Lead the Culture, Change the Culture

Everything we do contributes to the culture around us. Actions play a crucial role in ‘what we look like.’ Many organizations build culture around a desired result, but forget to identify how to do it.

Culture is not created by what we would like our results to be. Culture is created by how we act over time. What we do between point A and point B will create what we look like.

What we allow to happen and what we tolerate will paint a picture of our culture. Think of culture like a reputation. An organization’s reputation tends to reflect its culture.  It is how others see you based off of how you behave (act). The behavior may not align with the intended culture, but the behavior is what others see.

Planning what we’d like our culture to be is extremely important to being able to perform the actions. Organizations must identify what they want their culture to be. If you want to be a hard charging, high performing organization you must create how you would achieve that.  Designing a culture can be done by choosing the correct values and standards that correlate to the outcome you want. This design or plan is where talking gets put into action. Fortunately, the Air Force has already set the bar for us when it comes to values. Integrity, Service and Excellence. These core values must be performed. They help us create our culture when they are performed as intended. It is our job to ensure we each act in accordance with our values. Every value should be considered when making decisions. Making decisions outside what our values tell us misaligns the intended culture.

When you lead with values and act on those values the culture is changed.  It is not an overnight process, but by holding each other accountable to the values and standards set forth the culture will change. It changes because the behaviors change.

It is a team effort. Leading by example is the most powerful way to lead. Everyone has the ability and opportunity to lead by example. When you lead by example, you set the standard. You also encourage what you tolerate. If you allow actions to fall below the values and standards that have been set, the culture often changes if the behaviors are not corrected.

It is crucial for leaders to lead the change.  It is one thing to talk about what you want the culture to look like, but it is another to act it out.  Action is key!  Leaders must take action and show others ‘how’ to do it.  You, as a leader, can help transform any culture if you lay the path for what you want to change and then take the first step to make it happen.  The more you model the desired culture, the more your culture becomes what you intend it to be. Culture requires action and leadership requires action. Both are necessary for change.

Lead (act) the culture (actions), change the culture (actions).