A while ago, I was counseling a senior executive of a government bureau who was two years into shaping his agency to be more customer and results-centered. He rebuilt his 200-person group, propelled key actions, coached his staff on changing mindsets, and settled on some challenging personnel decisions. At about the same time these efforts were beginning to reveal positive outcomes, a new governor was named. His main goal? To shape my client’s agency to be more customer- and results-centered! What could this senior leader say? “That’s what we’re already doing” would have appeared defensive and resistant. He basically sat passively as his new manager laid out plans for stirring things up.
Many of us feel at times as if we are impersonating a leader rather than working out what it means to be ourselves in a position of leadership. Instead of covering up those underdeveloped areas, great leaders learn how to be the best versions of themselves in the leadership moments that matter. Because organizational culture is made through the shared experiences of its people, empowering individual leaders to step forward more authentically becomes a catalyst for positive culture change.
Leaders will often ask me what they can do to accelerate a change in their culture. As someone who likes to find ways to provide simplicity on seemingly complex and theoretical topics, I’ve long been searching for that mythical ‘one thing’ that will make the most difference. I think I’ve found it. I’ll be interested to hear if you agree with me.