How to Become a Culture Building Leader
Lazy leaders blame. Arrogant leaders push down. Fearful leaders push away.
Facebook contributors said, “The worst leaders ______:”
- Talk too much and think too little.
- Believe collaboration shows weakness.
- Fear risk.
- Need power.
- Never acknowledge weakness.
- More (posted on 3/4/13)…
All leaders build organizational culture, worst included.
Lousy leaders build lousy organizational culture. Anyone suggesting leadership is overrated hasn’t worked with lousy leaders. However…
Power to destroy suggests power to create.
Those who tear down have power to build up.
Culture building leaders:
Dr. Vik (Doc) explains the type of leaders who build empowering organizational cultures in, “The Culture Secret.” Leaders who empower:
- Connect rather than withdraw. “Leaders can’t lead anything from the office.”
- Build “chains of empowerment” not “chains of command.”
- Concentrate on the success of others.
- Exercise “power with,” not “power over.”
- Tell people what needs to be done not what to do.
- Focus on employee strengths.
- Express gratitude.
- Make people feel they matter.
- Emphasize positives even when dealing with negatives.
- Use “we,” “ours,” and, “us.”
- Show interest.
- Know names.
Becoming a culture builder:
- Believe you matter in the face of obstacles, opposition, and negativity.
- Choose creation over destruction.
- Courageously dream and consistently talk about what could be.
- Find and exploit points of alignment. Don’t push against, pull with.
- Keep smiling.
I’m recommending, “The Culture Secret,” for any leaders looking to ramp up their culture building skills and activities.
Connect with Doc:
What behaviors do culture building leaders exhibit?
What activities build empowering cultures?
Just what I needed. Validates some thoughts I’ve been feeling at work. Thanks
I am a firm believer that you only have control over yourself, and I believe this is the type of leader I am working on becoming. But how do you convince or encouragement other leaders to do the same?
Yo Anonymous, I am a firm believer in your firm belief.
Working on the same thing, you figure it our let me know.
What I am going to do today is “act as if” and knock out of the park what is right on front of me today. Chop Wood, Carry Water.
Love the ACT AS IF approach. Go get’em
great question, would say you have to make “self-leadership” a core belief of the organization, set the expectation that individuals will be evaluated against criteria that fit under that category that all team members can participate in developing and create a “Team Agreement” around it.
Hope that helps.
Thank you Skip.
Help people believe in themselves enough that they believe they can make a difference and then expect them to make a difference.
Great post, all sounds pretty pretty pretty good.
What to do if you are the only person in the company reading
it…..that is the question.
Pass it on! 🙂
SP… yes pass it on. Sounds like you need to share your ideas more. This is not a one time fix.
Culture building leaders have three things in common: values based character, bouncing back capabilities, and envisioning unseen opportunity. They influence the culture first by their behaviour and activities. They send strong message about what we need. They create ” We feeling” in the system. They do not show their position, power or authority to influence people, rather they make people to contribute fearlessly. Their values make infect people to take decisions and bounce back from the worst situation. They do not worry from obstacles and make optimistic effort to overcome worst situations. These values make a winning team who can lead anytime in case of need.
Culture building leaders envision the silver lining even in hopeless situations. They see differently, they actually see the dream realized. They connect more with people than the chair. They spend most of their time in strengthening and nurturing relationship with the people. They create atmosphere of culture which is not replicable nor general. They make culture that is unique and exemplary that reflect their values and character.
Thank you Ajay. Your contribution is a post within a post. I especially enjoy the bounce back capabilities. Transforming and building empowering culture takes time. It isn’t easy.
Resiliency is key. Experiencing a leader modelling it is empowering in itself. Great comment, Ajay.
Think they have all the answers.
So VERY true… at my job, I have two managers, one that embodies the good qualities and one that embodies the not-so-good… the above is absolutely spot on.
Here’s to spending more time with the good manager.
If the higher ups make the SMART choice and keep him there! 🙂
I resonate with Point 10. Use “we,” “ours,” and, “us.” I think this matters – have you read We First. by Mainwaring? He says the point of the book is to ask the whole world to collectively break out of this destructive Me First economy we have enabled into a self-sustaining We First economy. It is a good read.
Lately I have been shocked at what I see leaders do to take credit from those who actually do the work. I often wonder what it is all about? Jo
Mainwaring, Simon (2011-06-07). We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World (Kindle Locations 169-170). Palgrave Macmillan. Kindle Edition.
I haven’t read We First. But for anyone interested, here’s a link to Amazon: We First
Agree totally on point 10. I worked at a non-profit grassroots farming organization right out of college. One of the best lessons I learned (and still remember) was my boss handing one of my first ‘here’s all the activities I’ve done for you’ newsletter articles back to me and saying, ‘”I” didn’t do anything. “We” did everything. We don’t use the word “I” here.”
