David White is a partner and co-founder of Ontos Global. He has spent more than 25 years helping organizations manage and sustain transformation. As a cognitive anthropologist, his research and practice focus on new approaches to organizational culture and change. He focuses on designing and implementing successful, large-scale organizational transformation programs, as well as developing adaptive leaders who can do the same. His newest book, Disrupting Corporate Culture, focuses on how cognitive science alters accepted beliefs and impacts leaders and change agents.
A pervasive myth in leadership is that leaders set the culture. Cultures form just as well in any group without a nominal leader.
Culture is a reference system – a shared mental operating system – we use to make sense of the world.
If culture is a “given,” how do leaders work with it? Their power.
Power shapes practices which then shape culture. Culture follows task.
The values and norms established by founders are difficult to regenerate unless the practices embody those values and ideals.
QUESTIONS TO INSPIRE US TO ACTION
What is some lesson, saying, or experience that continues to influence your leadership to this day? Past failures in trying to drive large-scale change in complex organizations.
Use three descriptors to finish this sentence: “A leader is…” Curious, self-aware, and empathic.
What is a question that leaders should be asking either themselves or others? How do I feel, and what do I want?
What book would you recommend to leaders? Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson
If you could get every listener to start doing something THIS week to help them be a better leader, what would it be? Get really curious about your people and organization and why they do what they do.
As a general life principle, is it better to ask “why?” or “why not?” “Why?” because it is more powerful. It’s more generative.