My friend, Howard Bloom, tells a story about Japanese macaques (monkeys). He says that “an innovative leader can spread new practices through the group in hours. But a conservative monkey leader, a dictatorial defender of the traditions he’s inherited or created, can force the group reject opportunities that glitter with potential.”
Howard continues, “In Takasakiyama, Japan, another macaque leader, Jupiter, laid down a cultural pattern that encouraged bullying, beating, and humiliating females. But when Jupiter grew old and died, the new leader–Titan–abolished this extreme emphasis on anti-female aggression. He also shifter the times, destinations, and other ways of wandering–the ‘pattern of nomadism’–of the group and even change the time of day the group ate.”
This story is interesting–and safer–when it’s a story about monkeys. But experts in organizational culture don’t see human behavior as any different.
Leaders teach values.
If the leader believes that integrity and honesty is the foundation of the organization, the agreements they make with their external and internal stakeholders, that is what the organization will value–as long as the leader leads by example and protects the culture.
But the opposite is also true. If the leader doesn’t believe that integrity is fundamental, neither will those he leads. He teaches by his example.
If the leader believes in respecting the individual, treating people with care and compassion, even under the most trying circumstances, that is how the organization will treat people. But this value will only be true if it is practiced inside the organization.
People who aren’t treated with respect, care, and compassion won’t treat others that way. They’ll live the value as it is practiced inside.
It’s the leaders job to create and protect the culture, and the culture is, in part, made up of a collection of values, beliefs, and behaviors.
You’re people will be what you are, not what you profess to be. You cast a long shadow. It’s your job to teach values, by your actions, your deeds, and your words. It’s also your job to teach by rooting out beliefs, behaviors, and actions that go against the values you teach.