For many decades the phrase “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” has been floating around leadership development circles. It’s often attributed to Peter Drucker, the father of management, although that claim has yet to be substantiated. Nevertheless, I believe the phrase makes for some validate points. Strategy is generally a plan which is aimed at achieving success. However, every plan must be executed precisely to achieve the expected success. That takes people. Therein is where culture enters the picture. As I always say, “If you like logistics, you better love sociologistics because the complex planning, organization, and coordination of work is always superseded by human behavior and the ability to empower people to facilitate it. Without a positive workplace environment, and engaged as well as motivated employees, the greatest strategy in the world is destined to fail. Hence the quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That doesn’t mean you should push strategy to the side and go all in on culture. What’s being implied is that you need both but culture must precede strategy.
When it comes to leadership development, I’m going to make a similar statement – “Success eats charisma for lunch!”
Millions of current and aspiring leaders have spent the better part of 3 decades reading, absorbing, and attempting to practice habits of successful people, irrefutable laws, and emotional intelligence. As a result, we are worse for the literary wear. We are in the midst of a leadership crisis in America.
Companies spend tens of billions of dollars annually on leadership development, yet, according to Deloitte’s “2015 Global Trends in Human Capital Report,” only 6 percent of companies feel ready to address their leadership issues – a decrease of 7 percent from 2014 to 2015.
Leaders spend over a billion dollars each year on executive coaching and what have they gotten in return? Production growth has decreased, customer satisfaction is dropping, and nearly 70% of the U.S. workforce is disengaged.
Every one of these approaches emphasizes skills and characteristics enhancement. They put charisma before success or the cart before the horse in metaphorical terms. That method is fundamentally amiss, and, in my opinion, has led to the mess we are in. I’ll expound more on that in a moment.
Shortly before writing this post, Mike Sullivan and the Pittsburgh Penguins won a fourth Stanley cup. Has Coach Sullivan been noted as a great leader because of being more charismatic per se or was turning around a losing team and winning the Stanley Cup responsible? See my point? It was only after his success that anyone began examining Coach Sullivan’s leadership skills, character, charisma ETC. If he failed to turn the team around, would charisma matter? The answer is a resounding no! Should you seek to enhance your leadership skills and become more charismatic? Yes, you should. Without success, however, charisma won’t land you a spot on the legendary leadership platform.
Historically, every leadership development program, literary work, and executive coach, I have come across, has advocated skills and traits, enhancement training combined with a trickle-down or top to bottom, leadership approach. Basically, become more influential, emotionally intelligent and charismatic. Next, outline a magnanimous vision, mission and strategy. Then from the top, set them and forget them, hoping that everyone below will march in step and execute, flawlessly. Well, leadership success is not an infomercial, and neither you, nor I, or any other leader on the planet is, or should aspire to be, Ron Popeil!
In direct and, perhaps, blunt terms, what I’m saying is; they’ve got it backwards! Don’t get me wrong, I am all for authentic, personal development. But, the above-mentioned methods do not qualify as authentic. In fact, they are nothing of the sort! Truthfully speaking, personal development of any kind, even if it is effective, is absolutely meaningless unless it is taught in tandem with human behavioral dynamics, is aligned with specific, business goals, and is linked to real, measurable outcomes and leadership success. As it stands, the vast majority of leadership development approaches are complete wastes of time and money. And, I’m sure you would prefer not to squander either.
As a leader, it’s rather pointless to craft a strategy when you have no culture. First and foremost, you should be asking why you don’t have a positive culture and taking action to eliminate the problems. That requires an entirely different approach – a new, but proven, revolutionary, leadership approach that directly contrasts conventional thinking, works from the bottom up, and yields faster, better, and more specific results.
Contrary to popular believe, leadership success starts at the bottom rather than the top. If your support as a leader is eroding, employees are disengaged, there’s dissension in the ranks, you’re losing control of your team, production is sliding into the tank, customer satisfaction is spiraling downward, employees are jumping ship as fast as they are boarding, and mediocrity has supplanted quality and exceptionalism, you can’t fix these problems with a 20th century, trickle-down leadership approach.