AACSB Associate Deans Conference: Leadership Skills and Strategies (David Logan: CultureSync & USC Marshall School of Business)

David Logan CultureSync and Senior Partner, USC


At the AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012 David Logan, Senior Partner, CultureSync and Lecturer, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, gave a highly entertaining talk about dealing with ‘tribes’ in organizations. The title of the talk was “Leadership Skills and Strategies: Techniques and Tools on Leveraging Group Dynamics” and it gave some useful advice on how we can teach groups to develop a more positive attitude to their work.

According to David Logan, naturally occurring groups’ (NOGs) forms in 161most organizations and universities are no different. This can be roughly 20-100 people and as Associate Dean you are surrounded by them and need to deal with these groups. He calls them “tribes.” All people “tribe” in one form or another but “only 7% of organizational tribes are wired to deliver clinical excellence”. This seems to be lower in academia. These tribes can have several attitudes towards work.


Tribal attitudes towards work can range from very negative….

Stage 1: Life Sucks (2% of tibes)

This is rare (only 2%) but when it does occur it often leads to unethical behavior (employee stealing, cooking the books etc.) If people like this are identified in a company, it is better to sever relationships with them.


Stage 2: My life sucks (25% of tribes)

This is basic complaining about life in general. Typically people at work complain about things such as:

  1. People above them in the system
  2. Lack of communication
  3. Salary too low
  4. Scheduling
  5. Students, other professors etc.
  6. Lack of resources

Stage 3: I’m great and you are not (49% of people. This can be as high as 80% in faculty)

.... through less cooperative...

…. through less cooperative…

This often occurs in a culture where there are many high achievers that have a record of producing high quality work. According to David Logan, three quarters of work placed tribes are not set up to function with normal leadership.

Stage 4: We’re great (22% of tribes)

This is a tribal culture based on fun accepting individuality and working together. David Logan gives the example of Zappos where the CEO doesn’t have an office but a booth. In universities, professors with a team spirit and who wanted to listen to others tended to perform more highly. A recent survey showed that only 7-10% of faculty can teach on the executive MBA program and it was often these values that determined who got onto the program.

.... to highly performing.

…. to highly performing.

Stage 5 Life is great (2%)

These are the highest performing tribes. However, to get there it is necessary to crack the code on stages 3 and 4.


How then does this relate to Associate Dean’s work?

To improve performance, says David Logan you:

“Need to find the values of individuals and base your strategy on those values.”

You should go often for lunch and find out about the person. You should ask open questions and ask why they choose an institution and why they chose their job. People opt out because they feel that they had a valuable contribution which was ignored. Surgeons know that they have a lot of power in hospitals (i.e. revenue) so they have bad behavior. When this happens you should go back to basics and ask why they started the job in the first place.

David Logan gives an example. The Manhattan Project is a prime example of a high performing team.

“More science got done in 3 years than would have been done in 70 in an organic fashion. They were jolted into action by the idea that Nazi Germany might get the bomb before them.”


Associate Deans should foster positive working environment.

Associate Deans are perfectly set up to aid this process. They should get into the habit of creating triadic connections i.e. bringing people together and getting them to share their experience. If there is a poor working atmosphere they should find one person that you can convince. Tell them that you think they have potential. Once you have mentored that person, you should get them to be a mentor.  A more positive working environment should ensue.

See also:

Millenials Incorporated Brent Smith main

AACSB Associate Deans Conference: Leading in Challenging Economic Times by Karyl B. Leggio

AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012: Millennials Incorporated: Our Student Cohort AACSB Associate Deans Conference: Executive Education: Developing Non-Degree Education for the Future (Brent Smith)s


Tribal Leadership: An Interview with Dave Logan 

Tribal leadershipDavid Zinger: “This is an interview with Dave Logan, one of the authors of the book, Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization.                          

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According to Geert Hofstede “Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster.”  Patrick Mazzariol, Vice President International Sales at Synchrony, Inc., USA, explains that an international learning strategy, language skills and embracing new cultures are the keys to overcoming this problem.

Building Enduring Success

Many have postulated on the key components of business success. Theories build on approaches ranging from evaluating lessons learned to recognizing opportunities and having a willingness to take measured risks. Clearly such concepts can play an influential role. However, there are three key foundational imperatives for ensuring enduring success.

Sex… Past, Present and Future: Confusing your Xs and your Ys

(c) Ciaran Griffin - Stockbyte / ThinkstockAcross Europe, Business Schools are now getting in the full swing of the new academic year. So comes the moment to deal with subject that is on all business students’ minds and to wonder whether they are really that different to previous generations.

10 Corporations That Have a Major Hand in Higher Education

Online Colleges: “BP has contracts with Berkeley, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, MIT, and more. The energy company regularly engages in multimillion dollar contracts for university research, including a 10-year, $500 million investment in Berkeley’s Energy Biosciences Institute.”

Greater Leadership

Education and Empowerment: “I reflect on the foundations of what it means to be a great leader quite often.  How do I inspire? How do I appreciate and congratulate? How do I hold people accountable in ways in which their personal worth is still recognized?  This question of leadership is one of the questions with which I am consistently grabbling.”

Strategy Land – Richard Rumelt´s Blog

“Richard Rumelt’s Web Journal on Good and Bad Strategy in Business, Politics, and Economics”

Peter Lorange’s Blog

“Blog of Professor Dr. Peter Lorange , one of the world’s foremost business school academics.”

‘Attitude Reflects Leadership’ And Other Life Lessons

Theinnerwildkat: “Remember the Titans – the movie shows the beginnings of acceptance and teamwork that were beginning to take root during a very tough time in our history. As I thought about the this movie, I saw a lot of pertinent things to today in both acceptance and leadership.”

Business Schools Should Teach You How To Tell a ‘Sticky’ Story

Modern World: “I was captivated by one of my favorite professors’ courses, in which he told us to ‘learn to tell a story that sticks’.  I matched everything together and got to an interesting conclusion. Business Schools should provide Marketing students with at least a basic set of creative writing skills!!”

Duke University Fuqua School of Management Bertrand Guillotin   Grenoble  Studying in Grenoble  Business School  Grenoble EM  International Affairs   Higher Education    Global Ed   Graduate Business School    Mark Thomas


Brian Leavy and Peter McKiernan Good to Great
Advanced reading for students of strategy. One of the most important business  books of the 1990s and has been in the best seller list ever since. Fantastic read for anyone thinking about their leadership style. Why are some companies having problems keeping good staff? How do you manage to keep them?


Filed under Behavior, Business Schools, Corporate Behavior, Education, Ethics, Higher Education, Leadership, Management, MBA, Psychology, Social Affairs, Strategy

9 responses to “AACSB Associate Deans Conference: Leadership Skills and Strategies (David Logan: CultureSync & USC Marshall School of Business)

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