Tribal Leadership for Liberty: 3 Ways To Participate

This article is the second in a series on the Tribal Leadership methodology within the context of political activism, particularly in application to the liberty movement. How can we become more effective in conveying the message and implementing the principles of liberty? How do we change the culture not only within political parties, but within the movement itself to make a lasting impact on our society and culture for the better? Tribal Leadership challenges conventional wisdom about leadership and offers a creative and intentional practice that anyone can master.

For more information on Tribal Leadership, you can read The New York Times bestseller Tribal Leadership, written by USC Professor Dave Logan and organizational culture expert John King. The book is the result of a ten-year study of twenty-four thousand people in two dozen organizations. Over the 10-year study, these organizations more than doubled the success of their strategies compared to the standard Harvard Business School models, and increased key performance metrics by three to five times within 24 months. Within the context of political activism, that means three to five times more fundraising, three to five times more volunteers, etc.. Obviously, one could assert that overall performance would significantly increase.

Through examining the distinctions of the work, we will learn more about the natural formation of ‘tribes’ in human relationships and organizations. What separates average tribes from those that excel is culture—not funding, seniority, size, or other surface features. Culture is not created in a mission statement or a party platform, but in how people relate, associate, and communicate.

Tribal Leadership addresses challenging questions for organizations, including:

  1. Why do great leaders often fail in new environments?
  2. Why do average leaders sometimes seem better than they really are?
  3. Why do great strategies fail more often than they succeed?

Tribal Leadership teaches you to intentionally and authentically build and shape your organization’s culture. You learn to identify limiting beliefs and blind spots, and create spaces for people to achieve greatness and elevate their own performance in line with the vision and mission of an organization.

Tribal Leadership is not a management tool or something to use. Rather, it is a reframing of your entire approach to any given situation. You will find yourself unconsciously taking on new actions and thinking about problems more effectively.

When I work with consulting clients, I usually open up the program by sharing that there are three ways they can work with me: Auditing, Doing The Best I Can, or Being All In. 


Auditing is simply a passive way of doing the work. Auditing the work within the context of this series of articles would look something like you skimming a few sections, having a few insights about a few things, and then going back to your life. It may or may not have any meaningful impact on the quality of the work you do in politics. Perhaps you get one or two things to implement and it’s somewhat useful. But, it’s a very passive way of going about doing any kind of work. It’s akin to auditing a college course but not doing the homework assignments and showing up for some of the classes. You probably won’t get the full benefits of the course but you may get a thing or two out of it.

Doing The Best I Can

‘Doing the best I can’ is someone who is willing to do the work. Someone who is “sincere” about wanting to do the work and willing to put a lot of effort into it. This would look something like reading the articles in this series, getting some of it, not getting some of it, and then maybe reading 80% of it. If something is confusing, doesn’t make sense, or you don’t find it useful, you may toss it aside.

Doing the best I can may also look like doing the work as long as it fits in with the way you normally do things. However, the moment some inquiry leads to you needing to take action outside of how you are typically comfortable doing things, you may alter it a bit to fit your current logic system or lifestyle as opposed to doing the work exactly as it’s designed.

I recently finished the #75hard program which is the first part of the #livehard program. The #75hard program is a mental toughness challenge where, for 75 consecutive days, you drink one gallon of water, do two 45 minute workouts with at least one of them being outside, abstain from alcohol and all junk food, don’t ever take a cheat meal, do 10 pages of reading, and take a progress picture of yourself. There are no coaches, accountability systems, or anyone you report to. In addition, if you miss a day by drinking 125 ounces of water instead of 128 ounces, forget to take your progress picture, or end up reading 9 pages of a book, you are required to start over again from Day 1. The program cannot be completed by doing the best you can. In fact, I spent three weeks of those 75 days on a cross country road trip, and there were plenty of ways where doing the best I could would have led me to not being able to do the work—such as doing laps in the pouring rain at 3 a.m. at a gas station in rural Texas to get my 45 minute workout in, or walking a few miles in a parking lot. To get the benefits of #75hard, it is crucial that you do it the way it is designed. If you don’t, sure you may get a few benefits, but you will not get the psychological benefits that come from doing the program exactly how it’s designed.

Within the context of Tribal Leadership, if you take it on doing the best you can, you may get a few useful insights, and you’ll most likely get more out of it than you would if you simply audited the reading. But you would most likely not get the transformation that occurs through commitment to doing the work and doing deep inquiry which leads to a shift in how you relate to culture, leadership, and the relationships you have inside a political organization or movement. A shift that leaves you with naturally different ways of being, thinking, and acting—which naturally leads to greater results. 

Being All In

While people who are doing the best they can are sincere about wanting to do the work,  they know they have busy lives. People who are ‘all in’ are also people who acknowledge they have very busy lives and lots going on. The difference is they will do whatever it takes to get it done. They aren’’t just sincere about it (which gives them an out), but are bound by their word to generate the results they are promising themselves to get out of it. If they are reading these articles and something is unclear or doesn’t make sense, they will do the thinking and develop the practices to produce the results vs someone who is doing the best they can—who may just go “I don’t agree” or “that’s not how I do things” and then move on. 

The Tribal Leadership methodology is designed for people who are all in. The promise is you will get the results from doing the work exactly as it is designed. If you do it your own way, you may get something useful out of it, but it won’t be Tribal Leadership—and I would assert you’ll be leaving a lot on the table. 

One of the most important things you can do is to be honest about your level of commitment. Don’t pretend and lie to yourself that you’re all in when you’re really just auditing or doing the best you can. There is nothing wrong with not being all in. 

Tribal Leadership at the level of auditing or doing the best I can produces better technique at best, and just a few interesting dinner table insights at the least. Being all in alters the way your leadership as a function of your natural self-expression occurs for you. The results are a byproduct of a new frame of reference, not just because you learned a better technique.

When you start seeing situations as you’ve never considered them before, you will intuitively develop new ways of thinking about existing problems and begin taking new actions. When you are in a car and you have to make a short-stop, you don’t think to yourself, “Well, now, I’m going to take my foot and put it on this brake pedal.” No, you’d already be in an accident at that point. Instead, experience and context lead to a nearly autonomic reaction. In much the same way, viewing situations from a Tribal Leadership ‘worldview’ significantly impacts the quality of your response.

Much of what you will read in this series is not for everyone—perhaps not even for most. People are often interested only in learning a few management tools or techniques. And that’s fine. However, Tribal Leadership is not a tool or technique. It is a transformation of how you relate to those around you, and how you work with them to create a culture conducive to accomplishing great things.

If we are to effectively create a culture of liberty, we need to reassess our approach. We need to acknowledge our differences and come together in the areas where we are aligned. We need to go beyond the Stage 3 thinking of “I’m great and everyone else sucks”. We need to learn to speak the language of liberty in a way that makes people want to be All In.


By Eric Schleien with contributions by Camellia Peterson

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