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Dana Beal, International Speaker, Author and Coach

The Hidden Block to a Positive Culture

By Danna Beal, M.Ed.
International Speaker
Author and Coach

See all this Month's Articles

Original Publish Date: April 11, 2023

Healthcare has been hit hard by the Great Resignation with turnover and early retirements at record high levels. In this competitive environment, leaders are recognizing the importance of a positive workplace culture. Potential employees now have the ability to access the culture of any organization through online websites, such as Glassdoor, Inc. Reviews on these sites can be both helpful or in many cases detrimental to attracting, recruiting, and retaining the best employees.

Almost daily I receive articles and alerts by experts describing the steps leaders need to take to create a great culture. They include such things as strong core values, allegiance to mission statements, communication, teamwork, collaboration, and respect. I wouldn’t disagree with any of these steps, but I would suggest they are missing the hidden block, the underlying cause of workplace issues and dysfunction in the first place.

Culture is comprised of beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, expectations, and the “way we do things” here. The culture is both spoken and unspoken, with the unspoken often being more powerful than the verbal or written edicts. Culture begins with those at the top and radiates throughout the organization. The change must begin at the highest levels.

Addressing and unraveling the root of the problem

I believe the hidden block to creating a positive culture is the lack of introspection and willingness of leaders to confront their own fears and weaknesses. Their unacknowledged doubts cause them to wear masks based on their roles in the organization and their desire for validation. But a title on an organizational chart does not define a leader, and can, in fact, be the source of artificial roles. It takes great courage for leaders to look behind their masks and to identify their fears and doubts.

It can be helpful to identify some of the fear-driven roles that leaders take to protect their dark fear of appearing weak or vulnerable. Shining a light on “shadow side” of the personality can bring forth the leadership skills necessary to create a healthy and positive culture. Authentic and enlightened leaders operate from a deep and inner wisdom that is unattainable in the following artificial leadership roles:


This leader uses intimidation and fear to get people to do what the ego believes is needed to accomplish goals. Bullying behavior is a result of insecurity and a false need to prove power and strength. Bullies are seen on the playground and cause great damage to other children. Bullies in the workplace and government can cause much more widespread harm. This leader’s greatest fear in this role is that it will be discovered that they are not powerful.


The know-it-all leader has to be right and maintain a sense of superiority. Ironically, knowing everything prevents this leader from learning anything, and blocks all flowing creativity from those in the organization. This leader’s greatest fear is that someone they lead may be an understudy waiting to replace this person.


The blaming technique employed by this ego-driven leader is an attempt to direct attention away from the self so the actual fear and doubt will not be exposed. Blaming others and finding fault is a distraction. A leader of this mentality is the first one to look for a scapegoat, so no one wants to make waves with this one. The employees’ focus becomes trying not to make mistakes. When people are afraid to make mistakes, they hold back, limiting the potential for the organization.


This type of leader renders employees impotent by pointing out their inferiority. Rather than acknowledge and praise the employees, the discounting leader uses the employees to elevate themselves and strengthen what they believe is a powerful position. They often take credit for the work of employees rather than showing appreciation.


This person is never satisfied and is always attempting to build a great empire for themselves. Accumulation of things, properties, money, span of control, or other acquisitions, is used to demonstrate power and superiority. But there are never enough external validations and prove their worth.


Coming from a desperate fear of not being admired or needed, this leader appears at first to be compassionate and caring. This leader seems to agree with subordinates’ ideas and provides positive communication. But this leader placates and doesn’t take action. Employees do not feel supported when a leader has no backbone.


This leader maintains their sense of identity and security by controlling the situation and others in it. This leader exerts a microscopic vigilance over people and the events of the day. The people they lead feel like they are being held in a cage, allowed to move but only in a tiny arena. Micro-managers are afraid of losing face and believe this high control will keep them protected. The employees feel the leader does not trust them and feel disempowered.


The martyr appears selfless and benevolent. This leader seems to have the best interests of everyone at heart, but they have a hidden, underlying motive. This person unconsciously makes apparent sacrifices while secretly keeping score. They work relentlessly, putting in endless hours to demonstrate great dedication. They want recognition but they are making others feel guilty.

The Path to a Positive Workplace Culture Starts with Authentic Leaders

Leaders who want to create a great culture of communication, collaboration, innovation, and compassionate service, must embody those qualities themselves. Employees over the last twenty plus years have described to me their desired qualities in workplace culture. They include safety, trust, compassionate leaders, teamwork, recognition, appreciation, opportunities for growth, compensation, and fun.

If you want to genuinely create a positive workplace culture, here are some questions you can sincerely ask yourself:

  1. Do I understand I am not superior to those I lead?
  2. Am I willing to give credit to others and publicly acknowledge them?
  3. Can I give up external validation and the need to bolster my own identity?
  4. Am I strong enough to allow others to see that I am vulnerable?
  5. Do I listen attentively and am I truly present with others?
  6. Do I ask for feedback and recognize the talent and wisdom of others?
  7. Can I admit when I am wrong and apologize?
  8. Can I recognize my fears and not become defensive?
  9. Can I practice personal responsibility and practice “the buck stops here?”
  10. Do employees know I have their back?
  11. Do I practice self-realization and introspections so I can connect with my inner wisdom?
  12. Do I recognize the spirit in others and see their inner wisdom?

The description of great leaders has become very distorted and misguided. Many people who are in leadership positions are actually demonstrating the qualities of fear and insecurity disguised in false power and attack of others. Blaming and bullying is happening on many stages today and it takes authentic strength and courage to stand up to the fear and hostility. I believe we each can help by shining a light on our fears. As we do, we make it safer for others to be authentic.

"Don’t you know yet? It is your light that lights the world." --Rumi

Danna Beal, M.Ed., lives in the Seattle, WA area where she is an international speaker, author, retreat/workshop leader, and executive coach. Her new book, The Illuminated Workplace: Shining Light on Workplace Culture is now available on Amazon. She has spoken to thousands of businesses and conferences and has been on countless radio shows, podcasts, and webinars discussing “Enlightened Leadership” and “Workplace Culture. ”Her audiences and clients have included: Seattle Science Foundation--Spine Surgeons Grand Rounds, Swedish Hospital and Medical Groups, Kaiser Permanente Grand Rounds, Oakland, CA, AHRA, Orlando, FL, Federal Aviation Administration, Overlake Hospital Perioperative Conference, Radia, numerous physician practices and hospitals. Her website is