Today organisations of all sorts are facing change at a speed never experienced before. Many are eager to develop meaningful and lasting financial and social returns; to create a sustainable advantage through strategies that build on the core competence of their organisation and on their people’s intellectual, spiritual and ethical strengths.
Traditional approaches alone are inadequate for dealing with this. Creativity in combining profitability and a meaningful social mission is key to making sustainability a reality in an organisational setting.
We introduced the term Cultural Leadership to describe a leadership approach that puts at its centre the interdependence between organisations and the cultural context in which they seek to operate. Cultural Leadership moves well beyond the traditional language of management – the neat linear world created within corporations and institutions that has become increasingly detached from the real world.
Cultural leadership implies a substantial shift in awareness requiring leaders to view their role within a much larger context. Such awareness reaches beyond concerns about survival and growth to encompass the more far-reaching impacts of their decisions on the well-being of community and society.
Leadership as a liberal art
We like to think of Cultural Leadership as a liberal art. ‘Liberal’ because it deals with the fundamentals of knowledge, self-knowledge, wisdom and leadership; ‘art’ because it deals with practice and application. Cultural Leadership assesses reality based on knowledge of values, of the difference between what is valuable and valueless, meaningful and meaningless, ethical and unethical. That knowledge is cultural knowledge, the language of artists, poets and philosophers.
Aligning culture, leadership and strategy
Cultural Leadership re-casts the language of management in the context of contemporary cultures. The new language is grounded in a higher-level dialogue about purpose, values, culture and social structures. It creates resilient organisations that have clarity of direction in an increasingly unstable world.
For organisations to be resilient and successful, they will need to focus and align their culture, leadership and strategy to the massive cultural changes of our time.