It Takes More than Hard Work …

By | September 15, 2018

[September 15, 2018]  A few long-time readers will recognize this title from a similar article from early last year (see link).  In it I wrote that great leaders understanding people are at the central theme of leadership.  But there is more.  Leadership is also influenced heavily by one’s culture.

Culture is an accumulation of behavioral practices that both push and pull us in a myriad of ways.  Therefore, it follows, that leadership is pushed and pulled by those same dynamic forces.  For example, I’m originally from the southern parts of the United States.  Growing up there meant giving a part of your life to the military.  This was so pervasive that any man, not a veteran was looked down upon socially.

Culture also has a sway over the skills and values of leaders.  The type of leadership that works best, the way followers respond, and the techniques leaders use are all subject to those same pressures.  I have found that autocratic forms of leadership work better in Asian cultures than the American or European culture.  And this works well.

There is an old story from World War II that the German Army senior leadership could never understand the U.S. military.  The Germans considered the U.S. troops to be undisciplined, lazy, disrespectful, and slovenly.

Such a comparison was made in contrast to their troops, of course.  This made the Americans hard to predict and hard to explain why they did anything.  To complicate this even further for German Intelligence services, it was said that even the British couldn’t understand the Americans.

To be a successful leader does require hard work; that work being defined by the culture from which they come.  So when we say that it takes more than hard work, we have a better idea of the influences that one’s culture has upon the success of a leader.  Nonetheless, there will always be similar attributes of leadership that do not change; loyalty, courage, creativeness, and getting the job done.

A leader that has experience with others in another culture (one that differs significantly) can understand.  I had a commander that liked to tell jokes.  When we were in South Korea, the South Korean army officers were always confused by him.  Jokes are cultural.

The best way to remain a good leader is to be aware of those cultural nuances.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

18 thoughts on “It Takes More than Hard Work …

  1. Jonathan B.

    Another good cup of coffee, a good dog, and another good article.

  2. Kenny Foster

    A lot of people blame “culture” for holding them back but don’t give “culture” enough credit when it works to their advantage.

    1. Jerome Smith

      I agree, so let’s not get hung up on the fundamentals and get on with doing a great job at being leaders.

    2. Janna Faulkner

      Good one. Thanks Kenny. Always great to read your comments.

  3. Nick Lighthouse

    Thanks Gen. Satterfield for another great article to help get my day started.

  4. Gil Johnson

    I believe this is something much easier to overcome (or to follow) than perhaps we all are lead to believe. Our “snowflakes” who populate our colleges and universities are proof that stupidity is contagious. Let’s not be like them.

  5. Martin Shiell

    I never gave this much thought but I think you are onto something here that makes a lot of sense. Thank you for a genuinely good article.

  6. Lynn Pitts

    And also the conditions under which we work play a significant role.

  7. Willie Shrumburger

    I think this is all part of us learning to be human but I think also that culture sets both some difficult limits to overcome and some pathways that are easy to follow. Culture works both ways (easy and hard) to allow us to be successful.

  8. Joe Omerrod

    Yes, the methods we use, the professional & social networks we establish, etc. … all are factors that play on what it takes to be successful. Hard work is the mainstay but we are influenced from every side. It is up to us as independent thinkers to make things work.

  9. Army Captain

    You are correct that it is more than hard work but also “character”, luck, and downright cultural influences that allow us to be successful as a leader.

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