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How to Lead a Great Team Inside a Not-So-Great Company

We owe it to the people we are called to lead to make our teams the absolute best place to work—no matter what the rest of the organization looks like.

“You can talk about culture all you want to, Dave. But, how can we change anything if the people above us do nothing about our culture?” Unfortunately, I consistently hear this question in big corporations, family-run businesses and in law enforcement and governmental agencies. CEO’s, Owners, Police Chiefs and City Managers are responsible for the culture of the organizations they lead—but so is each leader.

I always say, “If you want to know why a culture is the way it is, look at the leader.” The leader is ultimately responsible for how people behave—not just with customers or the public. They are also responsible to each other. But, what do you do if you are inside of a company who does not have a healthy culture? What is a leader to do if they are stuck in a larger organization, led by someone who doesn’t focus on the culture?

Ultimately, no matter where we are in the org chart, the culture of the team we lead is our responsibility. If the organization’s culture stinks, it remains our Duty to make the team we lead the best place to work at within that company or department. We have a moral obligation to our team to make our own unique micro-culture the one everyone wants to do business with as well as being the one everyone wants to be a part of.

Time-after-time, I have heard the same complaint. Time-after-time, I have given the same advice. Control what you can control. You cannot change what the leaders above you are doing about culture, but you can control what you do in reaction to it.

We owe it to the people we are called to lead to make our teams the absolute best place to work, no matter what the rest of the organization looks like. If enough frontline and mid-level leaders lead the culture of their teams this way, the organization—as a whole—will begin to shift.

Should CEO’s, Owners, Police Chiefs and City Managers exercise Duty and shape the culture of the larger organizations? Absolutely! Would it be easier if the leaders at the top took culture seriously instead of paying lip-service to it in quarterly meetings? Absolutely! But, if they are not doing their Duty, it does not absolve the rest of the leaders from exercising theirs. We must actively build a winning culture within the teams we have the most control over. It is our moral obligation to lead our teams to the best of our ability and do what we know needs to done, even if the person above us is not. This is how Leaders of Character create teams everyone wants to do business with and everyone wants to be part of.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • What do you consistently do in order to shape the culture of your team?

  • What would it mean to your team if you invested in the culture of the team, regardless of upper leadership?


It is important to us for you to have an opportunity to exercise Duty, not only individually, but together as a team. This is why we have created practice cards with scenarios. We invite you to discuss as a team what it means to exercise Duty via our Coaching Cards.

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