Climber or Contributor: Which are You?

Members of a tribe generally fall into one of two personality types: Climber or Contributor. Although one is better for most tribes, each has its place. Which are you?

Man looks up ladder, contemplating whether or not to climbClimber

The Climber seeks first to climb the career ladder.

Climbers only contributes if it will help them climb.

Climbers seek to promote themselves over their peers.

Climbers make decisions for the organization based on the implications to their career.

Climbers create short-term wins with long-term costs.

Climbers jockey for position.

Climbers worry about perception.

Climbers think and act tactically.

Climbers pull command.

Climbers distribute the blame.

Climbers accept the  praise.


The Contributor seeks first to contribute to the tribe.

Contributors only climb if it will enable them to contribute more.

Contributors seek to promote their peers and tribe.

Contributors make decisions for the organization based on the implications to their stakeholders.

Contributors create long-term wins out of short-term costs.

Contributors jockey for results.

Contributors worry about reality.

Contributors think and act strategically.

Contributors pull influence.

Contributors accept the blame.

Contributors distribute the praise.

Each tribe places different value on the Climber or Contributor. Some tribes have more of one, than the other. The balance shapes that tribe’s culture and will influence your role in the organization.


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

2 thoughts on “Climber or Contributor: Which are You?”

  1. Interesting concept Ben. I’m not sure I agree with each one of the Climber list. During my Navy experience a Climber was one who didn’t let conflict or opportunities get in the way of progress.  In other words, they worked through the problem to completion. It was never looked at as someone who was aspiring to increased levels of responsibility; which was always a given for those of use who were always looking for promotions. 

    We would also say, “When the Chaplain goes over the hill, it is just getting right for me.” Nothing was to bad or no problem to big for us Climbers. 

    As for the contributor, I can agree with those as they are about ‘serving’ and that is what we do as Servant Leaders. 

    Thanks for the insights.

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