Feeling Stuck as a Leader? Examine the Culture First

If you want the clearest path to change the trajectory of your team and your organization, start with the culture.

If there is one thing no amount of intellect or sheer will can push past, it’s an unhealthy culture. The best ideas, the clearest direction, and the most defined action plan won’t overcome it. If you’re feeling stuck as a leader, it’s likely time to revisit what’s working—and what isn’t—about your culture.

Culture is how a group of people work together. It’s more than just teamwork. It’s the environment or permission system that enables everyone to know what is acceptable and what isn’t.

It wasn’t too long ago that Wells Fargo—a well-known financial brand—was caught with a substantial number of its employees participating in the creation of fake or unwanted accounts. This was done to meet internal goals which resulted in additional compensation for those who met and exceeded those goals.

That type of behavior is a byproduct of the culture established by leadership. While I’ve never worked at Wells Fargo, I can say that a culture which values results without integrity is a self-destructive culture that will eventually lead to something tragic. And that is precisely what happened at this financial institution. Not only did a lot of people lose their jobs, but the general public was also given yet another opportunity to doubt the intentions of the financial institutions of this country.


Anytime I’ve started a new leadership journey, I’ve paid very close attention to culture. How do people interact with each other? What standards are expected, articulated, and–most important—tolerated? And what does the culture contribute to achieving the stated goals or objectives or does it detract from it?

If you’re trying to lead change in a culture that values stability, you’re going to have a problem. If you’re trying to inspire collaboration in a culture that values individuals above teams, you’re going to experience challenges. And if you’re trying to create a winning environment in a culture that only values participation, you’re going to be persistently frustrated.


  • Knowledge isn’t enough. You can’t learn your way to a better culture.
  • Performance-based management isn’t enough. You can’t reward your way to a better culture.
  • Inspiration isn’t enough. You can’t generate a level of emotion long enough to achieve a better culture.

If you want the clearest path to change the trajectory of your team and your organization, start with the culture. It’s the most complicated thing you’ll do. But if you get it right, it will fuel your efforts to break through any barriers you’ll face, and you’ll live into the full potential of your divine design.