“As Peter Drucker, management guru, is attributed with saying, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’”

Thinking about the future of organizations, many of us tend to think about succession as a key planning point. We are inclined to think about the leader—who’s going to be? Seldom can we hear leaders giving much needed attention to culture as a present and future strategic competency in that succession process.

The tendency is to think that the leader will come and fix everything; that organizations rise and fall because of good or bad leadership. I will not discard there is some truth on that myth, but the reality is that one person can’t fix it all.

Surely, founders and other organizational leaders should be concern with many factors when initiating the succession process, but those concerns need to go beyond just selecting a leader. For example, one of the most important concerns is the viability of the organization after they turn the leadership reigns to a new leader. There lies the focus that facilitates all good decision making.

Jim Collins, in his research and book Good to Great, made an interesting correlation between companies who made the leap from good to great and also leadership. His research team looked at 1,435 companies in the Fortune 500. Of those companies, only 11 made a transition from good to great. Ten out of the eleven companies were led by CEOs who came from inside the company.

One could falsely deduct from Collins research that if founders or other organizational leaders want success, the odds are that he or she can achieve it if the top leader comes from within. The real success “secret sauce” cannot be that superficial. There’s more.

Organizational development expert Edgar Schein noted in his years of research and experience that strong economic performance followed those companies that were labeled as visionary companies. Culture stood at the center of those enterprises, and in effect, differentiated these companies from the multitude of comparison companies. These companies were also well led.

Author and strategy expert William Schneider made the same observations as Schein, noting in his findings that successful companies were those with strong cultures. But Schein also noted one more interesting fact. Companies with weak cultures could hardly assimilate change, and even the persistent integration of management strategies was insufficient to save these weak culture companies from their economic ruin. So these companies had great leadership strategies, but they could not compete with culture. As Peter Drucker, management guru, is attributed with saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

The quick lesson in this short post? It’s two-fold. First, leaders who are attuned to the culture (basic values, beliefs, and underlying assumptions) of their teams/organizations are more apt to become great leaders, and in turn more influential in implementing change and achieving organizational success.

Secondly, teams/organizations with strong cultures that are in alignment with the organization’s vision differentiate themselves from the pack by far! Future success is about having the right combination between leadership and culture, both aligned to vision.

Great leadership without the right culture will not breathe success. Great culture without leadership that is in tune with (and fully understanding of) the culture will not achieve success either. The two are indispensable to each other. And when they are in sync, teams/organizations become instruments that deliver wanted capability with superior precision.

Always motivated, lugo


  1. Collins, J. C. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap—and others don’t. New York, NY: HarperBusiness.
  2. Schein, E. H. (2010). Organizational Culture and Leadership (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  3. Schneider, W. E. (2000, January 28). Why good management ideas fail: The neglected power of organizational culture. Strategy & Leadership Journal, 28(1), 24-29.