leadership development culture puzzle

In his 19th Century Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Ebenezer Cobham Brewer writes, “Euclid, having opened a school of mathematics at Alexandria, was asked by King Ptolemy whether he could explain his art to him in a more compendious manner. ‘Sire,’ said the geometrician, ‘there is no royal road to learning.'”

The timeless quest for shortcuts, “secrets,” or faster routes to growth and development is behind so much fad surfing. Many leaders and development professionals search for new technologies and quick and easy approaches to personal, team, and organization development. These partial and piecemeal approaches waste scarce resources and raises “the snicker factor.” People quickly learn to mouth the latest buzzwords, popular books, or trendy approaches — and then get back to their real work.

Peter Drucker once defined a champion as a “monomaniac with a mission.” Abraham Maslow famously observed, “if the only tool you have is a hammer you treat everything as if it were a nail.” Many fad champions swing the hammer of the latest big organizational fix with monomaniacal zeal. When this piecemeal approach fails to have much of an impact, a new hammer, swung by a new champion, appears. And the snicker factor rises another notch.

We’ve used variations of the above graphic to show the shortcomings of this partial and piecemeal approach. This version illustrates key topics and their shortfalls in the April issue of The Leader Letter we publish tomorrow. We start with how leadership team dynamics and culture development are inseparable. Yet many leaders and development professionals don’t see what the research clearly shows: an organization’s culture ripples out from the team leading it. And the leadership team’s dynamics often reflect the organization’s culture.

Many leadership teams at middle or lower levels disempower themselves. They orbit the “culture hairball” in frustration. By following or wallowing in their organization’s mediocre or dysfunctional culture, they add more knots to the hairball. Or even worse — they cough up their own culture hairball.

This issue also looks at four quadrant personality models. They can be quite entertaining. But they’re not evidence-based and are practically useless. At best, they’re fun fragments of what make each of us unique. At worst, they overly simplify and type-cast people into confining boxes.

Competency models can be quite useful pieces of leadership and organization effectiveness. But most are poorly designed fragments used in piecemeal approaches by a monomaniac with a mission. We’ll look at five keys to make them flourish.

Take another look at the above puzzle pieces. How would you fit them together? Notice anything about their edges? Except for one piece, they’re all border or edge pieces. There’s no way to put them together. This is typical of many champions pushing hard to make their program THE program that frames the organization’s development work. It’ll never work. The pieces must be reshaped to fit the leadership team’s vision of their desired culture and cascading behaviors.

May you find key pieces in these blogs or our April issue to reshape your leadership and culture development puzzle.