Made a lasting impression.
L O V E it! Made me laugh cause I’ve been there.
While a few “leaders” I have worked for have been bullies, and that is a terrible environment, more often than not, the most frequent complaints I have had (or hear about) in education and that my husband has had in the Post Office, are leaders who are passive, deflecting responsibility, delaying decisions, or simply “not seeing” what needs to be addressed. This puts added responsibility on others or allows situations to escalate because the issue has never been resolved or dealt with at all. Leadership matters and the culture you build (or allow to be built) impacts productivity, morale, and both personal and professional growth.
Thank you Vicki.
Fabulous contribution. Perhaps one positive word of advice for all leaders is DEAL with STUFF! Sooner is better than later.
I can relate so much to this! I am part if a Sr. Team that is actively learning these principles from our own mistakes. We have our work cut out fir us, but at the same time, it feels like an opportunity for fresh start. This article had some really great, practical tips. Great read! Love it!
The word I love in your comment is “Learning” … it suggests you’re trying and adapting as you go. It takes humility.
Great advice. I’m a big fan of Dave Logan’s work via Tribal Leadership and this falls inline with that ideology perfectly. 🙂
Thank you Stuartart.
I close friend of mine love’s Logan’s book. Sadly, I haven’t read it yet. I feel left out. Thanks for mentioning it.
Great post, Dan. I have experienced leaders who exemplified the good and the bad that you cite here. Those experiences have helped shape my convictions about building culture and the importance of building up others.
As a leader, empowering others in a positive, consistent way is one of the hardest things that I do.
Firstly, I have to deal appropriately with me and my inevitable ego/control/perfectionist/wanna-be-in-the-middle-of-it tendencies (many of which gave me leadership opportunities) and then I have to understand the capabilities, weaknesses and hidden talents of those I work with so that I help them (and oftentimes, me) grow.
Such tough stuff but so rewarding when I can get myself out of the way and see someone else succeed. Thanks Dan.
Thank you KB.
Such great insights in your approach to yourself and others. KaPOW!
Direct correlation with culture and the company balance sheet. James Heskett states that culture “can account for 20-30 percent of the differential in corporate performance” in his book The Culture Cycle. Unfortunately we don’t see enough of this in day-to-day practice, but it is a process.
Your article is an easy read and right on target! Thanks Dan!
And thanks for adding another resource. Great cultures lead to great profits.
One thing that Doc said in his book, “Happy employees deliver happiness to customers.” So… they created a culture of happiness within Zappos.
Thanks for the post Dan.
The word empowerment implies giving up power or allowing others to feel they have power. I prefer the use of energy and creativity unleashed through deep presence and engagement. We all have gems and diamonds for the world to discover. To live purposefully and autonomously, finding your Flow, and staying on your path. Sorry for going off topic a bit.
NOt off topic from my point of view. I appreciate your focus on energy and creativity. Well said.
5.Tell people what needs to be done, not what to do.
This is empowering, but it requires trust, lots of it, based in competency and a firm grasp of potential.
I practice by asking my husband if he can do something for me, and not telling him when and how 🙂 He appreciates it when I step back.
I smiled at the husband comment. Frankly, who likes to be told? 🙂
Good morning Dan. To finish your quote, “Great leaders are great because they, (because they build GREAT organizantions from the ground up, one positive relationship at a time)”! Great Leadership is about ‘Attitude Effect’. Poor attitude destroys, positive attitudes inspire. (The fearfull Leader) – Just as faith invites success, fear invites failure. When we think in fear, we perform in fear. When we agree with fear it often comes to pass. ‘Never’ come into agreement with fear and doubt. If you want to succeed and live in Victory, control your thought life. “I refuse to allow myself to go threw life exspecting disappointment”! – (The Attitude Effect)
You write like me so I like your comments! 🙂
“Thanks for the copmpliment Dan”! Huh, maybe I should write a blog. I could call it, “Thoughts from behind the Razor Wire”. – By SGT Steve LOL hava great day my friend…
I look at things as a coach in Division 3 college basketball. There is nothing more important tnan culture-what’s accepted, what is not. What are the players accountable for? That sets the tone for everything-and it starts in recruiting. When potential student athletes visit campus they are exposed to the culture immediately. If it’s not something they can deal with, at least we know early.
We may not see our culture… BUT… They do! Another reason it’s so important.
Great points. One thing i would like to add is the culture of “family”. Grow your team into a family and together you can accomplish anything no matter what you might be up against.
Adding value TO others. Work alongside not over. Consistently expressing confidence in. Failure is another step toward our success if you don’t give up.
As a young leader, I thought people were supposed to add value to me! Doh!
I love the “chains of empowerment” not “chains of command”. I am a firm believer in setting people up for success!
