Great Leaders Create Culture


The first priority of great leaders is making more leaders. But it doesn’t just happen. Making leaders requires selflessness, confidence and intentionality (see last week’s blog).

And making more leaders doesn’t happen without a plan. That’s why many organizations fail to grow their leaders. They don’t have a viable plan to do so.

As they say in the financial planning world, no one plans to fail. They just fail to plan. So leadership development never makes it beyond the bucket list of things we’d like to do.

Raising up more leaders is like growing a garden. A gardener knows that not every seed he puts in the ground will grow into a producing plant. She knows that she actually has very little control over which plants will grow and which ones won’t.

So gardeners put their effort into creating the environment that is most likely to cause seeds to produce good plants, and plants to produce good fruits and vegetables. They maintain good soil for the plants to grow in. They provide the right amounts of water and nutrients. In a green house, gardeners can provide the right kind of lighting. And a gardener uses lattices, rows and stakes to provide the right amount of structure and direction for growth.

Said another way, the gardener creates a culture for plants to thrive in. In the same way, great leaders don’t manipulate people into becoming leaders.

The best way for leaders to make more leaders is to create a culture where potential leaders can thrive! But the leader must be central to that culture, not stand outside of it as if it’s for someone else but not for them.

So what are the characteristics of a leader-multiplying culture? As I’ve learned over the years from my leadership coaches at 3dMovements, here are two key characteristics of the leader-multiplying culture that great leaders intentionally create around themselves.

 First, and most importantly, a leader of leaders must cultivate an inviting culture around himself. People must perceive that they are welcome to follow the leader, and that the leader is worth following. The leader doesn’t need to chase followers, but simply gives them access to his life. She doesn’t try to control who receives the welcome or who perceives the value of following her. But great leaders keep the invitation open.

Initially, an inviting culture may sound exhausting. And being a leader worth following can sound intimidating. In coming weeks, we’ll address these issues in detail.

Second, a leader who makes more leaders must cultivate a challenging culture. When a follower feels welcomed to follow a leader they perceive is worth following, they are ready to receive challenge to grow as a leader. Future great leaders want to improve, and they want to receive performance coaching from a leader who cares for them.

Most supervisors have never been coached by their leader, so they have no clue how to coach others. But leaders who learn how to coach their employees to improve their performance can build truly great organizations made of high performance teams!

If this sounds overwhelming, hang in there. In the coming weeks, we’ll cover how to appropriately create a welcoming leadership environment and how to challenge our followers to higher levels of performance.

Discussion questions:

  1. Think of a leader you’ve known who made you feel welcome to be with them. How did it affect your respect for them?
  2. What characteristics of a leader are worth imitating?
  3. Did you ever have a coach who inspired you? What did you find inspiring about them?

If you want to learn how to be great at performance coaching for your employees, I’d highly recommend taking my Leadership Excellence Course. Check here for courses coming to Seattle and Anchorage, or here to bring one to your organization.


Published by Jay

Jay Pullins has been leading and developing leaders in a variety of settings for over 25 years. He has a diverse background as a military officer, an appointed public official, and executive leader of Alaska’s largest church. Jay is the founder and owner of Anchorage-based Catapult Leadership Solutions, providing expertise in developing the character and competency of leaders in all sectors. A 1989 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Jay led U.S. and multi-national teams for the U.S. Air Force, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), NORAD, and the Alaska National Guard. He led combat crews as an Air Battle Manager in Operation DESERT STORM, the conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, and counter-drug operations in Central and South America. Jay retired as an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel in 2011. Jay served as Chief of Staff to the Lieutenant Governor, then Special Assistant to the Governor of Alaska. He also served as Executive Pastor of ChangePoint church for five years. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the US Air Force Academy, and a Master’s Degree in Adult Education from the University of Oklahoma. He serves as a consultant and coach to church leaders for 3dMovements, and serves on the Board of Directors for Beyond Borders and the Conflict Resolution Center. Jay and his wife, Sonia, live in Anchorage, Alaska, and have two grown sons.

2 thoughts on “Great Leaders Create Culture

  1. Jay, thanks. I must disagree, however, that creating more leaders is the first priority of a great leader. Let’s go to your analogy of a garden. No gardener plants seed so that it will grow into plants which produce more plants. The gardener plants seed so that the plants that grow will produce food. A good leader must instead be primarily concerned about influencing people toward taking great joy in the God who created them and in serving the people that He created. Producing other great leaders is more of a natural by-product of leading well (though we it should be done with intentionality) than the main goal of great leadership.

  2. Also, a strong vision that draws people into participation in something grand, and big enough for their personal investment. It also needs to include authentic opportunities for participation and valuable contributions toward reaching that vision.

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