Symbolic Managers: Managing the Culture
In strong culture companies, managers take the lead in supporting and shaping the culture. We have dubbed these people "symbolic managers," because they spend a lot of time thinking about the values, heroes, and rituals of the culture, and because they see their primary job as managing value conflicts that arise in the ebb and flow of daily events.
What distinguishes these symbolic managers from others less attuned to the importance of culture is a number of factors:
Symbolic managers are sensitive to culture and its importance for long-term success. Symbolic managers are always speaking about their company's culture, writing about it in their annual reports, and crediting the strength of the culture for their marketplace success. They do this without hesitation or embarrassment; more conventional managers shy away from this "soft side" of organizational life.
Symbolic managers place a much higher level of trust in their fellow employees and rely on these cultural fellow travelers to ensure success. The ethic in companies with strong cultures is "we'll succeed because we're special." Symbolic managers recognize the power of this "us against the world" mentality and conduct themselves in such a way as to nurture extra effort and initiative from those around them. Thus they take on a high degree of personal initiative and responsibility for guarding the culture -- reinforcing its beliefs, deciding who belongs and who doesn't -- and they tend to delegate other matters some might consider more important -- even a major strategic decision -- to