Goings On … The Tone at the Top

The first job of a leader is to set the tone for “how things are done here.”

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One of our dear family friends, Beau Bridges, may first come to your mind as an actor … but, when he was in college he also played basketball at UCLA under legendary Coach John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood.  Beau has told me that the main driver behind Coach Wooden’s impressive results – 10 NCAA national championships in 12 years – were the values that he taught and instilled in his players.  I have always loved the quote that is often used in sports but true for all of life, “Ability gets you to the top, but character keeps you there.”  Wooden’s players learned more from the highly regarded coach than the art and skill of basketball — they learned the importance of character and deep personal values.

In the most respected organizations and corporations, the tone reflects:

  • Integrity
  • Humility
  • A respect for others
  • An atmosphere of collaboration
  • The celebration of milestones
  • A toleration for failed initiatives


The transformation of leadership’s “Tone at the Top” has shifted the landscape dramatically.  Leadership’s tone drives the organizational corporate culture and has made the radical transition:

From – Autocratic during the Industrial Age with rigid hierarchies, dictatorial approaches, and coercion.

To – Rules-based during the Knowledge Age (beginning in the late 50’s) with command and control approaches, numbers driven, dangling carrots and sticks

Now – Human style, which matches the ever-increasing Millennial (born after 1979) workforce with command and collaboration approach, values and purpose, inspiration over administration


Leaders must create operating landscapes which are conducive to their associates’ professional and personal development and growth.  Actually, all any company is at its core is a collection of PEOPLE. The company or organization that can attract, engage, develop, and retain, the very best … are the ones who WIN.

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