Culture: The Double-Edged Sword of Leadership

The Four Domains

Culture: The Double-Edged Sword of Leadership


In any organization, culture is the bedrock of success. But how does a strong, cohesive culture come to be? It can be “caught” (picked up by people just by being exposed and around them) or it can be “taught” (learned through intentional communication of values and systems). The most effective cultures are those that are both caught and taught, blending organic growth with intentional value communication.

The Role of Leadership in Modeling Behavior

Culture is often more caught than taught, meaning people pick up on behaviors, attitudes, and values by observing those around them, especially their leaders. As a leader, your actions speak louder than your words. If you want to cultivate a culture of integrity, innovation, and dedication, you must embody these values yourself. Your team watches you closely, and your behavior sets the standard.

Example: Consider a pastor who emphasizes the importance of community service. If this pastor regularly participates in service projects, the congregation is more likely to follow suit. His actions demonstrate commitment and inspire others to join in, creating a culture of service.

Key Actions for Leaders:

  • Consistently demonstrate the values you want to see in your team.
  • Be transparent and accountable in your actions.
  • Show enthusiasm and dedication to your organization’s mission.

Effective Communication of Core Values

While behaviors are crucial, clear communication of your organization’s core values is equally important. This is where teaching culture comes into play. Explicitly communicating your values ensures that everyone understands the expectations and the standards they should strive to uphold.

Example: A business executive might regularly highlight the company’s commitment to innovation during meetings and in written communications. By doing so, the executive not only reinforces this value but also sets a clear expectation that innovation is a priority.

Strategies for Communicating Values:

  • Incorporate core values into all forms of communication, from team meetings to emails to sermons.
  • Create a values statement and make it visible within the workplace.
  • Regularly discuss and reinforce these values in both formal and informal settings.

Strategies for Integrating New Team Members

Bringing new members into an established culture can be challenging. It’s essential to ensure that new team members not only understand but also embrace the organization’s culture. This requires a combination of both catching and teaching.

Example: When onboarding new staff, a nonprofit organization might pair each newcomer with a seasoned mentor. This mentor exemplifies the organization’s values and can guide the new member through their initial days, ensuring they catch the cultural cues while also receiving direct instruction on key values and practices.

Integration Techniques:

  • Develop a structured onboarding program that emphasizes cultural values.
  • Use mentorship and buddy systems to help new members acclimate.
  • Encourage participation in team activities and events to foster a sense of belonging.

Balancing Organic Growth and Intentional Teaching

The most successful cultures are those that balance organic growth with intentional teaching. This means creating an environment where people naturally adopt positive behaviors while also providing clear guidance on what is expected.

Example: A church might encourage organic cultural growth by fostering a welcoming environment where members feel comfortable inviting friends. At the same time, they might hold regular training sessions to teach volunteers the importance of hospitality and how to greet newcomers effectively.

Tips for Balancing Culture:

  • Encourage feedback from team members on cultural initiatives.
  • Regularly assess and adjust your approach to ensure both organic growth and intentional teaching are effective.
  • Celebrate cultural milestones and successes to reinforce desired behaviors.


Creating a strong organizational culture is not an either/or proposition. It requires a harmonious blend of caught and taught elements. Leaders must model the behaviors they want to see, communicate values clearly, integrate new members effectively, and balance organic growth with intentional teaching. By doing so, they can cultivate a culture that not only supports but also propels their organization towards its mission and goals. Start today by evaluating your current culture and identifying areas where you can better blend these approaches to create a thriving, cohesive environment for your team.

Leave your thought here

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *