I believe the old adage “leadership drives business” isn’t true anymore. In today’s world – “Culture Drives Business” – The Leaders role then is to help create and maintain culture.
Last week my friend Cindy told me a story that every leader who wants to create a strong culture needs to understand.
Several years ago Cindy and her kids noticed that two Robins had built a nest in one of their trees. As they paid attention to the Robin’s activity they realized that there were eggs in the nest. Those eggs soon hatched four baby birds.
Cindy and her kids took ownership of the baby birds. They loved to watch them and would check in on them regularly.
Then one day as Cindy was putting clothes away in one of the kid’s rooms – she saw something she hadn’t ever seen before or since. She saw more then a dozen birds flying around the tree with the Robin’s nest. Cindy rushed out to see what all the fuss was about and saw more than a dozen birds (all different types) who were attacking the tree. Cindy ran to protect the baby birds and what she found was amazing.
Birds of all different types were flying around the tree and then dive bombing the tree. There was a snake that had wrapped itself around the tree and was trying to get the baby robins. The birds were doing everything they could do attack the snake and save the baby birds.
Cindy thought quickly and grabbed a shovel and used it to pull the snake off the tree. The snake slithered away and when Cindy eventually turned around all of the birds were sitting on the branches of the tree looking at her for as if to say thank you. Then they flew away.
So what does this story have to do with culture?
There is something amazing that happens with people that have a common enemy. When we have a common enemy – just like the birds, we forget differences. We begin to collaborate and focus on common objectives and we fight for our cause.
As Leaders trying to establish a strong culture, it is important to establish your values and beliefs. By defining what you believe and who your common enemy is – you bring people together to fight for a cause.
Companies who have been praised for their cultures understand their cause and it brings them together. They live their values, share common beliefs and fight against their common enemy. Zappos is fighting mediocrity in customer service. Target is fighting to democratize designer fashions. Southwest Airlines is fighting to make the travel experience fun. Each of these examples have leaders who have helped to create a culture where a common enemy brings their people together to fight a cause.
Leadership does not drive business – culture does. Leadership’s job is to create and maintain a positive culture that has a mission.
P.S. – To not leave you hanging, the baby birds were saved.