Highlights for Tribal Leadership

First, they spent most of their efforts building strong relationships between Griffin’s tribal members—its employees, volunteers, and patients. Second, instead of telling people what to do, they engineered experiences (such as the retreats) in which staff members would look at the same issues they were dealing with, so that strategy became everyone’s problem. Third, they got out of the way and let people contribute in their own way to the emerging tribal goals.
Without the leaders building the tribe, a culture of mediocrity will prevail. Without an inspired tribe, leaders are impotent.
The entire tribe shifts from resisting leadership to seeking it out.
Organizational learning becomes effortless, with the tribe actively teaching its members the latest thinking and practices.
Life sucks, so there’s 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. Sure, life would be better if everyone followed the game, but at its core, life sucks, so it’s both better and easier to give in to the reality of the situation.
One of the pitfalls we caution company leaders to avoid is to identify values and then make decisions based on expediency, as if the values didn’t exist. Such behavior depresses a culture, often all the way down to Stage Two, and creates a perception that values are created for the employees while executives are above the law.
The single most important takeaway from Stage Four is that Tribal Leaders follow the core values of the tribe no matter what the cost.
A noble cause is a pronouncement of a future state that a tribe will bring about through its coordinated action. It is bigger than what one person can do alone, no matter how many people are offering technical support; it requires people’s best efforts and passions. It should arouse so much excitement in a tribe that even if people fail, the noble cause was worth the effort.
If you have a similar group, then ask people to write down their version of the noble cause—a statement that expresses their highest aspirations for the tribe.
As we watched Tribal Leaders do their work, we noted that they tended to ask, “What’s working well?” “What’s not working?” “What can we do to make the things that aren’t working, work?” and “Is there anything else?”
When you use triads to solve problems, remind people of shared values.
Some people resist building triads because they think they’ll lose control. Their thought is that this technique may encourage people to undercut them. However, the opposite is true. The rule of reciprocity implies, “Whatever you give out, you’ll get back.”
Effective triading requires a word that we heard people use again and again to describe real Tribal Leaders: “authenticity.”
We’re often asked by people at Stage Two how they can triad with people who won’t even return their calls. The answer is that they first have to go through Stage Three and become great at something,
There’s no shortcut for knowing who is in your tribe, what’s important to them, and what they’re doing.
The objective is for the tribe (not just the leader) to set outcomes so compelling that people will want to form and maintain a Stage Four culture to accomplish them.
It’s not that competitors don’t exist; it’s that they don’t matter.

Reading 2018

I grabbed the code I had lying around for last year and without too much trouble ran the same analysis for the books. The graph is not that dramatic this time though for some reason I did not read much during summer.

Pages read per month in 2018

Page-wise this year with 13398 pages was a bit weaker than last year (15049 pages).

By some miracle, I managed to post my top ten recommendations to twitter on the 31st.

Now as to the categories in which I read books and what I thought stood out.


Not as many books as last year, but some very good ones and an area where I will read more. Rumelt has written one of the best books on strategy I’ve seen. Marquet’s highly recommended book I think will bear fruit on future re-reading. Scott’s book contains a fairly complete operating system for a modern tech company.

The cracking books are ok and did helped me crack a PM interview but still had nothing to do with the job I started working at last month.

  • Good Strategy / Bad Strategy, Richard Rumelt
  • Turn the Ship Around, David Marquet
  • Radical Candor, Kim Malone Scott
  • Cracking the Tech Career
  • The First 90 Days
  • Cracking the PM Interview

Diversity (non-white/non-male): 3/6

I don’t have an Engineering category this year (I abandoned The Rust Book and consulted but did not finish the App Architecture book). I am reading topical things for my new job so this year will be better.


I’m pleasantly surprised how much I’ve managed to read. Mishra’s book is one of the few really mainstream non-white perspectives on a very important part of our history and I keep enjoying seeing him take names in the LRB and the Guardian. Bluets is a beautiful introspective trip just like The Argonauts was. Sandifer is a critical tour de force of with an ideology and temperament I don’t see anywhere else. I’ve always been fond of Machiavelli but with Erica Benner’s rehabilitation of him I don’t have to be embarrassed about that anymore. Runciman’s book about the alternatives to democracy is like a protracted and focused episode of the podcast.

