The Most Powerful Leadership Commodity: Not For Sale

Amazon made its humble beginnings as an online bookseller about 20 years ago.

Today, founder, Jeff Bezos has stretched Amazon’s influence to include everything from fine art to groceries. What can’t you buy at Amazon Right?

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You might be surprised. At least for now, today’s online shopper won’t find a number of items @amazon.com including real estate, cars, lottery tickets, pets, and prescription eyewear.

There is an old joke about an executive who sat in on a presentation highlighting the impact of healthy leadership culture. Engaged and motivated, he motioned to his executive assistant and said, “Can you get us some of that?” Of course this sounds ridiculous, but like most humor, this story has an uncomfortable truth to it.

You Can’t Buy Healthy Culture

Many organizational leaders think of leadership culture as most of us car owners think about routine oil changes. At, or around 3000 miles we are reminded to set appointments with the local garage for our quick “in and out” maintenance check. This regular discipline is helpful in expanding the life of our vehicle and from an organizational perspective, may allow us to pass our four-point quarterly progress inspection. The unfortunate truth is that change to organizational behavior is never that easy.

All change in organization is challenging, but perhaps the most difficult is changing leadership culture.

Two Key Obstacles – Changing Leadership Culture

1. Culture is Soft

If there is no concrete way of defining or measuring culture, how do you change it?

2. Culture is Community

The collective individual norms and behaviors shape the community culture.

Most senior leaders struggle and become resigned to the notion of culture development due to these vexing questions.

  • How do you define culture?
  • How can you measure progress?
  • How do you approach culture change within large and diverse organizations?

Culture, like clouds – recognizable but nearly impossible to grasp
Wikipedia defines culture as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization, or group.” But how do leaders come to agreement on what those shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices should be? Even if this were possible, how do you get hundreds of people to think and act in ways agreed upon?

Emergent Practices for Leading Healthy Culture

1. Make Culture a Whole Systems Initiative

The impact of culture goes far beyond the human resource department. Your organization’s mission, vision, values, and goals must drive culture.

2. Honor the Complexity of Culture

Don’t oversimplify culture or confuse it with climate or corporate philosophy. Culture is the foundational determinant of corporate value. Trying to change values and climate without addressing the foundational truths of culture will be futile.

3. Realize your Access Points

While it is true that leaders define culture, it is also true that culture development is never a solo act. The members of the organization, not the corner office, largely hold the keys to culture. The nexus of culture development is within the core of the organization and supported by top leadership support and challenge.

4. Realize the Unique Landscape of Culture

Never assume that there is a perfect culture or that your competitor’s culture might be better than yours. It should be understood that different cultures fit different environments and that the calibration of healthy culture is dependent on how well it supports your organization’s strategic goals and objectives.

Final Thought

The essence of strategic success lands on the leader’s keen understanding of culture and how to skillfully maximize its positive impact upon the team and overall performance. Strategic leaders have a “balcony presence” to see the detail and the dynamics of organizational culture and are best positioned to influence the departure of dominating and protective behavior tendencies sadly found across the DNA of many organizational departments.

GiANT Leadership Academy

Great leadership comes down to the intentional learning of how to calibrate high support and high challenge for the people in your organization, while always striving to fight for the highest possible good in the lives of those you lead. Unfortunately this skill cannot be learned from blogs like this or from “one-off” seminars alone. Leaders only change with time and consistent relational investment at the personal level. This is what being a culture builder is all about.

You can learn more about the Giant Worldwide Leadership Academy Experience by clicking here.

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