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Leaders build organisational culture

BIBLE School Business School (BSBS) takes insights from the historical culture of the Ancient Near East as depicted in the Bible and applies these to business, leadership and personal development.

This week the spotlight is on David and the leaders that surrounded him –– their identity and competencies. What is powerfully striking is how a group of 30 leaders that supported David the king exhibited similar behavioural tendencies and attitudes –– they reproduced David’s positive attitudes and behaviours. Amazing!

Among the 30 closest aides of David there was a trio that formed the king’s inner circle affectionately known as the “Mighty Three”. In 2 Samuel 23:13-17 (NKJV) the daring feats of the Mighty Tree are recounted: “Then three of the 30 chief men went down at harvest time and came to David at the cave of Adullam.

“And the troop of Philistines encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. And David said with longing, ‘Oh, that someone would give me a drink of the water from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!’ So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and took it to David. Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the LORD.

“And he said, ‘Far be it from me, O LORD, that I should do this! Is this not the blood of the men who went jeopardy of their lives?’ Therefore he would not drink it. These things were done by the three mighty men. ”

Here is what we learn. David was a selfless leader in his own right. He risked his life for his nation in the morning of his youth when he challenged Goliath of Gath with unproven battle tactics and manouvres. That same trait was reflected among his top lieutenants. Those closest to a leader must pass the test of selflessness.

Heroes beget heroes
Then there was another second trio of mighty men. In 2 Samuel 23: 18-19 the national heroism of Abishai, chief of the second trio is recorded: “Now Abishai the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah, was chief of another three. He lifted his spear against three hundred men, killed them, and won a name among these three. Was he not the most honoured of the three? Therefore he became their captain. However, he did not attain to the first three.’’

The story of Benaiah, the second member of the second trio is brought to light in 2 Samuel 23: 19-23(NKJV): “Benaiah was the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man from Kabzeel, who had done many deeds. He had killed two lion-like heroes of Moab. He also had gone down and killed a lion in the midst of a pit on a snowy day. And he killed an Egyptian, a spectacular man. The Egyptian had a spear in his hand; so he went down to him with a staff, wrested the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and killed him with his own spear. These things Benaiah the son of Jehoiada did, and won a name among the three mighty men. He was more honoured than the thirty, but did not attain to the first three. And David appointed him over his guard.”

David was a legend in Israel. His heroic exploits set a bar of excellence. Heroism quickly became a national culture. David encouraged heroism and rewarded it. An organisational culture is built by what leaders model, inspire and reward. Even if leaders do not have a deliberate strategy to achieve this, people decode the signals leaders send through their actions. They just say, “So this is what our leaders value, live and reward. This is how things are done around here.’’ People watch your steps not your speech. It’s action and not verbosity that people model after. Smart leaders have a clear strategy for building an appropriate organisational culture.

Giant-killers beget giant-killers
The brand David was birthed following his swashbuckling exploits as a ruddy teenager when he singlehandedly averted a national security challenge through annihilating Goliath in the valley of Elah. David’s giant-killing exploits inspired a generation of giant-killers.

In 1 Chronicles 20:4 (NKV) we learn: “Now it happened afterward that war broke out at Gezer with the Philistines, at which time Sibbechai the Hushathite killed Sippai, who was one of the sons of the giant. And they were subdued.’’
The pattern carries on: “And there was war with the Philistines, and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.” (1 Chronicles 20:5, NKJV).

And yet again; “Yet again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, …; and he was born to the giant. So when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother killed him. These were born to the giant in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.’’ (1 Chronicles 20:6-8, NKJV).

Here are a few nuggets from the foregoing narratives. Personal competencies and behaviours can be reproduced in members of an organisation to create a distinct organisational brand or culture. We can infer that among the Philistines, Goliath’s traits became a Philistine brand. Goliath was courageous but arrogant.

We see similar traits among leaders who came after him. On the contrary, David’s giant-killing exploits were repeated among his leaders. David’s servants just had no respect for giants from Philistine. They repeatedly crushed giants. It became the Israeli organisational reputation.

Your organisation reflects you
I could not have put it better than John Maxwell who piles it neatly when he boldly states: “Who you are, is who you attract.’’ Maxwell calls this phenomenon the Law of (Leadership) Magnetism. We have seen the power of this law in the narrative of David and his leaders. I would like to deepen Maxwell’s thoughts and suggest that the potency of the Law of (Leadership) Magnetism hinges on what happens after initial attraction. After attraction there is multiplication. A leader’s behavior tends to be reproduced among his close aides who in turn transmit those traits among their subordinates –– whether intentional or not.

If this phenomenon is valid, then we expect that where corruption is rife, it reflects that the leadership is also corrupt. To end corruption, the top leader must break the mould.

Who you are as a leader is what your organisation will eventually become. Your personal brand will become the organisational brand. Your personal reputation will become your organisational reputation. It’s a natural law of organisation. Be what you want your organisation to be. Have you noticed how we as Zimbabweans are well-known for being highly-educated— does it not come from the good example by our national leadership?

Leaders are gardeners. They water either water weeds and/or crops. What are you watering?

  • Chulu is a strategic HR consultant who has worked with both listed and unlisted companies. E-mail: brettchulu@consultant.com.


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