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had a manager who had to courage and skill to focus on helping them succeed?
Great leadership is about relationship. Our workers will only follow us if they know we are with them and for them.
You and Doc completely agree!
Two points that resonate strongly with me (#5 and #8)
Letting people know what needs to be done rather than just telling them what to do is very powerful and effective. It removes all personal baggage associated with getting things done and retains the focus on the job and not the messenger.
People do matter! Just don’t say the words. You have to believe it first. If you don’t then you are creating a potential disaster. Rarely is everyone in your company a buisness-rockstar but all of them have some value contributing to the overall goal. Great leaders realize that employees are very adept in picking up insincerity.
“Believe it first.” KaPow!
We often think of poorly-led organizations having no culture, but you’re right! Bad leaders build a bad culture.
Sad but true. Every organization has a culture.
Great post! Doc’s advice reminds me of what I’ve referred to as the “Hornblower Principle” after CS Forester’s naval hero. Hornblower knew that he could only lead from the front, and that his men lived in a culture where he would never ask them to do something that he wouldn’t do himself.
Thanks for your blog!!!
Hadn’t heard of the “Hornblower Principle” … love it. BTW, I think I could use it in a negative way for those who blow there own horn. But I’d have to leave the Captain out of it.
I believe caring is a huge part of leadership. I believe, If the leader cares for individuals and the organization as a whole, then he or she is on track. If a leader cares only for the bottom line, share holders or themselves, then the culture will suffer. The word “to care” sounds “soft”, but has powerful effect on people and culture.
Great add, Chris.
When did we get the idea that “It’s business” makes uncaring acceptable? Sheesh
Stay positive and stay the course; rise above the grumbling and gossip to keep clear sight of the end vision!!
I’ve only worked for one person that I consider a good leader. He embodied all of the qualities of leadership, but what impressed me the most was his abiltiy to admit to mistakes and accept responsibilty for them. That simple act allowed others to do the same, and that made a world of difference in the workplace. I work for the government, and that is very rare.
I was thinking it can’t be that hard to be a great leader and build great culture at our work place. And then I became a general manager and boy was I wrong. I am 28 years old and I am stuck. I always though people would be like me, full of energy, enthusiastic and want to be better.
What I am figuring is that I need to work on my self first and then on other things later.
Dan, Thank you so much for all you do!
In the midst of re-organization, our company is working very hard to be a culture of collaboration versus command and control. I believe this book would be great reading for participants in my Mastering Leadership team as well as all of our Discovering Leadership participants.
I skipped to the comment to win free book. We need leaders in our country so desperately it aches. South Africa. A leaderless conglomeration of worsts. Please help…
I believe all leaders share certain qualities or characteristics, like leaders say what they mean and mean exactly what they say. They are effective communicators and not swayed by unsubstantiated opinions or unfounded rumors. Fame, power, or material gain doesn’t motivate them. They have integrity, that strength of character that resists assault. Such leaders aren’t fearless- they make a conscious choice to act in spite of their fear. When setbacks crop up, they don’t flag because they always have their eyes on the prize. They give credit to others and refuse it for themselves.
Great post and one that I really needed today. Culture shift is a tough thing but so rewarding. Last week, one of our PMs told me that she was tired of being cranky and was going to approach her role from a positive perspective. Made my hear sing to know that we’re making progress in changing our culture.
I love number five – tell people what needs to be done, not what to do. Too many “leaders” have never made the transition to leading others or leading managers. Therefore, they think they are still supposed to solve problems instead of casting the vision of what needs to be done and allowing the leaders under them to figure out the best way to do it. Leaders want to solve problems not micromanaged. “Get the right people on the bus” and then empower them to manage their area of responsibility. I have been both types of leader and have served under both types. I definitely prefer to be and serve with a leader to builds an empowering organizational culture.
I pass on many of your posts to my colleagues. Yesterday’s and today’s posts most definitely resonate! I would add culture building leaders allow those around them to feel as if they are all part of something bigger to which they want to contribute and, consequently, enhance.
Perfect timing taking a job where first order of business is building a new culture.
Thanks for the great tips. To me this amounts to being an emotionally intelligent leader. I found that when I was stressed, nervous, anxious so were those around me. Once I was able to identify this through self awareness was I able to control my negative emotions and showcase optimism, enthusiasm and calmness and I feel the engagement of our department improved as well.
Thank you Dan. You have provided some research areas to explore for a book I am working on and enlightenment as well. I just resigned from a position I held for nearly a decade because of secretive, power hoarding leadership. Leading upward and laterally was taking too great a toll on my health. Someday I’ll find that elusive, empowering organization where leaders “get it.”
Fits with the Disney approach to management as well – which I love. Thanks for the reminders.
