Leading Through Culture
Any of us may be called to lead, for a short time or a longer one, in a large or small group, and almost all of us are capable.
I wrote this book with leaders of all kinds of organizations in mind, not just CEOs of corporations, but rather anyone who finds themselves in a position of leadership. This includes department heads, scout leaders, heads of not-for-profits, work group leaders, church leaders, school principals, etc. Literally anyone who finds themselves in a position of leadership, for whatever timeframe, at whatever stage of an organization’s development.
This book’s basic principles apply to leaders across a wide variety of organization types and sizes. Silicon Valley Bank was a startup when I joined it in 1990. It had about 1,200 people in total when I passed my CEO baton on to my successor Greg Becker ten years later; today, under Greg’s leadership, it is one of the largest banks in the US and one of only a handful with a global orientation. And yet, I believe that the stories and principles elucidated in the book apply to every part of this journey from startup to global bank.
Why is Leading Through Culture different? Because real life generally differs in the following ways:
1. Successful leadership is based on a collaborative style. Most of history’s best leadership examples are collaborative, not dictatorial. Over time, a confidence-inspiring leadership team invariably accomplishes more, with better results, than one charismatic (and often tyrannical) leader.
2. Most books base their accolades on a single constituency’s satisfaction. If Wall Street is happy, for instance, then the leader must have done a good job and is, therefore, by definition, a great leader. In my view, good leadership seeks to optimize the experience for all of a group’s significant constituencies. It’s nice if Wall Street is happy, but we don’t have an example of good leadership unless other major constituencies (employees, clients, the community, regulators, etc.) are happy, too.
3. Most books on leadership seem to be about making more money or improving the bottom line. Success isn’t just about money. It’s also about happiness. If all constituencies are happy over time, there will be money—perhaps more than there might be otherwise.
4. This book is intended as a “field manual.” It is practical. It starts with the question: “Why do you want to lead?” and helps you answer it for yourself. From that point on, it is organized in a logical, sequential way, in the order in which things actually develop in real life: building a team, creating a culture, getting everyone pointed in the right direction, how to work together on a daily basis with your leadership team, how you and your leadership team can work effectively with the organization as a whole, etc.
5. Finally, my approach to writing. For active leaders, a book must be short. I hope and believe I’ve achieved that.
6. My approach sounds simple, but it is much more difficult than it appears. I’ll bet you’ll agree: Many of the most obvious leadership principles at least appear to have been ignored by the leaders you have experienced in your lives. If a principle is so obvious that it appears simple, and still is ignored by most leaders, to their detriment, then in my view it bears discussion. This may result in parts of my manual seeming simple. Believe me, even the simple things are difficult. Otherwise, why would leaders so often fail to practice them?