Leadership causes culture not the other way around

Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

Tony’s* leadership team confronted the predictable future they faced if nothing changed. They were once an important group but now they risked becoming irrelevant. They refused to accept the nauseating prospect of a gradual demise. Once they decided to end the predictable future, they were able to design a new future. It was a future based on their commitment to make a difference in the lives of their clients. They took on a bigger game to convert their words into action. They wrote down the ‘conversations’ and practices that they needed to end and start to support their new future. They are stepping up their own leadership. Through their actions, they are creating and owning a new culture for their organisation.     

Tony recognised that he needed to be a living demonstration of what he was seeking from his leadership team. He had seen too many culture change programs fail because of a lack of executive ownership. He did not want to follow examples he had experienced where a list of values was posted on the wall and all too soon ignored. He knew that he would need to step up his own leadership before he could expect his leadership team to do the same. That meant that he did not have to pretend to have all the answers. The leadership team valued his authenticity and the opportunity to design the future together.   

Tony’s story illustrates the point that leadership causes culture not the other way around. Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, is another example of the power of leadership causing culture. He recently launched a new version of the document it uses to communicate its corporate values to existing and potential employees. The previous version of the statement inspired over 17 million views on SlideShare. Netflix is challenging conventional wisdom with its culture statement. Here is an example from the document, “On a dream team, there are no “brilliant jerks.” The cost to teamwork is just too high.”

What is the culture you are creating?

Best regards, Brian

* Name changed to protect the innocent

PS: Want to align your team on a bold new future? Contact us for a free 30 minute leadership diagnostic.