Great post and right on target for all leaders and especially healthcare.
Loved the reminders….I have found that Kouzes and Posners’ “Five Practices of Exemplary Leaders” to be a roadmap for behavior that never does me wrong. If I reflect on a day, a decision, an encounter, and ask myself, “Did I create a shared vision? Model the Way? Enable others to act? Encourage the heart??” and can answer yes, I knowthat I have truly led. And, like many good things, the practices are beautiful in their simplicity.
Thanks so much for your daily dose of inspiration. I count on it.
I appreciate your invoking K&P’s 5 practices! Their book, “The Leadership Challenge,” was THE core text for the Masters program in Organizational Leadership that I completed a couple years ago at St. Catherine University (St. Paul, MN). Regularly, questions came up about how this MAOL degree differed from an MBA… The principles expounded by K&P gave us common ground within that program – really, giving shape to a culture embracing leadership with an emphasis on ethics, communication, and other supposedly “soft” skills. Dan’s points seem right-on with that! And I, too, regularly check myself against – or rather, WITH – those 5 Practices of K&P.
Great post again, Dan. In the old days the saying was “knowledge is power”, but in these days where information (and therefor knowledge) is freely available and only a couple of clicks away, real power comes from shared knowledge. A good leader understands that and leads his or her team on a journey where communication and collaboration are key. Great teams trust each other, and they communicate and collaborate openly with each other by selfishly sharing their knowledge and their ideas because they understand that it is always better to compete with the competition!
Sorry for the typo in my post above: the word “selfishly” should obviously be “unselfishly”…
Fantastic post!! What happened to the reblog option? This excellent content will be such an investment for the leaders who associate with us. Leaders of churches around the world can learn from your posts. I have reblogged before but could not locate reblog option today. Is the content copyrighted by the co-author? Thanks for your consideration in this matter.
Reblogged this on willowcreeksa and commented:
An excellent, challenging blog post from the #1 shared leadership blog of 2012!
My humblest apologies! I forgot where to find the rebolg option! That shows I am a beginner in this game! Thanks for your patience.
Thanks for all you support from South Africa. It means a lot to me.
Excellent stuff! Lazy leaders fear accountability – the very thing they preach to those working with them. The great leaders are flexible, agile, firm and fair. When you hear “no”, you understand “why”.
Sorry for the typo in my post above: the word “selfishly” should obviously be “unselfishly”… 😉
good points as always… sometimes as a leader I find you need to go where they are – they can’t always come to you.
Reblogged this on Gary Rohrmayer and commented:
Building culture is a skill that the every leader needs to possess. Great article that will create thirst and give you direction.
“If you are too busy rowing the boat, you do not have time to rock it!” One of my favorite quotes!
Inspirational post today and comments by readers. Responses for #5 made me think of my eleven year son who writes a bimonthly family newsletter. I am the editor. I try to work at providing direction in sentence structure, punctuation, and word usage (to use different adjectives other than “fun” and “great”), and not telling him what to write or how to write it. Mostly, I tell him what to rewrite and why, then it’s up to him. It’s tricky sometimes, but it’s his newletter. He is learning to become a proficient writer on his own.
As for myself, I need to work on #12 knowing names, and also remembering that I make a difference in the face of obstacles.
My organization (government agency) has adopted John Bernard’s NOW management philosophy. You endorsed his book “Business at the Speed of NOW” last year. For others on this journey, it sounds like Dr. Vic’s book “The Culture Secret,” is perfect companion reading.
I wish I could get this info to my companies management.
Great post. In healthcare we have always been used to “I” “me” or “my” so finally we are slowly migrating to the We, Us, and Ours mentality. Healthcare is quickly transforming itself. It is time to carpool and stop driving our own cars. The only way to the HOV lane is through carpooling and we need all the speed and momentum we can get to stay abreast of the dynamic changes in our industry. Thanks for the opportunity to get the book.
Thank you Al,
And just think of all the great energy from connecting while driving in the same car.
I don’t believe it can be so cut and dry, at least in my personal experience. There does need to be a chain of command for #5 to succeed. Ultimately, Someone is responsible and lets face it, as nice as #5 sounds, it is easily abused. Should something go wrong, who is to blame? I understand we are talking about surrounding ourselves with great leaders, I get it, but we are also surrounded by humans. Let the blame game begin. LOL. I believe a proper chain of command needs to be for place for delegate and get out the way to work.
You may need to tear down in order to re-build properly.
And DANG IT, I can’t remember names either Brownie.
Great post Dan.
Good reminders and applicable to everyone at any level of an organization.
Although the chain of command travels from the office to the team, the strongest link is found at the team end.
This is such a brilliant post on motivation. I do agree that it is the most difficult thing to do for a manager.
