“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” I realize this is how I began last week's post. However, the enormity of the task makes it a great way to begin Part 2 on this topic. As leaders, how we think about culture will be a chief factor in our future success, or lack thereof. Will the power of your culture be like light in a dark world or lightning, full of destruction and untapped potential?
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you think about the culture of the organization you lead…
Every leader has the opportunity to impact their culture. We can make the mistake of believing only senior leaders impact culture. Yes, it is true the senior leader is the chief cultural architect. However, every division, department, and team has a culture. These cultures can be shaped, cultivated and nurtured.
Every culture is multi-faceted. Culture is much broader than most think. People in an organization have many habits – some good and some not so good. The leadership challenge is to nurture healthy habits while always trying to root out the not so desirable ones.
Culture creates its own inertia. Because culture is, by definition, what people do habitually, to change the culture requires people to change. Generally, people do not like change; therefore, it stands to reason, challenging and altering the habits of large numbers of people is extremely difficult – but you already knew that.
Without extremely strong leadership culture always wins. This is the essence of the Drucker quote. In reality, sometimes culture wins even when strong leadership is present. However, every leader must believe he or she can enhance the culture - regardless of the odds. If you don't believe you can change it, you shouldn't try to lead it.
Courage is required to change a culture. Changing an entrenched culture may be the hardest work a leader will ever have to do. Remember, behaviors are part of the culture because they already exist in large numbers. When a leader challenges a culture, he or she is challenging current behaviors and norms.
Leaders must serve as the architects of the culture. When channeled in the right direction, culture is a huge force for good. This power is why it makes sense for leaders to invest time creating a compelling culture. Harness its power and your leadership journey will be infinitely easier. To leave culture to chance is one of the biggest mistakes a leader can make.
My best advice for leaders is to make culture one of your highest priorities. If you are diligent, it could even become a competitive advantage. And, if you sense big changes are needed, don’t attack it alone. Culture not only eats strategy for breakfast, it eats a lot of leaders for lunch.[GLS_Shield]
Which elements of your culture need to be protected and which facets need to be changed?