Change, Culture & Leadership

Change, Culture & Leadership - Viewpoint

Since a positive Culture (many exist simultaneously and in parallel) is paramount to success, I would like to offer my humble and general view on ‘Culture’ and how I perceive it in relation to ‘Human Leadership’ within a Company.  There are umpteen definitions and descriptions for ‘Culture’, probably as many as there are differing classifications.  Given the above, experience has taught me that people often banter the word about arbitrarily, frequently in the wrong context and without due consideration.  In my Consulting Practice, I encounter the full cultural spectrum, including the aftermath of what I term "Culture gone astray"; nevertheless, it is still a Culture belonging to someone else and therefore requires respect.  

Albert Einstein is widely quoted for having said: “We can’t solve problems by using the kind of thinking we used when we created them”.  Einstein’s words of wisdom are both profound and insightful; perhaps more importantly however, this one sentence captures the essence and necessity for managing change using a different kind of thinking.  Ironically, if any one constant of culture could be isolated and nailed down it might be that of ‘change’ or if you prefer – the process of evolution.  Without this constant reinventing (not always positive I might add) and transformation, an existing culture - along with the Company - will eventually stagnate and wither on the vine.  The good news however, is that like the proverbial phoenix, culture will typically morph into something new – for better or worse.

In my practice and in discussions with my Clients, I approach the dilemma of Culture with a different kind of thinking.  I realise that as a single individual, typically one invited in by a Client for a brief period, it is not normally possible or desirable to radically change an establish Culture within a corporation (and Lord knows I have tried)!  Where this type of sweeping change has been achieved, it has normally been obtained by the replacement of key and significant ‘personalities’.

As a Consultant, I must be objective in the work I undertake, while remaining considerate of my host’s Culture.  Moreover, as a visitor, I must also appreciate and be attentive of the fact that I have no direct control over it, and that their Culture doesn’t belong to me.

During assignments, I am frequently and inadvertently placed in a position of great trust; consequently, I can wield considerable influence, whether I mean to or not.  I admit at times, it would be easy to fall victim of the ‘Force’s Dark side’ and implement a quick fix; nevertheless, a ‘quick fix’ is seldom the solution.  What is really required are long-term sustainable strategies – possibly ‘Human Leadership’ is one of many such approaches?

Some form of Culture is always going to be evident in a Company or Organisation.  The challenge is in understanding it in relation to the owner(s) – the humans within it.  Given the human connection, it is most appropriate to consider the ‘personality’ of its people.  This, probably more than anything else, influences the overall Company Culture and its subsequent reform for the future.

I like to envision Culture as being the manifestation of the various personalities of its people (and others) that have a direct or indirect influence on the operation.  It is the personality (individually and collectively) exerted - often quite forcibly by a reigning leader that really drives and shapes a Company’s Culture.  Personality therefore, is a critical consideration in establishing the true essence of a Company’s Culture and subsequently swaying or influencing a change that may be required. In brief, if you want to understand a Company’s Culture, look to the personalities behind it, typically it is in their image.