Business Culture & the Chief Executive

The general description of business culture is that it represents the beliefs, actions, attitudes, and values of the corporation. Culture is then espoused as the leverage point through which further cultural change can be achieved. I would add that culture fulfills two functions: it influences beliefs, actions, attitudes, and values as well as represents an indication of those current characteristics. What this means is that is not just a means to an end but is also the end itself. It can be used to evaluate and determine whether resources, personnel, systems, policies, technologies, and behaviors are aligned. This alignment determines whether or not these same resources, etc., are being utilized efficiently, effectively, and sustainably.

I often refer to these four characteristics as the quaternity, in that they should be used to compare alternative strategies when values and ‘apparent’ outcomes are equivalent. Instead of the CEO being the ultimate hallmark of what behaviors others should personify I have found that others, all being equal, working in the trenches can be just as effective if not more effective in role modeling the desired elements contained in this article’s description of culture. This is even more prevalent when the CEO, for example in a national brand of geographically dispersed corporation, is not immediately visible.

Role modeling of word does not compare to the impact that can be achieved through the role modeling of visible behaviors. In a geographically dispersed corporate structure it is important that the desired cultural component’s visibility is emphasized combined with verbal modeling and reinforcement. This is particularly true when one considers what is defined as “authentic” role modeling.

This “authentic” role modeling helps explicate that changing culture, and defining desirable culture, at each level and within each functional department of the corporation requires different models and sources of visibility. Authority from a different functional perspective may sound “authentic” but it will not sound relevant.

No one individual can thus embody the desired behaviors of the envisioned culture across all functions, departments, reporting tiers, and geographical locations. Incentives, reinforcement, and verbal role modeling from the “top” remain critical but its ability to impact every niche within the corporate environment in an expeditious and sustainable fashion should not be overestimated.


Travis Barker, MPA GCPM

Innovate Vancouver

[email protected]



Katzenbach, J., & Aguirre, D. (2013, March 28). Culture and the Chief Executive. Retrieved from



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