Meaningful Culture is Your Leadership Responsibility

As Satya Nadella stated in his book Hit Refresh, the “C” in CEO stands for culture. One of the most important responsibilities of the CEO is to cultivate culture. It’s the multiplication factor in performance. Two organizations with the same ability will have completely different outcomes based on the culture. Systems and processes are important but cannot make up for ineffective culture. Culture is not just the CEO’s responsibility; all leaders are responsible for the culture they are creating.

Meaning drives motivation. Meaning is one of the intrinsic factors that increase performance. Meaning comes from knowing how you are contributing to something greater than yourself. A meaningful culture requires that a leader connect the HOW (the expected cultural values which capture the beliefs of how to behave) with the WHAT (the work people do each day) and the WHY (a greater purpose.)

4 Steps to a Meaningful Culture:

  1. Know the WHY. Define a clear, compelling purpose.
  1. Know the HOW. Define your ideal cultural norms, the beliefs and the behaviors
  • Gather data. Measure your culture – both ideal and what currently exists.
  • Gather stories to understand the underlying beliefs that drive the behaviors and shape culture.
  • Review the data to understand where there is alignment and where there are gaps. Get clear on the cultural norms required to achieve your purpose and your goals.
  1. Know the WHAT. Shockingly, many leaders have limited awareness of the daily work of their teams. It’s critical to know your team members’ priorities, their work, and their challenges. Leaders who can speak to the activity and focus of their teams are better equipped to make the connection.
  1. Make the connection between why, what and how. People need to understand how the work they do every day is expected to be done in the organization (culture) and how it connects to something greater than themselves (purpose). Tell stories over and over that reinforce this connection.

Don’t shirk your leadership responsibility and leave culture to chance. Your opportunity is to create greater levels of achievement and performance through a meaningful culture. Not sure where to begin? Email us at or visit the Growth Resources tab on our website for some culture resources.

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