The Critical Connection Between Context and Culture

Here are a few factors that make leaders effective at shaping the right culture for an organization.

I’ve started churches, served more established congregations, and been the vice president of a half-a-billion-dollar company. Now, I am privileged to lead the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

In my roles, I have seen leaders who overwhelmingly succeed and those who phenomenally fail. One of the key differentiators of success for leaders that I have observed is their ability to create, protect, shape, and embody an appropriate culture that matches the goals and purposes of their organization.

In the discussion about culture, it is easy to make broad, sweeping statements about the need to shape culture. But good leaders go awry when they try to shape the culture into one they personally enjoy instead of the culture that is appropriate for their context.

Every leader will naturally embody the things he or she believes and the values she or he cares about. And that is good and should be cultivated. But in the nuance of a specific role or a specific place, leaders must be adaptable and intuitive enough to know the right culture to shape in the right places and the right times in an organization’s history.

Here are a few factors that make leaders effective at shaping the right culture.

1 – Good leaders know the value of context

Where some good culture-shapers stall is forgetting the value of place.

Location and context matter immensely when shaping culture, and I’ve often seen the dichotomy of a good leader shaping unhealthy cultures in education or church leadership. It frequently comes from successful business leaders who make the switch to nonprofit leadership. They are often hired for their leadership acumen and provide great benefits to spaces where practitioners (educators/professors and pastors/theologians) …

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