Bringing Tribal Empowerment to Workplace Teams

Bringing Tribal Empowerment to Workplace Teams

What does it have in common that a tribe living in the Amazon jungle and a team working in a CBD office share?

It may seem simple on the surface, but we discover the human connections between them all the more. Any group of people, regardless of their purpose, must find ways to work together in order to achieve shared goals.

Everyone in the workplace and beyond is part of at least one “tribe” where they must work together for the common good.

It seems reasonable to assume that these “indigenous” settings share specific standard requirements that lead to our tribes’ success. What are these requirements?

Tribe needs

Recent neuroscience research, including work by the University of California and the Neuropower Group, has led to six standard requirements for individuals in teams. These can be considered the drivers and motivators of team performance.

These are fundamental ‘needs’ that underlie human behavior and lead to higher performance and satisfaction levels.

Here’s a brief overview of each one:


This is the brain’s need for belonging to a human group and being able to relate to others. Tribal psychology teaches that children are born with implicit cultural values, beliefs, and attitudes. They also learn punishments and rewards. The feeling of belonging and security that comes with it brings about a sense of cohesion and safety. It is based on our personal values and represents the part of our brain that thinks like a member of the collective – our family, tribe, or team – but it is often not conscious.

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This is our brain’s need for understanding and expressing all emotions. It allows us to remember what happened emotionally, so we can continue doing what we love and not do what makes us unhappy. It fosters creativity, experimentation, and lateral thinking. This solid human need is evident in tribal psychology. Tribes all over the globe have developed effective ways to encourage and reward individual and collective expression through song, poetry, and arts.

The Leader of the Pack

This is the brain’s desire to achieve higher status by individual pursuit. This allows us to move beyond the routine of automatic behavior into the external world and get what we want. It is where we find our motivation, drive, and ego. We can break old habits to enter new territory and lead the way with energy, independence, and a sense of personal achievement. It can be unhealthy if it is too dominant at the expense of team goals. However, it must be managed and not ignored. Every tribe on the planet has systems that enable individuals to reach their personal goals, which in turn increases the tribe’s esteem.

Interpersonal Connection

This is the heart-brain part that needs to empathize and feel with others. It must be able to tune in to their feelings and understand their thoughts and emotions. This creates meaningful connections that are real and meaningful and minimizes prejudice, misunderstandings, and the problems that result. This promotes authentic and healthy relationships. In the context of tribal empowerment, traits such as empathy and solidarity, acceptance, and human regard have been long taught to non-living things and living beings.

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The Facts

This is the brain’s desire to objectively observe evidence of lived experience. Visual intelligence is based on the brain’s ability to recognize patterns and recall facts. The brain is attracted to feedback and all the pertinent information. We seek to understand the world using quantifiable facts. This directly relates to our ability to learn. It is easy to see how ancient tribes developed visual art, glyphs, and patterns. They also found their own methods of recording information and insights.

The Future is bright.

This is the brain’s need to see the future with positive expectations. It helps to explain why we are constantly excited about new ideas and visions and why we strive for them. This draws on brain parts that allow us to see things in a new way and open us up to higher consciousness. This connects tribal sages with forward-thinking business leaders.

We have seen that the strategist and the shaman are not as far apart as we might think. Neither are our work teams or ancient tribes. Neuroscience has shown that brains have everyday needs. Leaders of all organizations must ensure these needs are met, or they will be affected by their performance.



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