Why Culture Has Never Mattered More

So far, we have explored two leadership cornerstones – Ambition and Boundaries of the Leadership ABCs. So what’s the last piece of the puzzle, once we have authentic ambition and clear boundaries, driven by values and passion?

In Mind Growing Leadership, I explain why Culture is the third piece of the puzzle.

Quite interestingly, it has been described as “the invisible gap between plan and realization.


All companies can make plans, but that doesn’t mean everyone cares about its success. This is where culture comes into it.

Think about it – we’re all trying to survive and compete in a VUCA world, where the only constant is change. Contexts, markets, preferences, technology…you name it. So when it comes to realizing strategy, fast adaptability rules.

When everyone’s on board – when we’ve got a culture of like-minded teammates, that adaptability comes naturally.


According to Johnson and Scholes’ Cultural Web, it’s because in a great culture, people share a paradigm.

Shared Paradigm: The Core of Culture

A shared paradigm is a compatible, collective set of values, beliefs, and perspectives about “how things work around here.” It includes 6 interrelated elements:

1. Stories – The tales we tell about current or past organizational events;
2. Rituals and routines – Including processes, patterns, and behaviors that people follow or demonstrate;
3. Symbols – Visual representations of the organization (this means everything from logos to branding, uniforms, and more);
4. Control systems – Such as incentives, rewards, and rules;
5. Organizational structure – The formal hierarchy (e.g. charts and job descriptions) and informal social systems of power; and
6. Power structures – The key sources of real influence and impact within the business. Often, these structures determine decisions about direction, strategy, and execution.

Understanding the 6 elements of the Cultural Web is an incredibly powerful way for leaders to shape a healthy, positive culture. One that promotes a flexible, successful, and fast-adapting organization.

The New Leadership ABC: Where Culture Fits In

Of course, Culture is one of the C’s in The Mind Growing Leadership ABC – once a leader has clearly established Ambition and Boundaries, Culture can be thought of as a dynamic force that gets (and keeps!) things moving.

In practice, for example…let’s say you own a dog rescue.

A: Your collective Ambition is to enrich the lives of both needy animals and lonely owners by connecting them.
B: You have relatively few Boundaries. Those you do have, however, are firm, clear and aligned with your values and principles (no harming animals, no stolen pets, etc.)
C: Based on the above, and using the Cultural Web we’ve described, shaping your desired Culture would involve defining the 6 elements (who reports to who, what stories do I emphasize around the water cooler, what our uniform looks like, and so forth).

As a leader, you can do this by consciously focusing your attention and appreciation on each element and the way it relates to other elements.

Those that you give attention and appreciation to, will flourish, taking you a step closer to a thriving, inclusive culture that supports your Ambition.

Over To You…

It’s important to know that the Mind Growing Leadership ABCs are broad principles for any type of company and leader.

But having these three elements in place is not enough to guarantee your company’s success, because Ambition, Boundaries, and Coaching need to be nurtured.

This is where Coaching comes in; co-workers will only be able to realize their autonomy, purpose, and mastery with support from a leaders – in other words, with coaching.

I consider Coaching part of the Mind Growing ABCs for this reason. It is essential if leaders want to ensure that co-workers can master the necessary skills to act independently and wisely, when unexpected changes do arise.

But more on this another day! For now, I want to know, how would you describe your organizational culture? What three words would you use to capture the paradigm of your company? Tell me in the comments or drop me a line, let’s talk Culture: marc[at]compassiontolead.net.


Johnson, G., Whittington, R., and Scholes, K. (2012). Fundamentals of Strategy, Harlow: Pearson Education.