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Catching Smoke: A Proven Framework for Addressing Culture and Leadership

​Objectively addressing matters such as culture and leadership in a business or organisation can be a tricky business. Individual views of what constitutes "good" cultures and leaders can differ for example, and pinning down just what our current culture "is" and what we need it to be, can be akin to trying to catch smoke – elusive and frustratingly out of reach. 

That said, the research is clear: constructive workplace cultures and leadership behaviours drive results, and coming to grips with just what effective cultures and leadership "look like", and how to create and sustain them, is critical to long term success. 

In our experience, having a tried and tested framework, which introduces a common understanding and language, can be incredibly powerful. One such framework that we recommend and have used with success is the Human Synergistics Circumplex™, based on 40 years of research (©2001 Human Synergistics International | Research & Development by Robert A Cooke, PhD and J Clayton Lafferty, PhD) and represented below.



The Circumplex and associated tools (including the Life Styles Inventory LSI and Organisational Culture Inventory OCI), provide a means to measure, report, discuss and better understand individual and collective human behaviour, and their impact upon business and organisational performance. The 12 "styles" of thinking and behaviour are grouped into three clusters:

  • Constructive Styles (Blue) – Reflect an effective balance of people and tasks and are highly correlated with successful individuals and high-performing, profitable organisations. Behaviours include setting challenging goals, effective problem solving, expectations of high quality and supporting and encouraging others.

  • Passive/Defensive Styles (Green) – Strong focus on people at the expense of task achievement. Less effective leaders and stale/inflexible organisations will often score quite highly on these styles. Focus is more on security and protection rather than striving for something better. Behaviours may include avoiding tough decisions, not accepting responsibility and over-concern with what others think.

  • Aggressive/Defensive Styles (Red) – Key focus is on achievement of tasks above the needs of other individuals and/or the group. These styles sometimes bring short-term success at the expense of sustainable performance and relationships. Behaviours may include perfectionism, need to retain control and constant criticism of the contributions of others.


​In future blogs we'll take a closer look at a number of the individual styles – precisely what they represent, how they help/hinder effectiveness and what you can do to increase or reduce their prevalence.

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