Reflection of tree in a glass of water

Have You Got Soul? The Essence of a Company is its Culture

Culture is to a business as the soul is to a body.

In the time of Saint Augustine (354-430 C.E.), philosophy schools were deeply interested in the question of the relationship between body and soul. While Augustine understood humans to be created with both, he also integrated the two in a concept of soul-body unity.

A soul and a body, he taught, do not constitute two people but one.

The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
– St. Augustine

St. Augustine taught of the soul as a rider on the body, making clear the split between the material and the immaterial, with the soul representing the true person. However, although body and soul were separate in his theology, it was not possible to conceive of a soul without its body. The soul is a motivating principle of the body, independent from but also requiring the substance of the body to make an individual.

The soul is the essence of a human being. It depends on the bounds of the physical body to be animate in the world.

The essence of an organization is culture. Culture depends on the tangible structures of a business and is created, sustained, and influenced by and through human interaction. Culture is something a company is, not something a company has.

A glass of water only exists as both a glass and water. A glass of water requires the boundaries of the physical vessel to contain the water. Without the water, though, there is nothing to drink and no reason for the glass to exist. Everything that touches that water – changes it. Add a single drop of food coloring, and the water is forever changed.

The same is true with culture. Everyone who touches a business, touches the culture of that business. Everyone influences it. Everyone is responsible for it.

It is easy to say, and seems obvious enough, that the leadership of an organization is responsible for a company’s culture. Absolutely. There couldn’t be a statement that is more true. Everything that the people in leadership roles do affects the culture of an organization. However, to pretend that the people in leadership have complete control over the culture of their company would be a little like suggesting that a hand or an eye has complete control over one’s soul.

The big question for us as leaders is how do we help develop, guide, and nurture the development of the culture – the soul – of a company.