As an organizational consultant I have been telling clients for many years, frequently to deaf ears, that culture counts. Well thanks to NJ Governor, Chris Christie & the entire 'Bridgegate' debacle, that fact is now glaringly apparent. When assessing his circumstances, I don't think that partisanship or even politics itself is a factor. When you are in any leadership role, the "buck stops with you," period, case closed, end of story. Beyond that, when you are a "hands on" leader as he has prided himself to be until now, how do you not know what's going on in your administration especially when it is in the news for months? However, in the unlikely event that his people really went rogue, given that this has been a story since late summer , there are still so many unanswered questions. How did he just find out 3 days ago well into the new year? How did he accept resignations from key people without asking why unless the lawyer in him said, "I best not know" for the sake of what politicians call "plausible deniability." The only problem is NOT knowing is NOT plausible & therefore tough to credibly deny.
Leaders Establish Tone & Culture
We may never know Christie's actual level of involvement in this silliness & make no mistake, jamming up the largest bridge in the world as an act of political payback was not only dangerous but silly & reckless. Christie is in a really tough spot. If his fingerprints are found anywhere [or if one of his underlings "flips" for immunity], his political career is probably done...immediately. If however, he really chose not to know [there is no other explanation], then he should have known & his problems shift to gross lack of judgment, ethics, & most important of all, the [inappropriate] tone he set in his administration. His people would never have even contemplated such an act if there wasn't a pre-existing culture for such behavior. This is true in politics & it's true in business. The leader establishes the tone as well as the culture when it comes to things big & small: how people behave at work, how they dress, sometimes even what they eat for lunch [before I get bombarded with comments, I agree that food is going a step too far!:)].
Businesses Must Invest In Establishing The Right Culture
The underlying message here however is a clear one: organizations MUST consider & invest in cultivating the kind of culture they want to be known for because to borrow liberally from a quote by Mya Angelou: "culture...businesses are known for that & when their culture is dysfunctional, they are known for that too!"