#lightning-rod

Perry Timms
6 min readMar 9, 2024

OK, my “one-word blog post on Medium” rule to myself is somewhat stretched by this. But my concept is this sense of being a #Lightning-rod (Inspired by Bruce Daisley’s excellent post on Tottenham Hotspur’s Head Coach/Manager Ange Postecoglou here.)

Ange Postecoglou — Tottenham Hotspur Manager

There’s a lot of evidence that what Ange is doing is working. Results on the field matter, of course, but it’s the general vibe of Spurs now and the focus in the Rio Ferdinand interview in the post on culture that matters.

Culture is so often written about, explored, blamed and held up. It’s a little enigmatic and is a true life force though — that much we know.

Many people default to a company/organisation culture with these definitions:

The way things are (done) around here

or lately

The feeling inside you on a Sunday night, before Monday at work.

Either is fine by me.

I wonder whether it’s this, though:

The phenomena of interconnected behaviours, rituals, processes, words, deeds, actions, and the overall feeling of what it means to “be” here; creating an energy force to feed from and into.

or even

The force that guides us; binds us; and forges us together in what we’re here to do.

That last one was a bit Star Wars/Jedi, and the previous one a bit pseudo-science, perhaps.

Anyway, there’s a reason this is titled #lightning-rod.

To me, Ange Postecoglu is clearly a smart and well-intended man. He’s spotted that Spurs needed more than fitness, tactics, and materials. They needed a binding spirit—one that wasn’t just process or instruction, regimes, and expectations.

They needed more soul. He clearly sees his role as the “soul diviner” and, therefore, the #lightning-rod to conduct that energy force (culture) in a visionary, appreciative and guiding way towards them being better.

When Bruce posted this, I watched and listened to him speak several times. I felt it first, and I wanted to see if it maintained that feeling on the second watch. The third and fourth times, I felt something different.

Firstly Rio was spot on in saying, “…cultivate a new culture…”

Ange’s reply in part:

“Culture is people.”

“It starts with me.”

“What I say is not as important as how I behave.”

He demonstrated clarity of vision, a sense of strength, and a need for congruence in himself and others.

“And then you try and get the right people.”

“They haven’t really bought into it.”

“And I’ve had to move them out.”

“And if he’s not the right kinda bloke for my environment, it’s not going to work. It doesn’t matter.”

Ange is manifesting what he believes—as the ordained leader of this team/group of people—will help this team achieve its purpose: to be successful and win games of football (in this case).

It’s a real trait of a convinced individual that they know what’s best for the people and the situation they find themselves in.

J Richard Hackman was a Harvard Business School Professor who researched for 40 years what makes a great team. He avoided one-word cliches in the main, and one thing he did say helps a team be great was having a compelling vision. Now that — in Ange’s description — is not just what they’ll set out to do; but also how they’ll set out to be.

Their culture.

And that, IMHO, is so important for culture: being and doing. Doing helps you see how you’ll be, and being helps you do outstanding things. Combined, they’re what you’re intending to achieve and stand for.

So he’s the #lightning-rod here.

He’s manifesting what the players are both needing and don’t know they need. But will respond to it. And see the impact it has. Feel it. And if they’re being a certain way and doing certain things that may not be congruent to that compelling vision of what you’re here to do and how to be in that, they should course-correct themselves to be and do what’s needed to achieve that.

It’s how some human feats of endeavour have amazed scientists, leaders, researchers, and anthropologists for years. There is such power in the phenomenon of belief, of being with that, and of doing about that.

Let’s take a negative example. No 10 Downing Street officials during COVID breached their own rules and partied in the scandals, leading to Johnson's removal from his Ministerial leadership role.

A culture of drinking was one way I heard it described.

Was Johnson the #lighting-rod for this? I’d say so.

There are clearly positive and negative impacts of the leader being the culture #lightning-rod (CLR).

I’ve read lots of stories of outstanding CLRs.

