Culture is more important than vision. From experts like John Maxwell to Sam Chand, that premise is a critical leadership principle. The reason is simple: An organization’s culture sets the tone for everything else, and leaders are responsible for creating an organization’s culture. I don’t care how great or noble your vision – if you don’t have a capable and vibrant culture, then very little will happen. A strong culture inspires people, and launches greatness.
On a national scale, since the Veteran’s Administration scandal broke, it seems the mainstream media is finally realizing the power of culture when it comes to managing affairs of state. Across the political spectrum liberals, conservatives, and those in-between are seeing why a leadership culture matters. It points to culture problems when the IRS feels that it’s OK to target conservative organizations. It’s a culture problem when the White House staff focuses more on defending the President than getting to the truth about what happened at Benghazi. It’s a culture problem when the rollout of something as important as the President’s healthcare initiative is a disaster. It’s a culture problem when the VA system has been managed so poorly for so long. And perhaps it’s the biggest culture problem when people aren’t held accountable or fired for their incompetence. Regardless of how people feel about the President, the constant refrain of failure in all these organizational cultures is hard to ignore.
The President didn’t personally make those decisions, so some would say he’s not responsible. But the culture he created was a petri dish that allowed that thinking to grow. Democratic strategist Garry South said, “None of it may be Obama’s personal fault, but as Truman said, the buck always stops at the president’s desk.” Presidents, CEOs, and other leaders can’t micromanage or be part of every decision, and that’s why the culture they create becomes so critical.
Even the President’s defenders are suddenly taking a hard look at a leadership culture that continues to erode his credibility.
Leadership problems are one thing, but the culture a leader creates has the ability to either accomplish great things, or magnify incompetence. At whatever level you lead, do your best to create a great organizational culture. It’s my belief that even without a vision, a vibrant, creative culture will still accomplish incredible things.
No organization can grow beyond the leader if that leader hasn’t built a strong a visionary culture.