What Comes First

Bob Schultek Author of
The Gauntlet

What comes first? Is it a company’s culture that enables its leaders, or leaders who strengthen the culture?

Culture and leadership are mutually dependent. When they are aligned, and supporting each other, progress accelerates and performance improves. 

When a business is new, the prime directive is to grow it by earning and keeping customers. Leadership shapes the early culture to accomplish this, and with a small staff, not much effort is required to sustain it. 

As the business grows and matures, people and structure are added to manage issues like quality, efficiency and risk; leaders are hired to manage the additional people and evolving structure. Shaping culture, as it evolves in response to new challenges, becomes more demanding, time-consuming and necessary for leaders. To ensure that everyone in the expanding enterprise understands what is expected of them, many companies define their culture using their purpose, core values and related behaviors. These then guide interviewing, onboarding, behavioral performance and talent development.

Culture enables the preservation of customers, the execution of strategy, and the pursuit of efficiency, agility and innovation. It binds the purpose and profit motives of the business to sustain it over time.

Leaders are hired to improve results in accordance with the company’s culture. They’re expected to model it, interpret it for those they lead, and continue to shape it.

The first leaders formed the initial culture that fostered the company’s growth and success. The leaders that followed were hired with the culture in mind, to continue strengthening and renewing it. Shaping culture is one of a leader’s most important functions and a necessary ingredient for improving results.

How are you modelling and shaping your company’s culture?

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