The culture of our communities is, for better or for worse, the predominant pattern of our collective behaviors, speech, choices and actions. Our families, our schools, our neighborhoods, our towns, our teams, our troops, our places of worship, our places of work – all of these are the communities that make up our world. Each one of us, through our daily behaviors, speech, choices and actions contributes to the character of these communities. We shape the world in which we live and work, for ourselves, for our families, for our friends, for our colleagues, for our co-workers and for our fellow citizens. As such, it behooves us to ask ourselves, what is the character of the culture that we aspire to create and live in as a community?
Whatever the answer to this question, and whatever the size or scope of our community, we have an opportunity to be more deliberate and intentional. We have an opportunity to choose how to behave and speak and act, individually and collectively, with renewed commitment, to craft a purposeful culture.
Crafting purposeful culture is an act of dedication and ownership – both individual and collective. Purposeful culture doesn’t happen because we will it to happen. It happens because we and many other people in our community turn our wills into behaviors and words and choices that honor and demonstrate the characteristics of the culture that we aspire to create. Everyone can be involved. Everyone can accept ownership and take responsibility. Now, whether everyone accepts that ownership, whether everyone takes responsibility by holding themselves and one another accountable – that is another issue. Accepting ownership for oneself is an act of citizenship; asking others to accept ownership and holding them accountable, regardless of our position or title, is an act of leadership. Not to do so, especially if we are entrusted with the responsibilities of a leader, is an act of abdication.
It is abdication among those who were most entrusted at Penn State that we now painfully learn about. (It is abdication among those who were most entrusted in the hierarchy of the American and Irish Catholic Church that we have painfully learned about for a decade now).
Crafting purposeful culture requires our full commitment. It requires ongoing conversation and dialogue between and among the leaders and the members of our communities to define the characteristics of the culture that we want to create or safeguard for the future.
During that deliberative process, we need to consider:
- What do these cultural characteristics really mean?
- Why do we each personally care about these characteristics?
- How do or could each one of us turn these characteristics into tangible behaviors and action?
Our candid and collective consideration of these questions will better prepare us to engage other members of our communities in a conversation about the whats and whys of our culture. In turn, they will better understand the importance and implications of their dedicating themselves to taking ownership for their own behaviors and actions. Equipped with a clear understanding of the culture that we want to create collectively, we, the leaders, can more confidently distribute ownership to the other members of our communities for behaving, speaking, and interacting in ways that assure that the culture we aspire to, becomes a reality. They, in turn, are better prepared, and indeed expected, to identify and take action on what needs to be promoted, what needs to be protected, and what needs to be put to an end.