Chapter 10Don't Confuse Culture with Collateral

The people know your motives whether you know them or not.

—Cheryl Bachelder, CEO, Popeyes

Every organization has an ethos, if not by design, then by default. The ethos is organizational spirit. It's the collective beliefs about the organization's identity and what they value. It's that intangible thing that's hard to name, yet everyone knows what it is.

It's why employees at Whole Foods know that their larger purpose is to improve health and well-being. It's why the atmosphere in some schools feels like a prison, while others hum with a creative buzz. If you walk into the principal's office, you'll likely find someone whose personal ethos has permeated the organization's culture.

As a leader, you are in absolute control of your own ethos.

Another popular definition for ethos is: The disposition, character, or fundamental values peculiar to a specific person, people, culture, or movement. You alone control your disposition, character, and values. As a leader, your personal ethos is the cornerstone of your organization's culture.

For the purpose of this book, we'll use the word ethos to describe beliefs, values, and aspirations, and we'll use culture to describe the resulting behaviors and practices of the organization.

Culture is a hot topic these days. The truism of Peter Drucker's statement, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” is readily apparent in a knowledge economy, where your competitor can copy everything except the ...

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