Beware: Culture Vultures

Posted on December 14, 2018

Right Now with Stacy Schweikhart  (LinkedIn/Twitter)


What I’m reading: My list and checking it twice

 What I’m watching: Old SNL skits – my middle-school sons just discovered  them and I’m laughing as hard at them now as I did when they first aired.

 What I’m listening to:  All I Want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan (btw – #truth)

Building Brands

The following is an excerpt from “Building Brands and Creating Cultures of Authentic Servant Leadership” , a book I recently had the pleasure to write with my good friend and mentor Ron Holifield. Tweet me @SWSchweikhart with your thoughts and I just may send a copy your way!

Many years ago, the term culture vulture was coined to describe an individual who devours any and all artistic and cultural offerings. My connotation of the term is quite different. Each time I work with an organization or present this topic in workshops, my description of Culture Vultures in organizations tends to be a crowd favorite.

Inevitably as you launch a servant leader (or any other) culture transformation, some Culture Vultures will emerge. You know the ones. They are menacing. They pick at everything. Their mere presence instills fear of doom. Culture Vultures spend time picking at efforts and pointing out why they won’t work.

Culture Vultures rebuke efforts to incorporate culture into every day – to put people first. They are the first to block a people first approach with a legal risk and proclaim that policy, technology or marketing are the better areas to make the change.

Every organization has them. And unfortunately even the best efforts to transform culture won’t destroy them all.


Name them. As you conduct culture sessions, introduce everyone to the “Culture Vulture” persona just as I’ve described them here. Of course never use actual names or descriptions of people in your organization.

Don’t feed them. Draw upon a basic tenant from Buddhist meditation. What you feed with your energy will grow. What you starve of your energy will die. Not only do this outwardly, but you must commit to not let the Culture Vultures take up residence eating up your insides either.

Don’t hide from them. Create an expectation that we all own this culture and that none of us will feed the Culture Vulture.

Take a hint from the force. If we keep focusing on the things we hate, we will lose. The way we win is by saving the things we love.

Converting a Culture Vulture

With the right approach, it may be possible to convert a Culture Vulture.

One of the portions of Ron’s 4th Dimension Leadership book that really struck me was the section on stealth incompetents. At the time I made a note about how organizations manage under-performers, how they contain potential damage caused by Culture Vultures.

What if we were bold enough to intervene instead of ignore? What if one-on-one, the known least-engaged employees were asked if they’d like a chance at finding a way they could find meaning and satisfaction instead of just a paycheck?

The intervention would involve some career counseling to determine whether personal competency, technical competency and/or professional competency are the root of the disengagement.

This may sound far-fetched and indeed in some cases it will yield little results.

But if you are truly a servant leader, you value your people, even the lowest common denominators.

If you are an authentic servant leader, you invest in your people even when they seem uninterested or uncommitted.

What you just may find is that they have been waiting for someone to notice. Their lack of engagement is really a cry for help. They are jaded and disenchanted because they perceived that no one noticed their detachment. Or if anyone did notice, they didn’t care.

Take a deep breath and have the conversation.

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