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


Blog as a Tool and Resource for Leadership Development

ImageAnother resource and tool for leadership development in adult learning is the blog. Blogs are interesting in that not only can a blog, like this one, be intended to be used as a forum for dialogue about a topic like leadership, they can also be accessed by someone just casually searching the net trying to find information about leadership. The cartoon above, for example, was taken from a blog titled, “ What Ed Said” with the tag line: A blog about learning. The purpose of the cartoon is to challenge people in the field of education to identify and understand what type of leaders they are with the added hope of encouraging some transformational change I am sure (Sackson, 2013).

While the cartoon in the blog is an example of a simple resource to understand leadership, blogs can also be used as complex experiential learning tools in formal learning environments. Raffo (n.d.) looks at the use of blogs in her, “…exploratory study [which] adds to the literature education as it relates to experiential learning and reflective learning in an online environment” (p. 39). Raffo (n.d.) concludes that, “Blogging provides the benefits of a shared learning community and gives students the opportunity to become skilled reflective thinkers (and leaders) while transforming or deepening their understanding of leadership”(p. 49).

Simply stated, the blog serves as an accessible and interactive resource and tool used in formal, non-formal, and informal learning contexts. While it is a good idea to exercise a bit of caution in accessing any old blog to use as a source for research, I would argue that, for the most part, blogs offer a variety of perspectives and will be continued to be accessed, for good reason, in the facilitation of learning be it for leadership development or otherwise.


Raffo, D. (n.d). Blogging as a reflective tool for leadership development: An exploratory study of leadership practicum grounded in the relational leadership model. Delta Pi Epsilon Journal. 54(2) (Fall 2012), p. 39-51

Sackson, E. (2013). What kind of leader are you? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/page/2/

A Postmodern Perspective: Diversity, Power Dynamics, and Leadership Development


A discussion about leadership development in adult education would be incomplete without surfacing the influence of systemic power dynamics in society. Any good adult educator will tell you that, in creating, planning, and designing courses, workshops, seminars etc., the power dynamics of society and in the learning facility (even in cyberspace) need to be considered. For example, “In our everyday world, men are commonly accepted in positions of leadership. This is evident in every facet of our society. Men compose the majority of our national and local leaders. This accepted and assumed power transfers to the workshop setting. So what happens when a workshop leader is a woman?” (Johnson-Bailey & Cervero, 1997, p. 44-45).

The power dynamics of gender are changing overtime. Forty years ago, “…women accounted for about 5% of managers in organizations (Schein, 1973)…[in] 2009,  According to a 2009 report by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, women held about 40% of management jobs in the United States; however only 2% of organizations listed in the Fortune 500 had CEOs that were women” (as cited in Coder & Spiller, 2013, p. 21). That we have acknowledged power dynamics in society in the context of leadership development represents the postmodernist perspective that beliefs surrounding who in society is capable of quality leadership is affected by socio-political values, but this awareness is far from complete.

So, in the 21st century, more women (not enough, but more) consider themselves leaders. Besides gender as a dichotomy (also a misconception); however, there are other assumptions about identity groups and leadership embedded in societal laws, morals and belief systems. It is the responsibility of the developer and or facilitator of a leadership development course to reveal the influence of these beliefs, and acknowledge subjective value systems and potential internalized oppression at the outset of becoming leaders, especially leaders who inspire other leaders. Hyater- Adams (2010), suggests that, “…transformative narratives, can be used to help unpack and re-script assumptions, attitudes, values, and biases of leaders as they operate in systems of privilege” (Abstract). It could be argued that the use of narratives could be used outside of the formal learning environment as well. As has been demonstrated throughout the posts on this site, leadership development happens in multiple settings be them formal, non-formal, and informal, and the belief or oversight that it escapes societal influences and historical legacies of systemic oppression is a misnomer and a regret, but I am sure it exists and is often times not addressed within these settings. Hopefully, as time progresses, more people will recognize the subjective nature of defining the characteristics of leadership in society. Until then, I challenge you to surface your values and beliefs about what makes a leader and how diversity plays a role within them.


Coder, L., & Spiller, M. (2013). Leadership education and gender roles: think manager, think “?” Academy Of Educational Leadership Journal, 17(3), 21-51.

Image retrieved from http://www.futurity.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/gender_leaders_1.jpg

Johnson-Bailey, J., & Cervero, R. (1997). Negotiating power dynamics in workshops. New directions for adult and continuing education, (76), 41-50.

Hyater-Adams, Y. (2010). Learning diversity and leadership skills through transformative narratives (TM). Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry, 8(4), 208-232. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/869068934?accountid=1343

Global Change: How Technology and Economic Climate Changes Approaches to Leadership Development

As has already been mentioned on this site, the demand for local and global leaders continues to grow exponentially. Not surprisingly, in a survey of literature to determine how leadership development for adults has changed overtime, it became apparent that global change, specifically, the increased use of information technologies combined with the shifting economic climate has influenced approaches and access to leadership education.

It should be noted here that change is not something embraced naturally and therefore it is expected that there be resistance to the increase in use of technological devices in adult education in general, be them different teaching styles or uses of the internet. “Conservative and strongly traditional institutions may at times struggle to make the changes that are necessary to keep up with the demands…Implementing new technologies can provide solutions to academic issues in higher education” (Stewart, Harlow, & Debacco, 2011, as cited in Johnson & Radmer, 2013, p. 275). In other words, as demands for certain skills and aptitudes go up, institutions are required to use the devices available to them to cater to societal needs and leadership development has been identified as one of those needs.

