NextGen Know-How: 5 Books to Help Elevate Your Culture This Year

man reading book in leather arm chair
Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CSP, CPCC Photo
Executive Coach/Consultant
Envision Excellence

3 minutes

These resources will help change your leadership mindset and provide specific strategies for making an organizational shift.

Most organizations are average. They are stuck—not moving forward and not growing. Why? One answer is that average organizations have average leaders. It is still standard practice for many organizations to promote employees for their technical skills, rather than their ability to lead and inspire other people. This practice perpetuates mediocre culture.

I believe there are three main reasons organizations are average:

  1. As noted above, employees are promoted for technical proficiency, and not leadership proficiency.
  2. The organization’s leaders are conflict-avoidant.
  3. Cultural health is not a strategic priority.

To elevate the culture of your credit union, you must set the standard for leadership and performance. This starts at the executive level. The first thing the executive team must do today to positively impact the leadership quality of the credit union is to declare that you will no longer promote for technical proficiency. To create an exceptional culture, you must start by creating exceptional leaders. This means instilling hiring and promotion practices that focus on leadership qualities, not technical skills. It also means we must train managers and executives to be influential, modern leaders. 

Organizations don’t transform, leaders do. Cultural transformation begins with the personal transformation of the leaders. 

Below are five excellent books that can help set you on the path to creating an exceptional culture:

  • The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. This is one of my favorite leadership books of all time. Lencioni argues that cultural health trumps everything; you can have the best marketing, sales and technical ability in the industry, but if you don’t have a healthy culture, it will impede your success. He shares tangible strategies for improving communication, team cohesiveness and clarity across the organization.
  • Firms of Endearment by Rajendra Sisodia, David Wolfe and Jagdish N. Sheth. Every executive leader should read this book. The authors share compelling statistics of how companies that focus on passion and purpose are significantly more profitable. If we focus on building relationships with people, we build successful, healthy organizations.
  • Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Rajendra Sisodia. This book, co-authored by the CEO of Whole Foods, promotes authentic leadership that is centered around values and people. This modern philosophy is exactly what we need in business today—to not just focus on profits, but to focus on elevating how we do business with our employees and the world. 
  • Dare to Lead by Brené Brown. We need more honesty in the business world and within organizations, and we need brave leaders to step up and have the courage to lead with honesty and whole-heartedness. Brenè shares four skills to help leaders “take off the armor” so you can create organizations where employees feel safe, seen, heard and respected. A must-read!
  • The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. This is a classic book that identifies the five root causes of politics and dysfunction on teams and how to overcome them. The dysfunctions are absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. Lencioni also shares strategies for creating a high-performing team.

It is possible to create a culture of exceptional leadership. It won’t happen overnight, but with consistent effort, it can happen. The first step is to make a decision—everything great that ever happens always starts with a decision. If you want to be an exceptional organization, to make a bigger impact for your employees and your members, make that choice.

It all starts with you. 

These five books will prepare your mindset for elevating your culture and provide specific strategies for making it happen.

Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, is a certified executive coach, leadership consultant and founder of Envision Excellence, LLC in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mission is to create exceptional cultures by teaching leaders how to be exceptional. Maddalena facilitates management and executive training programs and team-building sessions and speaks at leadership events. Prior to starting her business, she was an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or

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