Culture Is More Important Than Vision

Earlier today, I was a speaker at the “Breakthrough” Conference at The Church at South Las Vegas, with Pastor Benny Perez. It was a pastor’s conference, and I really enjoyed the day. One of the featured speakers was Dr. Samuel Chand, who’s a consultant for a number of major churches and ministries around the country. Samuel specializes in leadership and management issues, and is a great coach for churches in need of organizational advice and help. One of the things Samuel said, that made the entire trip worth it for me was: Culture is More Important Than Vision.

Normally, when we talk about churches, ministries, and non-profits, we focus on vision. Yes, vision is important – even critical. Vision sets the rulebook, and tells us where the organization is going, and the impact it’s going to have. But at Cooke Media Group, we’ve had a number of clients over the years that had a powerful vision. Strong leaders who’s vision was frankly amazing.

But the culture in their organization was toxic.

For a number of reasons, they had created a culture of fear, distrust, and strife. Employees didn’t like each other, people didn’t respect the leader, critics were everywhere, infighting ruled, and very little was actually accomplished. The vision was there, but the culture undermined everything.

I’ve never really heard it put that way, but the minute Samuel said it, it really resonated with my experience. Culture is more Important Than Vision.

It’s worth repeating. No matter how important, original, or significant your vision is, if you can’t create a culture in your organization that fosters creativity, innovation, teamwork, and fun, it’s not worth doing. Because no matter how great the vision, if the culture doesn’t work, the vision will fail.

What about your culture? What’s the attitude and vibe you’re created in your own organization? Think about it…



  1. Culture without vision would be like the unemployment line. 

    That said a culture will exist, intentionally or otherwise. The "toxic" culture develops the guilt-ridden devotees, and the constant turnover in talent and resources. Little new growth, and even less impact can occur in such a poisoned atmosphere.

    Well said Dr. & Dr.


  2. The point is, BOTH are important.  But too many people rely on vision alone, and forget about culture.  But many of my readers right now are experiencing situations on the job with a leader who has a wonderful vision, but the culture is horrible.  Nothing good comes out of that…  And by the way – it's not always that the leader doesn't care.  Most don't even think about it.

  3. Phil,

    Truer words were never said.  This is the area of my focus with 20 years of experience as a Pastor, District Official, Church Administrator, Church Board Chairman and more recently in Masters level training in Organizational Leadership.

    Churches and parachurch ministries, I think have a blindspot in this area to my observation and experience.  There is an unspoken expectation that because the Church is "the Church" Church staff will magically come together and work sacrificially because of the importance of the mission and the fact that working for the Church is more than a job, it's a calling.

    Pastors, especially in larger churches and organizations come prepared with seminary training and some life experience, but it amazing to me how many expect that just because they lay out a remarkable vision that everyone is going to fall in line and support them.

    I've seen pastors neglect their staff, create a culture of fear with the "weeding out" of staff they've inherited, set an example of a closed door policy making themselves inaccessible and any number of classic mistakes and then be surprised when they find staff members expressing agreement and support with them while undermining them.

    These are good pastors as well who are attempting to do good.  Many however shoot themselves in the foot by imagining that the organizational culture will just form itself.  It will.  If it's not molded and shaped deliberately however, more often than not, the result will be toxic and counterproductive.

    There's no set roadmap as to what will work in every situation.  Some pastors and leaders will come in from a successful experience in one setting and imagine that if they do the same things in the new setting, they'll get the same result.  Maybe.  But not always.  Prayer, discernment and listening to those there are crucial.

    Vision is crucial.  Without the culture tied in and supporting that vision, the vision will be seriously impaired.

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