Most organizations are average—they are stuck and not growing. Average organizations have average leaders. It is still standard practice for many organizations to promote employees for their technical skills, rather than their ability to lead and inspire other people. This practice perpetuates mediocre cultures.
I believe there are three main reasons organizations are average:
- Employees are promoted for technical proficiency, and not leadership proficiency
- The leaders are conflict avoidant
- Cultural health is not a strategic priority
To elevate the culture of your organization, you must set the standard for leadership and performance. This starts at the executive level. The one thing the executive team must do today to positively impact the leadership quality of the organization is to declare that you will no longer promote for technical proficiency. To create an exceptional culture, you must start by creating exceptional leaders. This means instilling hiring and promotion practices that focus on leadership qualities, not technical skills. It also means we must train managers and executives to be influential, modern leaders.
Organizations don’t transform, leaders do. Cultural transformation begins with the personal transformation of the leaders.
Below are five excellent books that can help set you on the path to creating an exceptional culture:
- The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. This is one of my favorite leadership books of all time. Lencioni argues that cultural health trumps everything; that you can have the best marketing, sales, and technical abilities, but if you don’t have a healthy culture, it will impede your success. He shares tangible strategies for improving communication, team cohesiveness, and clarity in the organization.
- Firms of Endearment by Sisodia, Wolfe, and Sheth. Every executive leader should read this book. The authors share compelling statistics of how companies that focus on passion and purpose are significantly more profitable. If we focus on building relationships with people, we build successful, healthy organizations.
- Conscious Capitalism by Mackey and Sisodia. This book, co-authored by the CEO of Whole Foods, promotes authentic leadership that is centered around values and people. This modern philosophy is exactly what we need in business today—to not just focus on profits, but to focus on elevating how we do business with our employees and the world.
- Dare to Lead by Brenè Brown. We need more honesty in organizations, and we need brave leaders to step up and have the courage to lead with honesty and whole-heartedness. Brenè shares four skills to help leaders take off the armor so you can create organizations where employees feel safe, seen, heard, and respected. A must read!
- The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. A classic book that identifies the five root causes of politics and dysfunction on teams, and how to overcome them. The dysfunctions are: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. Lencioni shares strategies for creating a high performing team.
It is possible to create a culture of exceptional leaders. It won’t happen overnight, but with consistent effort, it can happen. The first step is to make a decision—everything great that ever happens always starts with a decision.
If you want to be an exceptional organization, to make a bigger impact for your employees and your customers, make that choice.
It all starts with you.
These five books will prepare your mindset for elevating your culture and provide specific strategies for making it happen.