Here’s How Leaders Create Healthy Organizational Culture

At GiANT Worldwide, a global leadership development consultancy, we created and use a distinct and powerful tool that helps leaders understand how leaders create culture. Here’s how it works:

Leaders define culture. It’s one of those truths that all of us have become more and more aware of.

Culture always trumps strategy under pressure. It doesn’t matter how good your mission statement is, or it doesn’t matter how amazing your spreadsheet is– everyone knows under pressure culture is the thing that wins.

If leaders define it, it’s really important to know how do we build it well..

Studies from anthropology and sociology show that culture is created through language, and language is created through by an intentional usage of vocabulary or words that come to mean specific things in specific places, in specific times, with specific people groups. The more you understand that, the more effective you’ll be in building healthy culture inside your world.

The trouble is vocabulary means different things to different people.  A number of us speak English, whether that be from Britain or from America, but we don’t always mean the same thing.  You watch what happens when you start to use the word “pants.” You can often get yourself in trouble.  In America, that means trousers, in England that means underwear. You always have to be careful how you use words.

Vocabulary creates language which shapes culture. That’s the reason why so many organizations struggle with clashes of culture because every leader uses their own words and their own vocabulary and language, often to mean different things.

So what we found is, where leaders commit as an organization to use the same words to mean the same things to define their culture, somehow things have become a lot more simpler.

If you go back hundreds of years, everyone was very very good at memorizing information. They didn’t have books, they didn’t have internet. What you’ll find is they were able to memorize vast tracks of information, and it was retold in what we call a oral tradition using story.

We don’t live any more in a world in a word based culture. We live in a visual culture. Every day, we are bombarded by visual icons, cues, logos. Companies spend huge amount of money on branding because we connect huge amount information to what we see.

So, if you want to build an intentional leadership culture inside your organization , the most effective way of doing that is to capture words in visual tools because everyone remembers those where people use those tools to create a leadership language.

If everyone is using the same language and the same visual tools, you create unified culture which allows you to deal with the pressures and challenges when things go wrong.

  • Yes! Clarifying what your terms mean is crucial to leadership success (and ultimately building culture). I attend a lot of meeting with people from different disciplines who throw around terms from other disciplines, often not their own, but they often don’t mean them the same way someone in that discipline does. It can create a lot of confusion… It’s always good to clarify terms at any hint of confusion…