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Leadership and Culture Killers

For most companies today, culture is their one sustainable source of competitive advantage. It helps them attract and retain 'A-grade' talent and provides an environment where great people are then able to maximise their abilities. Here are two of the most common 'culture killers' and what leaders should do to avoid them.

1. Fitting roles to people, not people to roles

Leadership - fitting into roles


One of the worst things a leader can do is to 'create' a role to find a place for a favoured employee or to put someone in a role to which they are genuinely not suited. A great question for the CEO or MD of a business to ask themselves is this: "If I was designing my business from scratch, what would the organisation structure be?"

Draw the answer on a white board. Once you've done that, then start putting names into the boxes. Be honest with yourself about how well they fit. For example, is that salesperson who was one of your original hires really up to the task of being Sales Director now that your business has grown?

If you want to create a high-performance culture then your people should be high performers. Having someone in a role for which they are not suited, or in a role that doesn't really fit the needs of the business, will not only impact their performance but will impact the morale of the people around them. It's a culture killer. Effective leaders are prepared to have the difficult conversations and always put the needs of the business first.

2. A lack of accountability

Leadership & accountability

David Morrison AO: "The standard you walk past is the standard you accept."

Once you have the right people in the right seats you then need to hold them accountable for delivering. As the leader, you are accountable to ensure that every single person in the organisation has a crystal-clear understanding of:

1. The 1-2 key goals the business is working toward

2. What they need to deliver in order to help the business achieve those goals.

If one of your direct reports is consistently failing to deliver, you need to work out why and then do something about it. Is it a matter of capability? Do they have the tools and resources to succeed? Are they putting in the effort? Is the problem something else?

The one thing that you simply cannot do is ignore the problem. Not only will their lack of performance hurt the business but, even worse, it will send a message to everyone else around them that you aren't really serious when you say that you stand for high performance. As the former Australian Chief of Army, David Morrison famously said: "The standard you walk past is the standard you accept."


A great culture that attracts and retains talented people is the key to sustainable competitive advantage. By avoiding the culture killers above, you will be helping set your business on a path to long-term success.


Revel Gordon

Revel Gordon is a Sydney-based executive coach and leadership expert. He works across Australia and the Asia Pacific region. Clients range from multinational corporates to fast-growing SMEs. In addition to his executive coaching practice, Revel is a Director of the International Coach Federation Australasia, the world’s leading coaching body.
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