5 Key Communication Principles: Insights from Erhard, Landmark, & Tribal Leadership


Effective communication is at the heart of every successful relationship, whether it be personal or professional. Many schools of thought have weighed in on the subject, but some of the most compelling ideas come from the likes of Werner Erhard, the Landmark Forum, and the Tribal Leadership model. Drawing from these sources, and broadly from the ontological domain, here are five principles to consider when seeking to communicate effectively.

  1. Be Authentic and Transparent:
    • Source: Werner Erhard & Landmark Forum One of the foundational ideas in the works of Werner Erhard, and later, the Landmark Forum, is the importance of being authentic. Authenticity requires shedding facades and communicating from a place of genuine self-expression. This means being transparent about our feelings, thoughts, and concerns. When we are authentic, our words carry weight and credibility, and others are more likely to trust what we say.
  2. Listen Actively and Without Judgment:
    • Source: Werner Erhard & Landmark Forum One of the major barriers to effective communication is our inherent nature to wait for our turn to speak rather than truly listening. Erhard emphasized the power of active listening — that is, listening without crafting our response or passing judgment. Active listening allows us to truly hear what the other person is saying, leading to deeper understanding and connection.
  3. Understand and Honor Cultural and Tribal Norms:
    • Source: Tribal Leadership Every group or organization has its own cultural norms and values. The Tribal Leadership model, proposed by John King, posits that groups evolve through five stages of “tribal culture.” Effective communication within these groups requires understanding and speaking to the prevalent cultural stage. For instance, a message that resonates with a tribe at ‘Stage Three’ (individualistic) may not resonate with one at ‘Stage Five’ (values-driven).
  4. Speak from Commitment and Responsibility:
    • Source: Ontological Coaching & Werner Erhard The ontological domain delves deep into the ways we “be” in the world. A fundamental tenet of this approach is that our way of being directly influences our actions and communication. When we speak from a place of commitment and take responsibility for our words, we communicate powerfully and avoid the pitfalls of blame or justification.
  5. Recognize and Address Breakdowns Promptly:
    • Source: Landmark Forum & Ontological Coaching In any communication, misunderstandings or breakdowns are inevitable. What distinguishes effective communicators is their ability to recognize these breakdowns and address them promptly. The Landmark Forum, for instance, emphasizes the importance of “completing the past” — acknowledging past miscommunications or unresolved issues so that they don’t hinder present and future interactions.

In conclusion, the teachings of Werner Erhard, the Landmark Forum, and Tribal Leadership, as well as ontological coaching, offer profound insights into the art and science of communication. By adhering to these principles, we can foster connections that are more meaningful, productive, and fulfilling. Whether in our personal relationships, work environments, or broader communities, effective communication is the key to unlocking potential and fostering growth.

Sources & Further Reading

  1. Embrace Authenticity:
  2. Prioritize Active Listening:
    • Sources: Werner Erhard, Landmark Forum & Thinking Tribal by Eric Schleien Listening can be more powerful than speaking. Focus on understanding and valuing the speaker’s perspective.
  3. Value Cultural Sensitivity:
  4. Commitment is Key:
  5. Quickly Address Miscommunications:
    • Sources: Landmark Forum & Thinking Tribal by Eric Schleien Breakdowns happen. The key is in swift acknowledgment and resolution, maintaining trust and mutual respect.
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