  • Ray Anderson at Impact (Carpet Tiles)
  • Anita Roddick at The Body Shop
  • Ricardo Semler at Semco
  • Yvon Chouinard at Patagonia
  • Bob Chapman at Barry Wehmiller
  • Vineet Nayar at HCL Technologies
  • Rich Sheridan at Menlo Innovations
  • Herb Kelleher at South West Airlines
  • Kanya King at the MOBOs
  • Jos de Blok at Buurtzorg
  • Erik Osmundsen at Norsk Gjenvinning
  • Vishen Lakhiani at Mindvalley
  • Samantha Slade at Percolabs

You might not know of some of these, but trust me, they are.

Let’s take Ray Anderson. Sadly, Ray died in 2011, but his is a lasting story of a CLR that wasn’t JUST about him as the CLR.

Without asking it to frame it in any other way, here’s what ChatGPT said when prompted to “tell me about Ray Anderson of Impact (Carpet Tiles)”—it is telling how the bot framed the closing section:

Anderson’s journey towards environmental stewardship began in 1994 when he had what he called his “spear in the chest” moment after reading Paul Hawken’s book “The Ecology of Commerce.” This moment marked a turning point in his life, leading him to reconsider Interface’s business practices and their environmental impact.

Under Anderson’s leadership, Interface embarked on a mission to become a sustainable enterprise. He set ambitious goals for the company, aiming to eliminate its environmental footprint by 2020. This initiative, known as “Mission Zero,” focused on reducing waste, energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions while increasing the use of renewable materials and energy sources.

One of the notable contributions to sustainability by Interface was the development of carpet tiles under the brand name “Impact.” These tiles were designed with sustainability in mind, incorporating recycled materials and innovative manufacturing processes to minimize environmental impact. Impact carpet tiles became popular in commercial spaces due to their durability, design flexibility, and eco-friendly features.

Anderson’s efforts to promote sustainability in business earned him numerous accolades and awards, including recognition as one of Time Magazine’s “Heroes of the Environment” in 2007. He also authored a book titled “Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose — Doing Business by Respecting the Earth,” which documented his journey towards sustainability in business.

Ray Anderson’s legacy extends beyond his role as a business leader. He inspired many companies to adopt more sustainable practices and demonstrated that profitability and environmental responsibility can go hand in hand. His visionary approach to sustainability continues to influence businesses and environmentalists worldwide.

Legacy

A CLR leader is not just a fixer. A CLR is a legacy creator. It has to be about them (to start with) and then beyond them (to continue and scale and be sustained after them).

It is a cliché, perhaps, but I see far too few leaders being CLRs because they’re fixers, not legacy creators. Or worse still, culture toxifiers.

So I guess my hope (well, certainly Spurs fans’ hopes, too, I bet) is that Ange Postecoglou is a fixer and a legacy generator.

It has to start with him, be about him and be channelled through him as a CLR, but there’s another form of CLR to be had here:

Culture Legacy Retainer.

So, what’s the point of this post?

  1. Find, enable and then treasure the Culture #Lightning-Rod Leader
  2. Help them sustain and deliver the impact to fix things, especially the culture.
  3. Be with them to help it go beyond them.
  4. All be Culture Legacy Retainers — keep the spirit on and the forcefield strong.

So those final three are about us all being activists, participants, shapers, owners, and good corporate culture citizens—not lazy recipients of a CLR’s intention, soul and spirit, belief, patience, and determination. A good culture merely consumed by you/us wastes and misuses all that positive lightning-energy.

Help turn their lightning into the light we all need.

Then, take up the baton and become the power grid for the best possible culture, the life force for all of our benefits, gains, and positive feelings, and make it last beyond them as the culture #lightning-rod

Culture #Lightning-Rods won’t be there forever in physical form. So help them be there in spiritual form.

By being with their initial lightning force and more so by being a Culture Legacy Retainer.

Your own form of being a culture #lightning-rod, I suppose.

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Perry Timms

CEO PTHR |2x TEDx speaker | Author: Transformational HR + The Energized Workplace | HR Most Influential Thinker 2017–2023 | Soulboy + Northampton Town fan