Leadership Small Groups are Key to Culture Change

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In my journey of transforming a corporate culture to one that is servant-led, I’ve learned the value of leadership small groups. The purpose of leadership small groups is to create a safe environment for leaders to discuss the challenges they are having in changing the culture.

In our company, Datron, anyone with a manager or above title is required to be part of a leadership small group. Groups are made up of 8 – 10 leaders and meet monthly for 1 hour. Through these groups, the culture change process is accelerated as trust is built within leadership teams.

Small group attendance at Datron has become a welcome part of our leaders’ responsibilities.

Tips for establishing small groups:

  1. Group members must understand whatever they hear or share is confidential. What’s shared in small group stays in small group. This provides a safe environment for leaders to share their struggles and successes in changing company culture.
  2. Do not require an agenda and or any reporting to upper management. Encourage people to seek advice from each other and share their stories. Leaders will gain solutions to problems and build stronger relationships between each other and their departments.
  3. The group should be made up of peers. You can’t be in the same small group as the person you report to.

One unexpected outcome of our small groups was with on-boarding new leaders. We found it’s a great way to introduce new leaders to their peers and help them learn about your culture and where the company is headed.

Your organization will be stronger when relationships are built through the leadership small group format. Culture change will take hold in your leadership team and your organization will be better because of it.

What suggestions do you have for establishing or running leadership small groups?


Art Barter is CEO of Datron World Communications Inc., a radio equipment manufacturer. Starting in 2004, he and his team transformed Datron from $10 million in annual sales to $200 million in just six years by putting into practice the behaviors of servant leadership.

Art also is CEO and founder of the Servant Leadership Institute (SLI). Author of Farmer Able and The Servant Leadership Journal, Art’s latest book is a how-to for implementing servant leadership in any organization: The Art of Servant Leadership II: How You Get Results Is More Important Than the Results Themselves