Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Codifying culture or Are leaders born or made?

Some organisations have a great culture because of great leadership, great people, great values great practices. Is it possible to codify this so that organisations without the charismatic leadership, dynamic high-fliers and brilliant processes can harness the benefits of great culture?

Bob Hope is credited with saying “The most important thing is honesty. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Or a variation “The secret of success is sincerity. Fake that and you’re in.”

Is it possible to “fake it till you make it”

I think so.

There are plenty of telesales businesses that follow scripts, dancers that have strict choreography and actors who have lines and stage direction to help them deliver a great performance.

Both positive and negative values (including sexism and racism) are learned from parenting, peer groups and society influence on the individual. It is clear that people are influenced by their environment, education, opportunity and social groups. It is also clear that outstanding individuals can reshape the people and the world around them. People like Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela.

I would argue that even if you do not have a charismatic leader you can achieve a great culture through planned interventions and carefully orchestrated social engineering.

If you believe “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” (Will Durant) then establishing great culture is simply a matter of following simple steps and getting better with each repetition. This is how we teach dance or karate, so why not leadership and culture. According to Malcolm Gladwell with 10,000 hours you can be fantastic at anything and according to Josh Kaufman [TEDxCSU] you can become quite good at many things with as little as 20 hours.

In this blog I have attempted to suggest that it is possible to codify culture and that leaders are not born but made (by education, opportunity, circumstance and followers). In my next blog I will explore how to codify culture.

If you have experience of this, or would like to made a contribution to my next blog please contact me:


Tim Rogers is an experienced Management Consultant, Project and Change Leader. He is also Commonwealth Triathlete and World Championships Rower and a Tutor/Mentor on the Chartered Management Institute.

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