Culture within an organization has become a fascinationof mine since a few months ago. I started seeing the possibility of fast growth in my two man company & saw how fast my sense of urgency, quality, and service could disappear.
Thanks for this great book recommendation!
Believe in yourself, pick yourself up, believe in your workers and guide them when they stumble
Great piece! Totally reaffirms the qualities I aspire to and have admired in the great leaders I’ve been fortunate enough to work with…
I am reminded that culture and change are mutually influential. And saddened that this week the world lost one of its most remarkable change leaders and writers — William Bridges, PhD.
After reading the blog, I am going to suggest the book as the company’s next read for our book club. We are all striving to improve ourselves and this seems like a good addition to the ones we have already read.
Chains of Empowerment! Love it!
I recently toured Zappos headquarters…talk about culture, whew!
Great post Dan! Thanks so much. I believe that the minute a leader let’s his/her thoughts begin inward instead of outward on the team, the direction is wonky. Best to have the mission and team in mind when setting course….THEN and only them ponder how you as a leader support both. Absolutely nothing says ‘great leader’ best than a productive, fullfilled team…and nothing says productive, fulfilled team better than one who understand the mission and their value in achieving it.
I love the concept that you are either building a good culture, or by default you are building a bad one. I don’t think there is much neutral, yet so many people seem to think there is.
Interesting -I love the use us, we, and I have recently discovered how important collaboration is. What is great about that -it is nice to know that the problems are not all your’s? That collaboration inspires, builds culture, and truly builds teams!!
Love it;my passion is Empowerment of others so I will certainly getting the Team to read this article to encourage them to encourage their teams
I love the chains of empowerment not chains of command. I wish this was more widely utilized. I’m going to start with me.
i’ve had worked under so many leaders who were completely incompenetent in their role. For them ii was just an ego trip so they can let ppl know who they are and who those under them weren’t!
the comments made about negative leadership are bang on the money.
Real leaders listen to their ppl, take on board the advice of those whom they are leading and empower those who they are leading. It is a great responsibilty to be ome a leader. There is a great lot of expectations placed on such individuals.
Some people think that leadership is a right. It’s not, it is a privilege.
“Tell people what needs to be done not what to do.”
“Use “we,” “ours,” and, “us.”
Amazing how well these two work.
I love number 5. I’ve found that when I describe the results I need and let my people figure out how to achieve them – I’m usually pleasantly surprised by what they do. Even when I have an idea for how to do something – it seems like they often have a better one.
So many truths, so little time.
Love this debate, it is very inspiring and makes me want to strive even harder to create change. For me it’s about the 3 Cs:-
1. Clarity of vision – looking outwards to your goal
2. Collaboration with others – working inwards to achieve the goal
3. Creating Champions of Change – role modelling behaviours and actions to sustain the goal
Cool I’ll comment it l8tr
Sent from my iPod
Really good tips on how to change an organization
The hardest feature for me to align has always been the of all 300 names. Remembering names has always been tough but it it is fun to see the feedback when i call a student by name!
I especially like the part about a chain of empowerment as opposed to a chain of command. The leader should not be the goal keeper, or the last decision maker, but rather the one who says here your strengths will add value to this opportunity now take the ball and run. Thanks for the thought provoking piece.
Wish this book could be a requirement for all who want to be in management, regardless of level. Numbers 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 & 9 are definitely lacking in my work environment. You have management who tell you what’s always wrong, but never right. There is a time where you want to feel and know that your contribution is being acknowledged and appreciated. Then you have someone who gets promoted to a senior team lead and says (while using his hands to demonstrate), “I’m up here, and trying to keep people down here.” Talk about power trip. Some people just can’t handle being in an authority position. It’s not for everyone. Everyone now says he changed from being nice to a total jerk. Of course, jerk is not the word we use to describe him. He has become “one of them” now as we say. Then, you have unmotivated employees, including myself, who don’t feel like they matter, which results in a lot of call-outs that effect the workflow due to the shortage of staff. When you feel like you don’t matter, you have a don’t give a sh** attitude. I mean you can quit but it’s not like jobs are around the corner in this economy. You have a manager who only talks to the team leads to relay messages to the employees. I say as a manager you could cut out the middleman, and engage with the employees as well, not just with the leads to give direction. So, what do you do? I do my best to not stress and keep a positive attitude, but it’s difficult when the situations, or shall I say “management” around you are not improving.
Excellent summary. Leaders also need to remember the power of pushing the broom on the graveyard shift. Nothing was more powerful in moving a team than my showing up in uniform and working the trenches for a 12 hour shift. Thanks for the validation.
