Podcast Episode 012: The Tribal Leadership book with Halee Fischer-Wright

In episode 12 of The Corporate Corner we have Halee Fischer-Wright with us talking about the bestselling book The Tribal Leadership.

You can find more about Halee and the book here at CultureSync

and you can buy the book here: The Tribal Leadership

and listen to the podcast:

Apple Podcasts


It is a very interesting book and for anyone who has been in any corporation or organization you will find a lot of interesting stories and you will most likely recognize yourself or your organization at one or more of the levels.

What is a tribe?

The book describes it like this:

A tribe is a group between 20 and 150 people. Here’s the test for whether someone is in one of your tribes: if you saw her walking down the street, you’d stop and say “hello”. The members of your tribe are probably programmed into your cell phone and in you e-mail address book.

Tribes in companies get work done — sometimes a lot of work—but they don’t form because of work. Tribes are the basic building block of any large human effort, including earning a living.

Corporate Culture

Halee explains that they mean by corporate culture.

The way we define culture how things are done around here. So from that standpoint we really identify to take culture and push it and improve it beacuse what we know is when you improve corporate culture the outcome improves as well.

The Five Tribal Stages

The book describes five different levels through which corporations and organizations cycle through with the level Five culture being the most desirable

Every tribe has a dominant culture, which can peg on a one-to-five scale, with Stage Five being the most desirable. All things being equal, a Five culture will always outperform a Four culture, which will always outperform a Three and so on.

Stage 1 – Life Sucks

2% of American professionals operate at level 1 and it is a place to avoid if possible .This is the stage with the mind-set that creates street gangs and people who come to work with shotguns.

In the book they describe their findings around stage one.

Life sucks, so there is no point to values, vision or morality. In fact, these seem like con games designed to make us miss the obvious truth of life, which is that it isn’t fair, it’s a vile place, and we all die.

Stage 2 – My life sucks

The essence of Stage Two is “my life sucks” and it accounts for 25% of workplace cultures and in the book we can read.

There are some good examples of Stage Two organizations that most people love to hate, The Department of Motor Vehicles, doctor’s offices that make us wait forty-five minutes reading magazines older than we are while the receptionist moves so slowly we wonder if she may have died.

Who has not been in a level 2 organization? These are the places where you always hear “It’s not possible” or “we have always done it like this”.

Interesting was that in the book they mention even CEOs they have met that through their career always blame things on external parameters and in the talk we touch upon something interesting when Halee mentions that you can have this new CEO coming in full of enthusiasm but being dragged down a level to adapt to the existing corporate culture.

Stage 3. I am great you are not

48% of American professionals operate at Stage Three and this is what we all are taught in the educational systems, to become great.

The essence of Stage Three is “I’m great” and unstated and lurking in the background “and you are not” as they describe it in the book.

The book mentions the businessman Donald Trump as a good example of a typical stage 3 person and this was before he became president.

In the talk with Halee with discuss Donald Trump and his Stage 3 attitude and how his behavior and attitude is rippling down to a lot of stage 3 people out there.

Stage 4 – We are great, they are not

Stage 4 is literally taking the greatness and skills of people in level 3 and bringing it to the next level where they move away from the centric I view to a more holistic view where the WE is the most important.

Often people raise to Stage 4 from some insight that this I race is not sustainable in the long run and want to achieve something bigger.

The Stage 4 always have this feeling of that WE are great but it is also coming with WE are GREATER than them. Could be another company, another department or someone they are competing with.


This is the stage people arise to to create something bigger for humanity.

Examples they give in the book is of people like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, U2’s Bono, Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and people of their ilk who often go on to contribute to global – not just tribal causes.

They also give the example when they go out to interview people at the pharmaceutical Amgen and that the employees are not competing against someone else but where they say: “We’re in competition with cancer”.

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