Leadership guru John Maxwell often says “Culture eats vision for lunch”. When I first heard this, I wrote it down and thought that it sounded good. However, the more I thought about that statement the more I started to see the truth of it. We need both a strong culture and a positive vision to reach our fullest potential. If I have to choose, however, I will take a strong culture any day of the week over a clear vision. Even the clearest vision may not be realized if the culture is poor and weighing you down.
Put another way, would you rather have a dysfunctional or poor culture but a good vision; or would you rather have a good culture but lack vision? You certainly want both but it is better to be strong now. I would rather be in good physical shape now with no exercise plan than an obese person with a good exercise plan. We all can agree that having both a strong vision and a positive culture is the ideal, but let’s examine the importance of culture for a moment.
Indiana Wesleyan University and Coach Greg Tonagel just won their 2nd NAIA National Championship in 24 months. Their program is known for its’ extraordinary on-court success. Year in and year out they have a talent-laden roster, including a player that started at a NCAA Division I program before transferring. As good as they are on the court, they are almost as famous for their “I Am Third” philosophy. They emphasize the “Jesus, Others, You” mentality.
They don’t think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less. These kinds of "character" stories tend to play out well in newspapers and on Facebook but they can oftentimes be exaggerated or the product of a coach’s personality. IWU's Coach Tonagel just finished his 11th year. He changed the culture. The program is not only his, but the players, as well. They have taken ownership. They do what they do. There is no faking it after 11 years. The culture is established.