Saturday, December 3, 2011

Leading From The Stacks: Hipster in a headdress

This is the ninth post in the series Leading From The Stacks, an examination of leadership in the library industry. It was initiated by my course Leading From Any Position.

I love TED talks. I know that I have posted or linked to a bunch of them in this series. I'm a visual and auditory learner so they have been a great resource for me. Here is one that I thought would be fascinating, but I actually found that I had some issues with it. Its David Logan, talking about his theories on Tribal Leadership:

Logan discuses his five levels of tribal groups: 
Stage one: Life sucks. These are gangs, criminals and loners who feel that life sucks and life will always suck.
Stage two: My life sucks. His example is a long line at the DMV.
Stage three: My life is great. Emphasis on my.
Stage four: Unify individuals. Looking at tribes of highly desirable corporate jobs, like zappos or google.
Stage five: Life is great. Unifying everyone. Such as the reconciliation of South Africa.

Logan's definition of leadership is nudging your organization towards the fifth stage.

My disappointment lies in the fact that I started watching this video with some pretty high standards. I thought this was going to be coming from the perspective of a anthropologist, looking at actual tribes. Instead, this was a business professor talking about organizational culture. Which is an important conversation to have. But why can't we just call it organizational culture? I guess tribal leadership is a bit sexier, but if feels like cultural appropriation. Kind of like a hipster in a headdress.

I think an actual examination of leader styles would be fascinating. As an undergraduate student, we discussed Ujamaa, which is African Socialism. Ujamaa is a swahili word for extended family. African socialism grew out of the idea that what is good for the tribe is good for the individual. European socialism tends to focus more on the relationship between the worker (proletariat) and the factory owner (capitalist). Comparing the two is a look at industrial tribes versus non-industrial tribes. There is a lot to learn from both, but personally, I like to think of the library organization more of a family setting than a factory. And so ideas of Ujamaa makes more sense. What is good for the individual library worker is good for the organization.