What are you conforming to?

Whether we accept it or not, organisational life asks us to conform to a culture, a code, a rhythm. However, no organisation has a homogenous culture that prevails without development over time. An organisation’s culture is made up of a myriad of different interactions between people. It is shaped by legacy, stories, myth and memory. It is fluid and flexible and people’s experiences of it differ. So, when you choose to conform to your organisation’s culture, to which culture are you conforming? As a leader, are you conforming to the ‘good stuff’ in the culture or to the dysfunction?

When an organisation is facing significant challenges or periods of sustained change, the good things about the culture can be steamrollered out of your memory. And in this environment, when others around you are consumed by the difficulties, it is easy to conform to dysfunction. Life becomes more about conforming to the norm than leading through it. And if the norm is a culture of dysfunction, then that’s what you might conform with.

If this is the case, this then leads to the question, ‘what are you committed to?’ There is an important relationship between your answer to this question and what you choose to conform to.

Elie Wiesel said, “Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.” If you are in the business of leading others then this begins with leading yourself. And this may mean that you need to challenge yourself to notice other things in your organisation. Not everything is broken; not every relationship is fragmented; not every team is fractured. Not everything is dysfunctional. If you look around through another lens you might notice something that presents another possibility… one of progress, collaboration or trust. Rather than scanning for the evidence to support a view that everything is a challenge, why not look for the upside?

This doesn’t mean that you live in some detached, unrealistic nirvana where you are in constant denial of the significant challenges and difficulties you might face. You can be fully aware of the reality you face and as you look at it, notice what you are committed to, notice what you want. Notice the things around you that are helpful, hopeful and positive.

As a leader, it is important that you look for what is working in your culture and when you feel able, conform to that.