Conscious leaders create conscious cultures. We can see this in entrepreneurial organizations where the founder imposes their visions, goals, beliefs, values, and assumptions, and the culture emerges as the organization grows and employees share in the leader’s philosophy. Conscious and unconscious cultures have been described in the book, The Inner Journey to Conscious Leadership.
There are many definitions of culture, but for my touchstone, I go back to the definition from my first teacher of culture, professor emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Edgar Schein: “The culture of a group can be defined as a pattern of shared basic assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.” I was fortunate to spend a week listening to Edgar Schein talk about culture a few years ago. Since then, I have experienced many different business cultures and have been involved in many cultural transformations.
The negative cultures of toxic workplaces are examples of unconscious cultures, but it is the conscious cultures that help make the world a better place to live and work. The qualities of a conscious culture include trust, accountability, caring, transparency, integrity, and loyalty. In a conscious culture, there is no class system within the organizational hierarchy and no special privileges or perks for a select few. Salary differentials between the top of the organization and the front line are smaller compared to traditional organizations, and an open-door policy throughout the organization creates an environment where input from all employees is welcomed.
Modernizing Medicine and Zappos are just two examples of conscious cultures making the world a better place to live and work described in the book, The Inner Journey to Conscious Leadership.
On a recent visit to Modernizing Medicine, founder and CEO Dan Cane told me, “We haven’t distilled our core values into pictures on the wall. Creating and maintaining our conscious culture is primarily about hiring the right people and then talking about the culture all the time.” At Zappos, the culture emerged as the organization grew and has now been captured in the Zappos Culture Book which is available in print and online. This a great way to define a conscious culture and share it with all stakeholders.
Conscious cultures are people centered, extending beyond employees to all stakeholders as individuals and are reflected in the cultures of learning, trust, interconnectedness and interdependence, integrity, and transparency, loyalty, respect, belonging, oneness, and caring. Conscious leaders create the right environment for conscious cultures to emerge.