I don’t have a Fiction category or Sapiens would be there instead of here.

  • From the Ruins of Empire, Pankaj Mishra
  • Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari
  • Ecology without Nature, Timothy Morton
  • A Contest of Ideas, Nelson Lichtenstein
  • Bluets, Maggie Nelson
  • Neoreaction a Basilisk, Elizabeth Sandifer
  • No Name in the Street, James Baldwin
  • Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker
  • Be Like the Fox, Erica Benner
  • The Chapo Guide to Revolution
  • The Hall of Uselessness, Simon Leys
  • Surveillance Valley, Yasha Levine
  • How Democracy Ends, David Runciman

Diversity (non-white/non-male): 5/13

Genre Fiction

I have been very light on genre fiction and I’m not sure whether SF will continue to be a thing I read much of in the future. The genre is bigger than ever but there is so little serious stuff coming out.

I am glad to have re-read Le Guin this year. Majestic.

  • Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor
  • Altered Carbon, Richard Morgan
  • The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin
  • The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin
  • The Stone Sky, N.K. Jemisin
  • Broken Angels, Richard Morgan
  • Woken Furies, Richard Morgan
  • The Planet on the Table, Kim Stanley Robinson
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin

Diversity (non-white/non-male): 5/9


I find it easier to read non-fiction because I can’t parallelize literature very well and whenever I read a dud (here’s looking at you Elif) they block the queue for everything else. Makumbi’s Ugandan family saga has opened up my perspective on the country like a good local novel can do. Hamid’s rumination on refugees is short and sharp like a blade. Shanbhag’s book is a quick family tale of rags to riches where everything becomes entangled.

  • Terug naar Oegstgeest, Jan Wolkers
  • Kintu, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
  • Dorsvloer vol confetti, Franca Treur
  • Voyage to the End of the Night, Louis-Ferdinand Céline
  • Exit West, Mohsin Hamid
  • Ghachar Ghochar, Vivek Shanbhag
  • The Idiot, Elif Batuman

Diversity (non-white/non-male): 5/7


I read so many (34!) kids books this year and this number will probably only increase since we have only just started visiting the library. We live close to the Amerika Gedenkbibilothek which has a fairly sized kids department.

Franchises that did well with us this year were Kikker and the newly discovered Pip & Posy. We finished the seasonal Wimmelbücher (of which Fall was the highlight and Winter a disappointment). Let’s see whether these see renewed play next year.

The kids books do inflate my reading number a lot but that is not taking into account that I have had to read most of these books dozens of times. So there’s that.

  • So Müde und Hellwach
  • Welcher Po passt auf dieses Klo?
  • Mama kwijt
  • De dieren van Fiep
  • Kikker en Eend
  • Kikker is jarig, Max Velthuijs
  • Was willst du Baby?
  • Piep piep met Fiep
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear
  • So leicht so schwer
  • Der kleine Hase
  • Das kleine Lamm
  • Badetag für Hasekind
  • Sommer-Wimmelbuch
  • Frühlings-Wimmelbuch
  • Kaatje zegt nee
  • Pip en Posy en het nieuwe vriendje, Axel Scheffler
  • Das kleine Schwein
  • The Pony Twins
  • Sommer
  • Het vrolijke voorleesboek van Kikker
  • Winter-Wimmelbuch
  • Beestje, kom je op mijn feestje?
  • Hörst du die klassische Musik?
  • Het carnaval der dieren
  • Ssst! De tijger slaapt
  • Ik zou wel een kindje lusten
  • No Bad Kids
  • Oh Crap! Potty Training
  • Ein kleines Krokodil mit ziemlich viel Gefühl
  • Pip en Posy en de kerstboom
  • Herbst-Wimmelbuch, Rotraut Susanne Berner
  • Aki und Kon, der Fuchs
  • Die Wildnis ist unser Zuhause


Two solid books on this slow but steady path.

  • The Parent’s Tao te Ching
  • Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

Previously in 2017 & 2016