Vertical leadership for executive teams: Culture still wins over strategy

John B. McGuire & Charles J. Palus

Summary

Leadership culture will make or break any strategy, change effort, or business transformation. Most leaders underestimate the risk of getting culture wrong. Instead, they focus habitually on the measurable, controllable, technical expert side — they manage the business.

To succeed in the long run, most organizations need to build toward cultures of greater interdependence. Interdependent cultures characterized by collaborative and shared leadership are needed to respond to complex, shifting environments.

Interdependent cultures require leaders to have vertical mindsets hallmarked by both/and thinking that embraces complexity. While technical tools, systems, and processes are necessary, they must be accompanied by a deep understanding of an organization’s beliefs and their impact on culture.

Initiating and sustaining cultural transformation is the hardest work that can be undertaken by any organization. We hope that this framework of leadership provokes some guidance for your thinking about your organization’s beliefs and how they help or hinder the work at hand.

Citation

McGuire, J. & Palus, C. (2019). Vertical leadership for executive teams: Culture still wins over strategy [White paper]. Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership.

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