As you start to position yourself for success heading into a new job, remember that leadership is personal. Your message is the key that unlocks personal connections. The greater the congruence between your own preferences across behaviors, relationships, attitudes, values, environment and the new culture you enter or create, the stronger those connections will be. This is why the best messages aren’t crafted—they emerge. This is why great leaders live their messages not because they can, but because they must. “Here I stand, I can do no other.[1]

Knowing your strengths and motivations will help you better create career options that are a true fit for your skills, will allow you to better position yourself in interviews (sell before you buy), and will help you thoroughly assess and effectively mitigate risks.

Culture First

In many respects, leadership is an exercise in building culture. However you define it, culture is the glue that holds organizations together. It may be the only truly sustainable competitive advantage for any organization. Culture is impacted by pivotal events like a new leader joining an organization or an acquisition being integrated, presenting opportunities to transform the business, enhance competitiveness and deliver better results. Culture change is about bridging the gap between the current state and the desired state – that which is needed to achieve the organization’s mission and goals.

The greater the cultural differences, the more difficult the adaption or change will be. Take control by understanding the most important cultural differences and then building a plan to bridge those gaps over time.

Some define culture simply as “The way we do things around here.” Others conduct complex analyses to define it more scientifically. Instead, blend both schools of thought into an implementable approach that defines culture as an organization’s behaviors, relationships, attitudes, values and environment (BRAVE). The BRAVE framework is relatively easy to apply, yet offers a robust way to identify, engage and change a culture. It makes culture real, tangible, identifiable, easy to talk about, and provides a starting point for change. It’s helpful to tackle the BRAVE components from the outside in as shown below:


BRAVE Framework

  • Environment – Where to play? (Context)
  • Values – What matters and why? (Purpose)
  • Attitudes – How to win? (Choices)
  • Relationships  – How to connect? (Communication)
  • Behaviors  – What impact? (Implementation)

John Lawler, one of the co-authors of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan puts it this way: “The key is matching the culture with the organization’s mission and set of circumstances. For example, a culture that embraces speed, innovation and “rapid failure” fits well with an organization doing business in a highly-competitive, fast-changing market; whereas, cultural elements that reinforce safety and compliance are critical in health care environments.” (Click here for a free executive summary of the book.)


Sell Before You Buy

Once you’ve understood your own cultural preferences, get the offer. (You can’t turn down a job you haven’t been offered)! Most important, get clear on your answers to the only three true job interview questions – Can you do the job (strengths)? Do you want the job (motivation)? Can I work with you (fit)?


Assessing and Managing Risk

Next, do a real due diligence to assess the degree of risk across the seven deadly landmines, being prepared to walk away in the face of an unmanageable situation. Then, manage the risk – especially the cultural fit risk, through planning and getting the help you need. (Click here for an onboarding risk calculator.)



  • Culture first – Understand your own cultural preferences and strengths in the context of potential job opportunities.
  • Sell before you buy – You cannot turn down an offer you have not received. Get the offer by positioning your strengths, motivation and fit in the context of the organization’s needs.
  • Assess and manage risk – Perform due diligence before accepting, understanding the level of risk you face across the seven deadly land mines (organization, role, personal, relationship, learning, delivery, adjustment) and manage that risk appropriately with the help you need.

Read about the next step in a new leader’s 100-day action plan: Leverage the Fuzzy Front End Between Accepting and Starting a New Job

Click here for an overall executive summary of the New Leader’s Playbook and links to each of its 300+ individual articles on Forbes organized by category.

[1] Attributed to Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, 1521, when asked to recant his earlier writings.