I did some research once asking people to illustrate leadership concepts, and then analysed the images that they drew. ‘Leadership’ tended to be pictures of growing flowers, shooting starts, rocket ships, lighthouses – images of growth and height (or rather, it was illustrated this way when drawn where other people could see it – when i repeated the activity, but allowed people to shield what they were drawing, images of barbed wire, a bottle of poison, and a skull and crossbones cropped up…). ‘Authenticity’ tended to be illustrated as roots, or foundations – images of solidity and depth.
This imagery of height and depth, foundations and buildings, is deeply held in our language: we ‘reach for the stars’, and ‘lay foundations’, we ‘grow’ into a role, and ‘fall’ from grace.
But today i found myself thinking that foundations, at least when it comes to culture, do not only lie underneath.
If you ask people what the greatest factors are the influence culture, ‘senior leadership’ is typically in the top two! We have a sense that culture has it’s foundations at the top.
Or maybe it just has foundations everywhere: i take a pragmatic view that culture is co-created in each and every day, through any and all behaviour. Not just the stuff we see, not just what we measure, but through everything that we experience.
So perhaps, in that sense, culture is founded upon each other. It’s foundations surround us: we are the foundations.