Here’s a story from the insect world that can serve as a lesson for us of what type of corporate culture not to create.
In the Southwestern part of the United States the Shield-backed katydid or Mormon cricket makes its home. Periodically the population of these insects explodes. Colossal swarms crawl (they are unable to fly) across the country-side consuming everything in their path. Hundreds of millions of these little critters blanket the ground and trample across more than 1.5 kilometers a day. So far so good (from the katydids point of view, not the farmers), but danger waits.
Shield-back katydids need lots of protein to survive. Unfortunately, for farmers their fields offer the easiest source of food. As the katydids traverse the farmers’ fields, they devour everything. But there is not enough to go around. The leaders eat their fill leaving nothing for those that come after. The followers must find another source of protein. The easiest source for them is the Katydids marching in front of them. Pretty soon the leaders are marching not just to get to another source of food, but to avoid becoming food. Hunger and fear dominate the populations which eventually fade away with entire groups of katydids dying out.
How many workplaces have a corporate culture that like the Shield-backed katydid is based on hunger and fear? Leaders gobble up all the best bits for themselves; stealing the ideas, contacts or glory of others. The others in turn feel no allegiance to the ones who lead, but rather begin to undermine the efforts of the leaders. Soon the organization becomes a graveyard where individuals only look out for themselves. Employees use every opportunity to sabotage the work of others in order to promote themselves. There is no sense of being a team but rather only single individuals looking for afraid of trying new things, frightened to stand out and simply getting by rather than looking for ways to strengthen the whole organization.
What type of corporate culture do you want to help create?