You often hear these words, but its deeper essence is not really understood. To clarify the concept, we must ask: How does the inner process of the human soul set the standard for what is experienced as “company culture”?
Inner process is the key to this question. But what is it? To explain this, I will use a colloquialism people are familiar with. Think of “vibes”. Recall a time after you met someone and then commented to a friend, “they have (…) vibes”. But what are vibes? And how does it relate to culture?
The nature of the human soul is magnetic, as is the thoughts it generates. Thoughts are an expression of the volition of the soul. Based on the type of thoughts a person forms and nourishes, this energy from their inner life will form a “metaphysical” atmosphere around them, the same way the atmosphere surrounds the earth. Since energy attracts all that is similar, and is itself attracted by it, this atmosphere around us will determine the impression people have when they meet us, because it will draw to itself all that is similar from within them, and repel what is not.
Hence, someone might say, “She was giving off really good vibes”. But this expression is wrong, because vibes are not something someone “gives off” or “radiates”. Rather, what is felt by this person is the “magnetic pull” of the inner life of the other, based on the attraction of similar characteristics. If the volition behind the thoughts of the other was similar to what was within the person, then these similar energies will be drawn. Furthermore, the energy that is stronger will exert a greater pull on what is weaker. Outwardly we call this “feeling a connection” or “sympathy”. It is in process of this metaphysical attraction that we experience the “push” or “pull” called vibes. I added “push” because energy can only be attracted or repelled. Hence, based on the inner characteristics at play, we will experience the “pulling” of a connection, or a dissonance of dissimilar energies that has a “pushing” effect.
The “vibes” of the soul is what forms its “inner culture”. Next, as “birds of a feather flock together”, this individual inner culture is what sets the benchmark for friendships. What are friendships? Using a scientific metaphor, friendships are just compounds of people united by similar energies and aspirations. Hence, groups of people called “friends” are connected based on a similar “feather” of their inner lives, which then forms a collective culture within which everyone in the “friendship group” operates.
This universal principle that operates in the formation of “individual culture” and “friendship culture”, is also what governs the formation of company culture.
But here there is a slight difference. Friendships are voluntary unions based on similar energies and aspirations. But work relationships are compulsory associations of convenience to achieve some earthly aim. This means people are banded together in an environment who, in daily life, might not voluntarily be friends. And wherever a group is formed under such circumstances, the collective outward culture will reflect the predominant inner qualities expressed and nourished by the majority. Here, the law of attraction operates in that the “individual vibe” attracts and reinforces other similar vibes from like-minded people. Uniting, it then transforms into a “collective vibe” that becomes the invisible atmosphere pervading an organization that people experience as the “company culture”.
From this process, a reason for the frequent disparity between the stated and lived culture of an organization becomes apparent.
When a company culture is subpar, how do we begin to change it? Where do we begin? There are different ways organizations and people can go about this, not the least of which includes a change in the attitude of the individual and hiring the right people. But here, for the sake of brevity, I will focus on just one: the right leader.
Even though “the majority decides” through the aforementioned process, this is where leadership comes in. Leadership is a special exception that can inspire a change of majority culture through a minority group of people. When given a position of influence, leadership can almost decisively set the trajectory of the vibe of the company that will manifest in its daily activities. How?
To make this easier to comprehend, picture the inner characteristics of people within an organization as different ingredients and foods within a kitchen (organization). Now picture a leader as a “chef”. The chef has the unique responsibility to determine the dish to be served, and with this the type of ingredients and foods that will be combined and connected, and thus predominate the activity in the kitchen. In the same way, a leader, through the example of the qualities they reinforce within and how diligent and strategic they are without, sets the direction for the inner qualities that will be reinforced within members of an organization, and how they will be connected and combined to achieve some aim. Through this process, they establish the type of characteristics and “collective culture” that will predominate in an organization.
In this process, “birds of a feather flock together” in that the nature of the leader will naturally set the standard of the type of people elevated to positions of influence within an organization, and with this who will be admitted into the company through employment. However, all these statements assume the appropriate balance between inner refinement and outward competence.
It is not to be assumed that a leader is perfect, knows everything, or works with people only like them. No, for such is not the case. But leadership requires the personal recognition of inner limitations and blind spots in one’s capacities, and with this the humility to be open to give opportunity and autonomy to diverse people who might be stronger and more skilled in those areas where one is weak. Leadership just has the foresight and vision to recognize how the complementing abilities of different individuals can be united to serve a higher aim. In other words, a leader is so committed to a high goal, the fulfillment of which means so much to them, that they are willing to follow a good idea no matter where it comes from or who gets credit.
Leadership is not about ruling or directing, but about service and obedience. Service to the welfare and benefit of others through obedience to one’s conscience. The conscience, however, is the inner guide that directs a person how to lead a life where inner values animates and guides all material pursuits. A real leader can be seen as a connecting point between external endeavors and the guiding arm of higher values through obedience to one’s conscience. A leader sets the example of this diligent balance between inner and outer development. Through this, the inner culture of their inner life sets the standard of friendships and associations, which subsequently influences the nature of “company culture” within a broader group of people.
It should be noted that the above statements are naturally not exhaustive of the different components of cultural change within an organization, but just cover one aspect of it. Notwithstanding, the intention of this essay was to explain how the inner condition of the human soul becomes the standard-bearer of company culture, and the role that leadership plays in the process.
~Dr. Ikenna Q. Ezealah