• Steve Huffman

Leadership: What Culture Do You Want?

Serving 20 years in an organization is a rarity in today’s “what’s in it for me” culture. I had progressed through an organization and was promoted, in an interim position, to the president of a hospital and I was having a blast. Over those 20 years I saw leaders come and go and culture change frequently. I had the great fortune to sit under a number of great leaders and learn from them, but the revolving door of leadership taught me that while an individual might have an impact, when they are gone the culture they imparted on their team lasted far longer. (for better or worse)

Why then, during interviews, aren’t we asking what type of culture the person wants to create? Why aren’t we digging into the culture they are in and have developed behind them?

Don McPherson from Modern Survey states ” If it takes 20 years to transform the culture of a struggling country, how long does it take to transform the culture of an organization? To transform it in the wrong direction, it takes about 15 minutes. However, to transform it positively the timeframe is about three years for medium and large organizations. For smaller organizations, it can take less time…about a year to three years”

The average tenure of a hospital president is 3.5 years, while the average tenure of a CIO is 5 years. The average tenure of a college president is about 8.5 years. Thom Rainer states that the average tenure of a lead pastor is just over 3 years. All of these are just long enough to imbue a culture from the leader long enough to impact the organization, and then the leader leaves with their culture they left behind.

If you are currently leading an organization or group of people you should be leading with a view of who is coming behind you. If you are creating a culture that works, lay a foundation where no matter who the leader is, the culture is so thick and so engrained that it continues well after you are gone. Develop a culture that YOU would want to work in, no matter what the organization did.

A positive culture that works well extends past 3 year goals, financial targets and performance evaluations. It’s how you treat those you work with, how you ethically guide the organization and it means allowing fear and negativity to invade your organization. Leading with fear and anger disguised as “passion” or “intensity” crumbles the very foundation of culture the benefits long term success. Lead with love of one another, respect that is so recognizable that it is talked about and honor for authority that is unmatched. After 25 years in the marketplace I never once saw those on any annual goals….