My husband and I just returned from a fabulous trip through Scotland and Ireland. As a reader of historical fiction, it has been quite a treat to see Culloden, artifacts of the Stuarts and to experience Scottish traditions. As we learned about the clans, games and traditions I found many lessons apply to today's organizations.
Clan means everything.
The Scots were not a united people. Identity and loyalty was a function of Clan. If you we're Clan MacDonald (son of Donald) or MacGregor (son of Gregor) you had a clear identity, values and sense of purpose. Each person had a role to play and understood his importance to the clan. Few "rules" are needed when values and shared purpose is clear.
- Do your staff members have a sense of identity with your organization or department?
- Do they know how their job contributes to the success or failure of the team?
Culture creates culture.
Someone once said, “You have a culture whether you think so or not. You might as well create the one you want." The songs, celebrations and hero stories created a strong culture within each clan. When the Highlanders, Lowlanders and a few Irish regiments advanced toward London, King George II was nearly packing his bags for fear of the advancing Scots. However, the Scots did not share a strong unifying culture. When the Scots retreated and marched the troops north, the Lowlanders and Midlanders fell away. They wanted to return to their own clan and culture. There was not a strong shared culture between the clans.
- Beyond your immediate work group, is there a sense of shared culture?
- What traditions do you have?
- What are the characteristics of the heroes you celebrate? Do these heroes reinforce the culture you desire?
Leadership can create or destroy. In response to the Scottish threat King George II banned all things Scottish: speaking Gaelic, wearing kilts and possessing weapons were outlawed and the Clans were disbanded. Some clans survived while others faltered. What made the difference? The Leaders. Some leaders traded identity and responsibility for land and titles, while others continued to care for the Clan and reinforce kinship.
- During times of change do your leaders look out for themselves and the easy out or do they persevere, guide and protect the clan?
- Do the actions of your leaders exemplify organizational values or ignore them?
Change is good. Change can be difficult and frightening but that does not mean it is bad. Consider haggis, a uniquely Scottish dish. Historically haggis consisted of leftover animal parts and vegetables sown into a lamb stomach and buried underground for two weeks before eating. Did they do this for the divine taste? No, they did this because they were hungry and there was little to eat. Fortunately today's haggis is made with higher quality ingredients and forgoes the lamb stomach. It is actually quite tasty.
- How do people in you organization respond to change? Do they cling to the status quo or do they identify improvement opportunities?
- Are people fearful and put up resistance, or are they open to possibility?
- As a leader, how can you better help your staff understand the need for, and benefits of, change?
Leadership impacts many aspects of Clan, culture and change. Take the time to consider how leadership style and actions help or hinder the clan and culture you want to create.