The meaning of culture we provide here is a leadership tool to enhance organizational performance – no theory, but a practical and effective tool.
Literally, there are many definitions of culture – for instance, according to Afred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn in, “Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions” (Vintage Books, a Division of Random House, New York, NY: 1963 – initially published in 1952) there were 164 definitions of culture back then, meaning that explorers, theorists, and practitioners don’t always agree about the meaning of culture. When you finish reading these definitions, you end up with a headache and more confused
As we stated above, the meaning of culture we use, is something practical – a tool that leaders can use to shape their organization’s culture.
According to Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy in, “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” (Crown Business, New York, NY: 2002),
“an organization’s culture is the sum of its shared values, beliefs, and norms of behavior.”
According to John K. Potter in, “Leading Change” (Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA: 1996),
“culture refers to norms of behavior and shared values among a group of people.”
Another meaning of culture: according to Leslie Braksick in, “Unlock Behavior, Unleash Profits: How Your Leadership Behavior Can Unlock Profitability In Your Organization” (Mc-Graw-Hill, New York, NY: 2000),
corporate culture is “a pervasive pattern of behaviors, that are either reinforced or punished, by the company’s systems and/or people, over time.”
According to Alan Brache in “How Organizations Work: Taking a Holistic Approach to Enterprise Health" (Wiley, New York, NY: 2002),
“Culture is the values, rules, practices, rituals, and norms through which your conduct business. Simply, it is the way you do things.”
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To sum it all up and simply put, our meaning of culture is …
– Culture is patterns of behavior
– Culture is the way we do things around here
Now, the meaning of culture in and on itself is useless. So let’s ask a question: What is culture for?
Think about it, you as a leader, what can you do with the culture?
Culture helps you accomplish three extraordinary feats:
Culture helps you …
– and control large numbers of people – achievements that are extremely difficult to reach.
Next question: Why is it necessary that you – the leader – know about this? Why would you need to know what culture is for?
Because the most important ingredient in shaping the culture of an organization is the behavior of its own leaders.
Put in different words, because … the most important ingredient in shaping the culture of your organization – the organization you lead … is your own behavior.
If you don’t behave according to your organization’s values, the rest of your employees won’t either.
If you don’t fully support your major change initiative, the rest of your employees won’t either.
If your leadership team doesn’t practice a needed behavior – like accountability for example – do you really think anyone else will practice it in the rest of your organization?
The culture of an organization is the behavior of its leaders – the culture of the organization you lead is your own behavior.
This meaning of culture is a powerful leadership tool – it’s at your disposal, use it.
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To learn more about the skills you need to manage the performance of your direct reports, go to our Management Skills page.
To learn more about the skills you need to lead the performance of your entire organization, go to our Leadership Skills page.
To keep on learning about other useful skills, go back to the previous page, or click here.
If you would like your organization to learn about the meaning of culture and its links to performance through our speaking or consulting services, please click on this link.