First Nations societies, universally, had a consistent approach in organising their population. The design principle handles scale and applied irrespective of whether the society is or was organised as hunter-gatherer bands of up to around 25 people or a league of nations of 25,000 people.
Nature of Leadership
The role of the leader in ancestral societies developed as the population grew and the society became more organised. If the nature of leadership didn’t develop, the society couldn’t expand.
Attributes of Leadership
Across cultures and across continents, there is stunning uniformity of the attributes that qualify a person for leadership. Even in a hereditary system, the person next in line will be banned from leadership if they don’t have the required attributes for the role.
As societies become more organisationally complex, great care is taken in selecting the leader. The success rate of traditional societies in choosing leaders sets the benchmark of what’s possible for workplaces.
Appointments and Status of Leaders
When a person is appointed to a leadership role, traditional societies mark the moment with ritual. The ritual signals the obligations of leadership.
Checks on Leadership Power
Given the problems arising from ineffective leadership or from leaders abusing their power, ancestral societies generally have options to fix poor leadership.
First Nation societies are clear on the meaning of membership of their society. There is clarity on the extent to which individual desires are to be conceded in favour of group interests.
Individual Identity Through Learning
Ancestral societies are learning organisations. A key role of the leader – and the elders – is to teach. Teaching helps achieve individual identity within the group and to avoid the anonymity that many people experience in modern organisations.
Gender Equity – To Avoid a Feature of Ancestral Life
The finding from my research that disturbs me is that in ancestral societies there is widespread gender inequity in favour of men. But in identifying this finding, at least if we know the deep-seated source of gender inequity we can choose to take the tangible actions necessary to fix the problem.
Inter-Group Harmony – To Avoid a Feature of Ancestral Life
Almost all ancestral societies had hostile relationships with their neighbours. This finding explains why workplaces can quickly tribalise, and helps leaders watch for the first signs of rivalry so they can take swift remedial action before performance is sabotaged.
Initiatives for Group Cohesion
Ancestral communities generate a strong sense of belonging amongst group members. They devote significant time and resources to bind their community and to reduce tension with their neighbours.
While the principles provide a comprehensive blueprint of workplace leadership, there is no requirement to implement the practices in the order in which I have distilled them. They are fluid. Start anywhere and build from there.