Three Elements of Culture Building

Leaders are architects and builders of culture. This is a fact, whether a leader realizes it or not. A leader will build culture in one of two ways: passively or actively. The passive leader builds culture through how he carries himself and what he allows or encourages. The active leader builds culture through intentionally designing and re-enforcing values that line up with how she believes her context should look and function.

A leader will build culture in one of two ways: passively or actively. Click To Tweet

Building culture will happen passively and accidentally; or it will happen intentionally and actively.

Years ago, I had a friend named Craig. He was a business owner who operated a venture he had personally pioneered. I sat with him at a coffee shop one day and mentioned how it would be awesome to architect a business from the ground up. He bobbed his head in a diagonal type of motion that was half nod and half shake. “Yes and no,” he said. “There are areas of my business that I love and that represent the values I’ve sought to foster. But there are other areas that I can’t stand. Years ago, I would look outside myself to my employees, the marketplace, or any other number of factors to pinpoint the ‘why’ of these weaknesses. Recently, I’ve come to realize that I’m the issue with most of these things. These weaknesses are my weaknesses. There are areas of my own character, my unique quirks and shortcomings, which I see reflected in my business. I didn’t plan it that way, but I unintentionally allowed it to happen.”

A leader advocates what she allows. Those who follow the leader will naturally migrate toward the lowest common denominator that her weaknesses set. To actively build culture, a leader must recognize her weaknesses and intentionally reinforce health and good habits in her people.

How is culture built in an organization?

The ‘fire triangle’ says that there are three elements necessary to start a fire. Without heat, fuel, and an oxidizing agent, you won’t get a flame. Culture building also demands three elements.

1) Conviction
2) An Agent
3) Clear Vision 

Conviction
Culture building starts with the conviction that something colossally important hangs in the balance. For great sports teams it is the chance to win a championship. For cell phone companies it is communication. For churches it a message that has eternal ramifications. This conviction doesn’t just hang in the air. It takes up residence in an agent.

Culture building starts with the conviction that something colossally important hangs in the balance. Click To Tweet

An Agent
The primary agent of conviction is the leader. This person eats, sleeps, and breathes the big picture. He refuses to rest until the principle parts are in place and the entity he is guiding is moving down the tracks. Even when everything is in order, the leader still struggles to let things settle. The leader, more than any other factor, develops culture. The ‘how’ of culture development is a clear vision.

The primary agent of conviction is the leader. This person eats, sleeps, and breathes the big picture. Click To Tweet

Clear Vision
Fog is the enemy of a sound culture. Without clear vision conviction and a sold out leader will tread water. Things have to be clear for an intentional culture to develop. Clarity first comes into the mind of a leader, then to those willing to follow. Clear vision has three elements. These three elements are the subject of part 2.