans naturally form – in schools, workplaces, even the driver’s license bureau”(TED, 2009). According to Logan (2009), each of these tribes exits in a hierarchal level (five being the most optimal) of self and group understanding and perception of their place in the world which determines their potential agency within it:

1. Life Sucks
2. My Life Sucks
3. I’m Great (and you’re not)
4. We’re Great
5. Life is Great

Logan’s (2009) call to action is for people to recognize the culture, the self, and the group talk of the tribes that they belong to. He then encourages them to challenge themselves and others within their tribes to “elevate” to the next hierarchal level of tribes. In other words, if you recognize that you belong to a group of people that are consistently trying to “one-up” one another (level three), you, as a “tribal leader” would avoid trying to singularly acknowledge your personal accomplishments in isolation. Rather, to move from a level three tribe to a level four, you would collect the successes of your group to support and promote the argument that, yes I am great, but so are you and you and you and as a collaborative team (or tribe) we have more power and a greater potential to make the world a better place. Logan (2009) suggests that the more tribes that continue to elevate to the next level, the more likely world “shattering” innovation is possible.

Putting this talk into the context of adult learning, I love the idea that, not only has someone who has accessed the TED talk as a resource learning from it, but they can pass the learning on either through sharing the talk or, as stated, leading by example. It can be argued that learning happens this way frequently in workplaces, schools, homes, the coffee shop, I could go on and on. Informal learning is the most difficult to accurately measure, but I’d argue that as the idea of demonstrating leadership skills becomes more compulsory, and resources to develop these skills and understanding become so accessible, informal learning will be the number one way in which more leaders are developed and the innovation that Logan (2009) speaks of will take place.


David Logan: Tribal leadership. [TED Talk]. (2009, March). Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/david_logan_on_tribal_leadership.html


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