Soul and Spine.

July 18, 2021

Soul and Spine.

May 29, 2023

I gave a talk in Charleston, South Carolina, not long ago to a company that had asked me about the qualities I most admire in great organizations.

Being a "karmic capitalist" who believes what goes around comes around in business (although sometimes it takes a while), I love leaders who believe company culture is their most powerful strategic differentiator. Treat your people well, and your customers will likely be well-served. Your investors will also enjoy the long-term payoff of a business strategy founded on this principle.

But I’ve learned that just investing in culture is not enough. It’s admirable to create a soulful enterprise, but you also need processes and systems that allow that soul to scale. This is what I call the "spine" of an organization, the often-hidden standard operating procedures that define the way things are done.

A soulful company without a spine can be lovely but messy and ineffective. On the other hand, a company with a strong spine and no soul may be efficient but full of unhappy people who feel little agency or loyalty to the organization.

The best companies have Soul and Spine—a symbiotic relationship that reinforces the other.

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