“Dave Logan’s work via Tribal Leadership”
In my comment, way back up the top somewhere, I even had typed in Tribal Leadership but backed out! In the academic environment where I work people Pooh Pooh Logan’s work as popular (read Pop) I actively seek to incorporate Logan’s Philosophy into everything I do. His concepts of putting the right people together to learn from each other (We would call that Proximal Development) is not necessarily a new concept but they way he has explained it,means that it can be right out there where everyone can evaluate the results.
Some of the material that is coming through in the posts above is what can be called culpable ignorance. This is when a leader purposely ignores information or a problem so that they can pretend they don’t know it is happening and thus have no responsibility. Depending on the consequences this can be a crime.
I believe that it is a right to be well led!
“Culture Trumps Vision” says Sam Chand.
Culture is intentionally initiated by the leader. This means that you have trouble in your organisation with “toxic culture” because you might be living the saying of “do as a say not as I do”.
Team members will much easier fulfil the vision if there is intentional culture supporting the vision.
Great concept. One of the truths we share with our management team is the greatest leaders are a function of being the greatest servants. Their purpose is to provide their team with what they need to be successful.
I couldn’t agree more on;
Becoming a culture builder:
1. Believe you matter in the face of obstacles, opposition, and negativity.
2. Choose creation over destruction.
3. Courageously dream and consistently talk about what could be.
4. Find and exploit points of alignment. Don’t push against, pull with.
5. Keep smiling.
I found that getting members to believe they’re actually a part of something greater begins with over-stating this fact. Communicating the culture over and over is helpful in getting the group on board.
My only caveat to “tell ppl what needs to be done not how to do it” is that we need to be sensitive to the situation and the individual.
Situational leadership recognizes individuals’ specific capabilities for a specific task. Throwing someone into a task where they are not strong without clear guidance and access to help can be as damaging as micro-managing someone who can excel at the task.
Situational leadership also helps leaders acknowledge that someone can be an expert at one function and completely unskilled in another, allowing the leader to coach a person with much more agility.
Sharing this model with my team allows them to safely ask for help in a specific task without feeling that they are admitting a general lack of competence. The focus then shifts from exposing personal gaps to mutual activity addressing the challenge.
We are always a “work in progress” and this post gives us a list of great things to work on!!!
I love this conversation and wish I had found more of these principles evident in the schools where I worked. I know they are out there. I’ve seen and heard about them. I just wish school leaders with these qualities you mentioned above had touched my life more. Oh how this would have benefitted both me and my students .
Missing from the list was “ask a lot of questions”. Instead of giving answers, ask questions so that the other person can reach the desired conclusion. Is this a trait of a great leader or is geared more for a mentor (Arguably, every leader should be a mentor)?
Or perhaps I’m just missing the entire point and my proposed “missing item” is really just a way to achieve what was outlined above?
I love your blog! My first comment, mainly because I am a huge believer in building a culture through engagement and empowering our people. Sounds like Dr Vik is a man after my own heart!
Dan, I always compare your posts to my last few administrators, to see how I fit into their leadership styles. I have learned a lot about myself and leadership from doing this. Thanks, Diane M
Thank you for a great, thought provoking post.
Here’s one of my favorite culture building values: “Your success is my success.” When leaders recognize and reflect back to the organization that they want to see everyone on the team succeed, they create a culture where everyone knows they are a valued member of the team. And at the end of the day, everyone wants to feel valued and important.
A great leader is one that understands the organization and also understands the people working for him/her. Get to know your people!! Take the time to ask how their weekend was or how their kids are. Celebrate birthdays and milestones. It’s the little things that add up. It has been documented that a main reason people leave organizations is because of poor leadership.
Good stuff, as always… thanks!
I remember seeing this question on Facebook and not having time to answer ….. a million things came to mind and nothing made it to my keyboard. But I’ll say this — a good leader could go a long way simply by making eye contact (and I know that for some people, certain conditions such as Asperger’s make that difficult and don’t detract from their capabilities but that aside….). Under the guise of some inanimate objects in my office, I gave voice to a time when that didn’t happen for me in this post: http://biggreenpen.com/2013/02/28/dear-cornered-a-mama-kat-prompt/
As a Head College Football Coach, my goal was to create a “Culture of Excellence” which included Academic Excellence as well as Athletic Excellence. This was accomplished by rewarding excellence and creating habits of excellence.
Culture-building leaders lead by example. When my office takes every employee through training on bringing culture to life, I attend it too. When we conduct weekly huddles with employees on culture-building topics, I lead a session too. And when we did a flash mob on the floor of our call center, and everyone put on a silly fake moustache and danced (because we just wanted to have some fun and show people it was OK to have fun at work), I was right there acting silly. It’s not always easy or convenient, but it’s essential.
Culture is a hot topic of mine especially at this moment. I’m a ‘lead’ member of a ‘culture improvement’ team for a 2000 person division of a large multi-national tech company. Data supports that our employee engagement scores have increased by 10% over the last 2.5 years or so (though the absolute score is still not where we want it to be). We’ll take credit for improvement, but clearly we’re not the only factors. And of course, this team is doing this work in addition to its ‘day job.’
