Leaders have a choice. They can choose to create a culture that encourages team building or destroys it. They can build a department culture with an “open” architecture, or they can, by the way they over-control things, close down all discussion and idea flow. Let’s look at three different cultures that the leader can build.
The Firehouse culture is one where the leader enjoys putting out fires. It goes well beyond just good problem solving skills. In the firehouse everything is a 4-alarm blaze. The leader stirs the pot and forces the workforce into panic mode on every project – important or not. In fact the Firehouse leader so enjoys being the problem solver that many times they create problems just so they can solve them. They team scurries in all directions putting out the smaller fires and the boss feels best when he or she is called upon to help.
The Firehouse leader has trouble delegating, especially when there is a something to solve. They don’t plan well. They desire organization, but in reality, they want every team member on edge and ready to suit up, slide down the pole and fight the fire. Most of the time the “captain” comes to the rescue and ultimately puts out the blaze much to the chagrin of talented employees who could do the job. Our hero!
In ancient history, the feudal lord controlled all the land. As in the days of yore, the Fiefdom management culture has something akin to a territory or a sphere of activity that is controlled or dominated by the leader. They expect total control and they expect their direct reports to not only have similar control over their territory, but also compete with each other for whatever prize motivates the lord.
Like the Firehouse leaders, feudal lords don’t particularly want discussion or true delegation. They want loyal, sometimes expendable soldiers. Usually the feudal lord has a trusted advisor, but typically they trust no one. They solve problems, but are more motivated by control and “expanding the territory”. They put extremely high expectations on people and many rules that when followed show the lord commitment to the cause. All hail!
Leaders who build Community, unlike the other two examples enjoy exchange, freedom and make peace. They want a neighborhood where ideas are shared, diverse cultures are embraced and they bring peace by asking for quality decisions rather than quick (the fire is burning) or controlled (I own it all) decisions. They also make peace by taking the time to make meaning for people – taking the time to help them understand the “why” behind decisions.
Community leaders are builders. They look at problems as opportunities for the team; they are not controllers but rather encouragers and frequent communicators of the vision. They understand people’s talents and gifts and make every effort to make sure people are “in their sweet spot”. They compete, not to destroy people, but to build them towards a common goal.
As you build your department’s or your company culture honestly ask yourself what kind of outcome you desire. Seek to understand how you want to maximize the people whom you lead and how they can best serve your organization. Understanding the impact of the culture you create will further help you understand why and how things get done in your organization and also help you understand how customers ultimately feel about your business as creating a positive culture will impact customer relations more than anything else you try to do.