We know that “leadership creates culture;” any leader will tell you that. But oddly enough, “knowing” in this case doesn’t reach very far. What is required is finding the connection between what I do as a leader and the kinds of cultural attributes I would like to change. Here is an example from my experience:
I was the CEO of a growing global consulting firm. Doing projects for various types of organizations around the world required a great deal of flexibility. It wasn’t enough to know how a project should be done in one location and industry; consultants needed to know how to work effectively in many different environments. They needed flexibility. Yet we were often criticized by clients on this very point. When we didn’t win a project we often heard back, “You weren’t flexible enough, we needed a partner that was flexible.” We also heard that we could be arrogant in the way we talked about our work and the work of others.
Hearing these things was frustrating to me. I was convinced that our methods were technically better than our competitors. We had done the research others hadn’t, and we knew what worked and what didn’t. There was no doubt in my mind that we were the best organization in the world at the kind of consulting we did. And I enjoyed saying so. In company meetings large and small, in conversations with colleagues, I loved to talk about how good we were and why.
What I didn’t realize is the effect these statements were having on some employees. It tended to make them arrogant and inflexible. I was creating the same cultural attributes I wanted to change.
This is an excerpt from the book 7 Insights into Safety Leadership, written by Tom Krause and Kristen Bell.