Having said that – we have great support from the top leader and our executive sponsors – including budget. But over time, I get the sense that leaders who get the importance of culture have it in their DNA – and it’s quite the uphill battle to spread that belief in ‘culture is important’ to other leaders who seem to have a more difficult time with improving their stakes in our culture.
I’ve done a lot of reading and research – but as the individual contributor who is trying to get the entire leadership and organization to improve our culture – well, let me just say it’s a daunting task.
I’d love to see if Culture Secrets has some true secrets we can use on our journey here. There’s a small group of us with the energy, passion, and desire to transform our organization into a great culture (with the business benefits that come with it) – at this rate it seems like a longer journey than I have time left in my career ;-).
Thanks for the posts – especially this one – as in the great majority of the posts on leadership freak, the topic is always — magically — speaking to a topic I need to understand better on that day!
Spot on! Leaders need to be the Cultural Ambassador of their organizations. We’re in the kick-off stage of our Human Capital Strategy to improve engagement and productivity – culture is a huge component of this strategy. Thanks for the great post!!
Your post reminds me that a leader’s greatest strength is also his or her greatest weakness without openness, acceptance of feedback, and self-reflection. Your comments on fear are especially helpful. Thank you!
Great blog! These leadership qualities are right on target and to the point for creating a healthy culture.
We are undergoing intense scrutiny of our ‘culture’ at this time, particularly in terms of ‘safety’.
My experiences lead me to note that your point “Believe that You Matter” is essential
Blogs sometimes go offline. I find such value in these daily posts that I am filing them away for future reference. Today’s is brilliant; will be added to my file. thanks!
Very interesting post, Dan. I have had the good fortune to have worked for some of the best leaders and at least one of the worst leaders. And I do consider having worked for one of the worst to be good fortune; I not only survived that ordeal, I learned how it felt to work for someone who did everythin wrong. Leadership is not about achieving goals or receiving accolades; it is about empowering and motivating people to be better and acieve more than they ever thought they could.
Power to destroy suggests power to create.
Why do we as humans choose the lesser behavior. Every day at work people demonstrate behaviors as, meanness, manipulation, power games, superiority, etc…instead of choosing to live by the golden rule. If we could just pause and think about how our interactions with others could encourage and build up another, the culture could quickly be changed for the better.
People need to know that they matter. Thanks for the great information on leadership.
“Believe you matter in the face of obstacles, opposition, and negativity” …what a great message! We (education organization) were recently told that, due to a large budget deficit, all employment contracts would not be renewed and to expect termination of many current contracts. The message heard by the almost 200 employees, most serving in critical leadership roles within the organization, your work is of no value as we can, and will, eliminate you as we see fit.
It is no surprise that everyone’s level of motivation was impacted by this feeling of being devalued. This post helped me see things from a different perspective, I control whether I matter…not my organization. Thank you for this timely message!
Love the quote, “Leaders can’t lead anything from the office.”
I’ve worked in both types of workplaces and am blessed to now beworking with a great groupof culture builders. It feels so great to be excited to go to work every day.
Just found your blog. This article has a lot of great tips that I need to make part of my day. Thanks for sharing
Another thought provoking post Dan, reinforcing a concept on culture building I believe.
Big organisations can make people feel small.
Their challenge is to create a culture where small people feel big in an organisation that seems small.
Thanks for your continual inspiration.
Mike from New Zealand
Looking forward to reading this book! I guess we’ll have to print out complete pages and pin them into meeting rooms for people to look at!! Jenny
Great post – thanks. What behaviors do culture building leaders exhibit? I’d say integrity and being true to our values – it’s what keeps leaders on track and gives courage when pressures and indecision threaten.
I think for a leader, investing in “non-productive Time” with your team is critical to building a strong loyal culture.
Great post. It affirms my beliefs about leadership, building leaders and culture. The culture is more difficult and is a constant struggle in my organization.
I resonate with the comment that the worst leaders believe collaboration shows weakness. And though it is somewhat implied in the list of good leaders, it doesn’t actually focus on the word collaboration. I believe that a great leader will make you feel heard even if the final decision doesn’t “go your way.” You feel as though your input was valued. Perhaps opening a can of worms here, but I wonder if there isn’t some gender generalization that can be made about a collaborative style of leadership. That seems to have been my experience, though admittedly limited. Collaboration takes longer, but I believe you end up with a better result. This is not to say that there doesn’t need to be a place where the “buck stops,” which leads me back to my statement about the value of feeling heard.
What do you do when values and culture are poles apart? When you keep fighting and loosing you become a problem. If there is a lousy organisational culture one option is to move on.
