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Is Culture Created Top Down or Bottom Up?

I was recently listening to season three of the Startup podcast which featured its founding company’s CEO Alex Blumberg working with an executive coach. The entire episode focused on Alex’s role in creating culture at Gimlet Media, the company responsible for the Startup podcast. This reminded me of a big question among those that study corporate culture. Does the CEO set the culture or is it created by the collection of individuals that belong to the organization?

There are obvious great examples of CEO’s that have left an indelible mark on their company’s culture. Typically these have been founder CEOs or successful bosses that have had extremely long tenures at their respective businesses. People like Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs come immediately to mind.

But ultimately who has the greater impact and if you want to truly impact culture do you start at the top or the bottom? According to Harvard Business Review article entitled “You Can’t Dictate Culture – But You Can Influence It”, it is a little of both but ultimately it is the people that create culture.

Even after thousands of years of civilization, leaders still have trouble getting everyone to follow any basic precepts of behavior (think the Ten Commandments). In other words, culture is not a “goal” to be mandated, but the outcome of a collective set of behaviors.

This shouldn’t ignore the role of culture influencers but each individual that comes into an organization has an opportunity to shift and shape the organizational culture – for better or worse.

At Cloverleaf our hypothesis is that culture isn’t created at the top – rather can be dictated by the aggregation of individual cultural preferences of the people that work everyday in your culture.

So what if you could measure the influence of each individual in your organization, define your cultural objectives and put people together in teams that create the clear culture you hope to reinforce?

Now you can. It actually costs you nothing to get started – just invite your team to create a Cloverleaf account and provide a few pieces of data. We aggregate their data on proficiency, personality and preferences and give you a clear view of your existing culture and with our visualizations the way forward is clear.

Talent Development in the Age of AI


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Darrin Murriner

Darrin Murriner is the co-founder and CEO of - a technology platform that brings automated team coaching to the entire enterprise through real-time, customized coaching in the tools employees use daily (calendar, email & Slack / Teams). The result is better collaboration, improved employee relationships, and a more engaged workforce. Before starting Cloverleaf, Darrin had a 15-year corporate career that spanned Munich Re, Arthur Andersen, and Fifth Third Bank. Darrin is also the author of Corporate Bravery, a book focused on helping leaders avoid fear-based decision-making.