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

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.