Better than a Leader? Culture

It doesn’t matter the scenario. Whether it’s a gym, a sports team, a business, or a book club, there’s an inevitable need for management. Keeping order, maintaining procedure, and fostering a quality experience takes work.

One way to do this is with a great leader or leaders. The role of these folks is to be the referees of procedure. They oversee the group’s action and provide top down guidance for the organization.

This method can work. It can work well, even. However, it takes energy. The leaders must lead and the followers must follow. A finite amount of energy in the leader(s) must be injected into the maintenance of the organization.

To make an analogy, this is not dissimilar to the problem we find in modern agriculture. Without animals to graze the lands we farm to replenish the soil, we have a formerly closed loop, sustainable cycle of output that is supported artificially by external, unsustainable resources to replenish the soil. In the end, this works but it comes with a cost. Our crops grow but it’s expensive and we’ll one day run out of energy to promote production in the soil. The phenomenon of self-sustaining agriculture is valuable and very possible. The same is true of leadership, in my opinion.

You may be asking at this point, “Tell me, Logan. What is the closed loop/sustainable expression of management you’re alluding to?”

It’s funny you ask.

Organizational culture is the key. Groups that utilize organizational culture to their advantage not only tap into peak performance, but they are propelled not by the nudges of their leaders but by the endless supply of leadership from within their own ranks. It’s like a self-sustaining power plant for excellent leadership.

The holy grail of leadership is when a culture of norms is fostered within the ranks of the group in a way that polices and motivates the group intrinsically. Imagine if the New York Yankees had to lead its players every day to be excellent. They’d have a less effective, exhausted leader, and a 50/50 chance at excellence. Instead there is a culture that has lived inside the Yankees organization that is more powerful than any wise words from a coach could ever be. When a player puts on the pinstripes, for example, he knows what’s expected of him.

We see this example all over from the world famous customer service of Nordstrom to the cutthroat training environment of WESTSIDE Barbell. Employees of Nordstrom feel a sense of empowerment and responsibility to one up each other with their ability to provide great service. There’s no need for nagging managers to force this out of them. In the same way, the powerlifters at WESTSIDE Barbell will fight you before they let you bring in a losing mentality into their gym space. Their own culture holds the group accountable and pushes performance more than Louie Simmons ever could from the top down all by himself.

When we put the ‘Hold the Standard’ concept into the universe. We had this concept in mind. There’s no chance we can reach our potential with talking heads demanding that we all “do our best” and “have great form, because… [whatever],” but a culture, however, of passionate, self-regulating savages for quality?

Now, that’s dangerous.



Logan Gelbrich


8/28/15 WOD

Complete 5 rounds for time of:
7 Pistols (R)
7 1-Arm DB Presses (R) (50/30)
7 Pistols (L)
7 1-Arm DB Presses (L)