What is Your Company’s Corporate Culture and Why Does It Matter?

Corporate culture matters. It is a direct reflection of a company’s leadership, and ultimately contributes to the company’s overall success. Senior management is responsible for setting the tone and cultivating the values that will ultimately drive the company. Although there are a variety of types of corporate cultures, one is not necessarily better than another. What matters is making sure the corporate culture is aligned with the overall business strategy and how the company wants to be perceived.

Effective leaders are not only cognizant of the role that corporate culture can play in the success of their business, but also play an active role in supporting the culture by making it matter. They recognize that it is a chance to define the company, and not be defined by circumstance. It is an opportunity to communicate expectations and set behavioral boundaries. Beyond clearly defining and communicating it, corporate culture must be embodied in day-to-day activity. It must be brought to life in how business is conducted and reinforced appropriately.


The culture of teamwork is one based on personal collaboration. People are selected and evaluated on the basis of their ability to be a good team member. Everyone has a specific role to play and can add to the whole. Personality matters as much as skill sets – the fit must be right. The company’s employees are a community, united by a common purpose.

 “It's important that the company be a family, that people feel that they're part of the company, and that the company is like a family to them. When you treat people that way, you get better productivity.”
Larry Page, CEO, Alphabet

“A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions and criticisms. Lack of candor, if left unchecked, ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments.”
Ed Catmull, President, Pixar


The culture of the cutting edge is based on being bold. Innovation and thinking differently are valued. Employees are expected to challenge convention and are motivated by the chance to create change. Work is more than a job, it is a priority. Individual achievement is rewarded, and competition is viewed as a healthy influence.

“A team aligned behind a vision will move mountains. Sell them on your roadmap and don’t compromise – care about the details, fit and finish.
Kevin Rose, Founder of Digg and Partner at Google

“Over the years we learned that if we asked people to rely on logic and common sense instead of formal policies, most of the time we would get better results, and at a lower cost.”
Patty McCord, Former Chief Talent Officer, Netflix


The culture of elasticity is based on being adaptive. Roles and responsibilities are less defined, and everyone wears lots of hats. People do what it takes to get the job done without a focus on structure or protocol. Leadership works hand-in-hand with the rest of the team with little emphasis on hierarchy.

 “The problem is that at a lot of big companies, process becomes a substitute for thinking. You're encouraged to behave like a little gear in a complex machine. Frankly, it allows you to keep people who aren't that smart, who aren't that creative.
Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla

“I think a large part of that is the fact that I’m a large believer in hiring the right people and giving them unbelievable amounts of power and autonomy.”
Blake Mycoskie, Founder, TOMS Shoes


The culture of conservatism is based on structure and order. Financial and performance expectations are paramount. Leadership makes all key decisions. Functional areas are explicitly defined, and guiding policies are in place. Cross department collaboration is not as important as everyone performing their role to the best of their ability.

“This is not about fuzzy, holding hands around a campfire, kumbaya stuff. That’s not what values and culture and mission is about. This is about building an organization for success. This is about winning. This is about doing the tactical things to make sure your organization and your people are aligned around the same thing.”
Justin Moore, CEO of Axcient

 “We try to have the kind of a culture that doesn’t value excuses in the sense that when you’re supposed to accomplish something, and you’re at a high level, then your job is to accomplish it,
in spite of difficulty. And you’re rewarded for dealing with that.”
Phil Libin, Co-Founder, former CEO, Evernote


The culture of change is based on uncertainty. Often the result of mergers and acquisition or a volatile management team, employees are less certain about their roles and potentially even their value to the company. A reactive stance is frequently the norm. Although there is an opportunity to play a role in shaping the culture, it can be futile without leadership’s support. More often than not, management is focused on the next instead of the now.

 “Our culture is friendly and intense, but if push comes to shove we’ll settle for intense.”
Jeff Bezos, Founder, CEO, Amazon

“We believe that it’s really important to come up with the core values that you can commit to. And by commit, we mean that you’re willing to hire and fire based on them. If you’re willing to do that, then you’re well on your way to building a company culture that is in line with the brand you want to build.”
Tony Hsieh, CEO. Zappos


Additionally, there are a tremendous number of factors that can influence your company’s culture. From the physical work environment, to flexible schedules, to dress codes, to perks and recognition programs – the choices leadership makes for or with its employees directly impacts what work means to its people. Corporate culture is based on actuality – not aspiration. Harnessed in a deliberate and thoughtful manner, it can be invaluable to attracting (and keeping) the right talent, meeting strategic objectives, and achieving overall success.

by Jonathan D. Katz