Culture: Building Leadership in Workplaces

The US Marine Corps celebrates its 240th birthday this coming November 10th. If you know any Marines remember to say “Happy Birthday”. The interesting thing is that you will not have to tell them whose birthday, they will know.

There is a lesson in this for any company looking to make their culture effective. Leaders know the value of having a tightly focused team and “culture” often gets the credit. Remember that there is a difference between strong individuals and an organization with a good culture. The Marine Corps created an organization that has life, something worth fighting for, something to protect. That is vastly different than a team of superstars. In the Corps, there is an old saying, “an officer’s primary weapon is the radio, not his rifle sights”, meaning if you are only focused on one target, you lose sight of the battle.

Here’s a couple thoughts to consider:

– Who owns the culture here? The answer shouldn’t just be the boss or any one person. Is everyone encourage to engage in culture discussion? If leadership is not looking through a wide lenses at culture it can miss the people who are talking about it, leaving you exposed when it changes without you.
 Is culture an “all the time” thing? If you are doing an event or two a year to “grow the team”, I can assure you that you are not driving culture, but it is happening. Don’t allow the discussion around who you are to be limited to an event, make culture something you talk about in meetings, performance reviews and with 1-on-1’s. You don’t need to announce it just weave it in, all the time.
– Change requires direction and attention, not resistance. As your company grows the culture will adjust to include the ever growing diversity in your workforce. Your leadership role is to help steer, not to ensure that nothing ever changes, because everything changes.
Marines believe they are the greatest fighting force on the planet. They will stand and fight when others would run because the culture permeates through every Marine. This way of thinking is not an accident, it is done on purpose all the time, in training, in briefings, and in how we celebrate our heritage. You can have that same effect in your organization.