. Why Company Culture Starts at the Top | Successful Meetings

Why Company Culture Starts at the Top

Mattone Cultural Transformations

In an executive trends global research study that I conducted with my colleague, Bonnie Hagemann, in 2011 and 2013, we confirmed that identifying and developing high potential and emerging leaders is one of the top issues facing CEOs: In most organizations in North America, Europe, and the Far East, 40-70 percent of all executives will become eligible for retirement in the next five years. In other parts of the world like South America, Africa, and the Middle East, the demographics are different, yet the challenge is the same. Most organizations in these regions struggle to accurately identify and develop their future leaders. 

In our increasingly knowledge-driven world economy, organizations are right to fear this imminent brain drain, suspecting that when executives leave the firm, business may follow. Conversely, potential and emerging leaders -- those most likely to rise to fill those highest positions -- account for less than 8-10 percent of the talent pool. That's just in the U.S. In other countries like Canada, Australia, the U.K., Japan, and China (and in just about every country except India and various countries in Africa and South America) this issue is as pronounced as it is in the U.S., if not more so. And so identifying, developing, and retaining such rare talent truly becomes a mission-critical global challenge for CEOs, senior executives, managers, and HR directors. 

Given this indisputable global business challenge, the implication for current and emerging leaders is clear: The demand for outstanding leaders will soon surpass the current supply. Therefore, if you are a current or emerging leader, you should be poised and ready to capitalize on substantial opportunities. Regardless of your own desire to ascend the ladder, one thing is certain: All organizations will be asking more of their leaders -- expectations, demands, and pressure will only increase. The demand for truly outstanding leaders has never been higher, and, thus, progressive CEOs such as the ones highlighted in our book, Cultural Transformations, are raising the bar -- as they must -- in order to compete successfully on the global stage. 

None of the CEOs we interviewed reserved the demand to raise the bar for everyone else. All 14 were quick to agree that their organization's culture, without question, started with them. Culture and operating success starts in the C-suite. Irv Rothman, the impressive CEO of HP Financial Services, said, "I think culture is absolutely the CEO's job. I spent the first 180 business days in 2002 traveling around the world, talking to the HPA and contact people. All I talked about was our operating philosophy and our business model, not about customers, not about strategy, not about how we're going to do things. Instead, I focused on: This is who we are. This is what you can expect from your leadership. This is why we think this is a good way to go, why we think you're going to be happy working here." 

Eddie Machalaani, chairman of the fast-growing e-commerce company Bigcommerce, said, "Company culture starts from the top. It starts with the CEO first and foremost. You can't fake a company culture if the CEO doesn't live by that code and doesn't live by the core values of the organization and then also surround himself or herself with the right talent and the right people. I feel really blessed with the talent and the people that we have in our organization. We couldn't do anything we do without them." 

Excerpted with permission from the publisher, Wiley, from Cultural Transformations: Lessons of Leadership and Corporate Reinvention, by John Mattone and Nick Vaidya. Copyright © 2016.

John Mattone is an authority on leadership, talent, and culture. An international keynote speaker and executive coach, he advises Fortune 1000 senior leaders on how to create cultures that drive superior operating results.  He is the author of eight books including Cultural Transformations, Talent Leadership, and Intelligent Leadership. He is also the creator of numerous business assessments, including the Mattone Leadership Enneagram Inventory. For more information, visit www.johnmattone.com.

Nick Vaidya is the editor-in-chief of The CEO Magazine, which presents growth strategies for leaders through expert interviews and in-depth research into best practices. He is also a serial entrepreneur and has managed a multibillion-dollar product line for Dell besides being on the Chairman's Strategy Team. His work is influenced by his doctoral research in empiricism and a wide variety of business roles.