There are numerous resources available through the internet used in formal and non-formal learning environments. It could be argued that, because leadership development sources are so accessible, informal learning is likely taking place as well. From Major Open Online Courses, to TED Talks, to You tube videos, to leadership presentations posted online, to Blog sites, the resources are endless, just type leadership into a search browser and you are on your way. Even an image search can yield results and spark ideas and understandings of the changing definitions and ideas surrounding leaders and leadership attributes.

This easy access to resources could not have come at a better time. Although there is uncertainty and even controversy surrounding some of these resources the pros tend to outweigh the potential cons, “Whether or not MOOCs are really disruptive technology… they can be a great resource for low cost professional development for your faculty and staff” (Roland, 2013). Again, it is important to recognize here that the demand for professional and personal development is high and that innovation and ingenuity are assets for adult educators and those interested in engaging in leadership development.

Accessibility aside, the internet is not the only resource used for professional development in the context of global change. Nikolou-Walker (2012), who recognizes that, “… the majority of businesses today seek ways in which they can work smarter within the perimeters of their valuable, but, nonetheless, limited, resources” (Abstract), promotes a work-based learning approach to leadership development and concludes that while, “… within WBL, the leadership role is not as “clear-cut”,… The informality of the learning/teaching environment allows the leadership role to successfully “change hands”, without any detriment to the overall learning/teaching taking place” (Conclusion, para. 2). In other words, as new ideas emerge regarding the benefits of different styles of learning facilitation, there is no escaping the skepticism that comes with indications of change.

To close, although non-conventional, the combination of demand, new perspectives on adult education and learning, and access to resources is changing the face of leadership development arguably, and hopefully, leading to the rise of our much needed local and global networks of leaders. Now go google leadership… I dare you;)


Image retrieved from http://www.scoilchriostriportlaoise.ie/uploads/technology.jpg

Johnson, C. S., & Radmer, E. (2013). Making the case for transformational learning through technology-mediated environments. Academic Research International, 4(2), 275-279. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1353301091?accountid=1343

Roland, J. (2013). Harness the power of Moocs to provide staff development in the cloud. Retrieved July 7th, 2013 from http://edcetera.rafter.com/harness-the-power-of-moocs-to-provide-staff-development-in-the-cloud/

Nikolou-Walker, E., & Curley, H. (2012). An examination, evaluation and analysis of work-based learning leadership within a higher education setting. Higher Education, Skills and Work – Based Learning, 2(2), 186-200. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/20423891211224810

TED Talk: Drew Dudley Speaks on Everyday Leadership

In his TED Talk, Dudley (2010) seeks to redefine leaders as “regular” individuals who go out out of their ways to improve each other’s lives . His story of changing a life through a silly gesture that he doesn’t even remember reminds us of how, as individuals, we are continuously affecting the lives of others without even realizing it. Dudley (2010) argues that, rather than consider leadership about changing the world, “We need to get over the fear of how extraordinarily powerful we can be in each other’s lives.”

Dudley’s (2010) definition of leadership is interesting in that it disassembles the binary and power dynamic of leader and follower. Rather, his definition identifies all people as leaders and denotes a bit of accountability to boot. It could be argued that Dudley’s (2010) rhetoric is reminiscent of the humanist perspective of lifelong learning from the 1970s where, “…lifelong learning was advocated…as a model that would promote a better society and quality of life and allow people to adapt to as well as control change (Dave, 1976, Lengrand, 1970 as cited in Rubenson & Walker, 2006, p. 174). That all people are responsible to contribute to creating a better society is emphasized in Dudley’s (2010) call to action, “ We have made leadership about changing the world and there is no world, there is just six billion understandings of it and if you change one person’s understanding of it, one person’s understanding of what they are capable of…one person’s understanding of how powerful and “agent for change” they can be in this world, you have changed the whole thing.”

To further situate Dudey’s 2010 TED Talk in the context of leadership, civil society, and adult education, democratic participation, not just through voting, but through engagement could easily act as criteria for holding the world’s “everyday individuals” as accountable leaders. After World War One, educators,”…realized that thinking people were much more able to play a part in the wider life of society…it was reasoned that only by having a thinking and educated people that a democratic society could be accomplished…” (Jarvis, 1983, p. 9 as cited in Mirth, 2003, p. 38). Almost a century later, how many people are truly engaged in their democracies? Is it possible that Dudley’s talk and, perhaps TED as a community are symbols of a changing perspective of involvement in society as “educated people” and everyday leaders? What are your thoughts?


Drew Dudley: Everyday leadership. [TED Talk]. (2010, September). Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/drew_dudley_everyday_leadership.html

Mirth, D. (2003).The marginalized role of non-formal education in the development of adult education. The Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education, 17(1), 19-45. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/docview/203166112?accountid=14656

Rubenson, K., & Walker, J. (2006). The political economy of adult learning in Canada. In Fenwick, T., Nesbit, T. & Spencer, B. (Eds.) Contexts of adult education: Canadian perspectives (173-186). Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing, Inc.