This was perfect. I’ve seen my fair share of horrible leaders being a military officer.
Good article. Right now I try to reorganize a big operational unit. Structure is not my main goal. It’s all about CULTURE!
This is a great post, and those are some great ideas. I am convinced that creating culture is the most important thing that a leader does because it impacts/influences everything else. Plus, it outlasts you–changing the culture of an organization is a lengthy process, even when the person(s) who initially created the culture is long gone. Would love this book.
If you want to create a healthy ecosystem for innovation, its crucial to create a culture that encourages creativity, risk-taking, experimentation and collaboration.
Within cultures of excellence, leaders create the conditions for people to do their best work. The best leaders are good listeners. Not only do they call upon the expertise of their employees (that’s why they got hired, right?) they also acknowledge input and consider employee suggestions. When the group is invited to help find a solution or participate in co-creating the future, leaders create a dynamic and engaged workforce.
I also like the comment about telling a person what needs to be done rather than what someone should do. It reminded me of marital advice I once heard. A spouse can tell you to do something or how to do something, but not both at the same time. It makes for a smooth marriage.
Build “chains of empowerment” not “chains of command.” this quote worth the whole post. excellent.
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” — Abraham Lincoln.
Culture building leaders exhibit vision, passion, integrity, courage, trust, and humility.
Added this book to my wish list. I would love to hear more from Dr. Vik.
Perhaps that my contribution on the March 2013 International Blogaton could also add some ideas: http://www.toddnielsen.com/international-leadership-blogathon/culture-eats-strategy-for-breakfast/#comment-20808
Lousy leaders are those that don’t recognize they are lousy and don’t seek feedback from their team on how to make things better. Anyone can grow from being lousy to being wonderful simply by listening and learning.
I enjoy the advocation of culture here. I believe there is a level beyond creating a culture–creating a community.
I think the best leaders I’ve worked with, assume good intent on the part of their teams. Good leaders assume that their people are working with the best of goals in mind. In turn, they approach conversations with their staff in a manner that conveys trust and confidence.
Imagine going to talk to an employee about a mistake they’ve made. If you assume good intent, then as their leader, your approach would be one of curiosity about what happened. Your approach would NOT be to simply confront and correct. Most of the time, there is a story to be told from the other side of the desk, and a trusting manager will hear it – and gain all kinds of loyalty in the process.
I agree that culture is critical, it’s tough when those above you don’t.
Sometimes stating the obvious is just the reminder we need! 🙂
I definitely agree that leadership is at the heart of culture – in as much as it should be the authentic expression of an individual or leadership team who live the passion of the vision and make this happen through the purpose of the organisation – inspiring and engaging others to join them on a collective journey.
Here being authentic looks like the behaviours detailed in this great article – behaviours that should come naturally but can be developed. They must be firmly held and lived to be authentic – and this is where acceptance of leadership as leading by example comes from….living the values, driven by the beliefs and genuinely exhibiting the associated behaviours – a real champion of the culture.
This only happens through a commitment to a cause, through the development and personal growth of oneself plus a commitment to develop others and recognition of them, their skills etc.
Leadership involves leading – helping take others on a journey. Helping them navigate a collective course….not an exercise in who has the biggest manhood, office, car or who can make others jump.
Leadership comes from inside – this is why, as Dr David Vik points out, it reflects the character of the person who looks to wield it – a powerful weapon which can be used for good or selfish ends.
I have first hand experience with angry leaders creating a hostile work environment. Most employees in this situation feel stress that isn’t necessary.
A true leader must FIRST be a servant.
It’s always someone else’s fault. As soon as you take accountability over your own actions, the sooner you can make a positive impact and work within yourself. Lazy leaders blame. I’ve never thought of it like that but makes perfect sense!
More good examples to help inspire creative cultures that people can thrive in. In our company we have “Yes-I-Can” culture and in my department we live by the motto “Always Care”. Together, those two attitudes have certainly helped us even during the toughest times. Stay safe, Paul
looks like a fundamental requirement is more acting and less talking
I read this paragraph fully on the topic of the difference of most recent and preceding technologies, it’s awesome article.
In difficult times, number #1 matters most: “Connect rather than withdraw. “Leaders can’t lead anything from the office.” So many leaders withdraw during times of crisis. I find it detrimental to morale and results in a lessening of trust and confidence in the leader and the organization.
We recently had a round of layoffs in our department and instead of the director retreating to her office and avoiding staff as the previous director often did, she held an all-staff meeting and spent time answering questions, and listening to concerns. Especially the rumors. It made a huge difference. We knew her options were limited as to what she could do about the budget cuts, but we trust her to keep us informed.
Our director showed courage and care by being vulnerable and transparent during an uncomfortable conversation.