Episode 114

Changing Culture through Leadership Practices with David White

Download a year’s worth of weekly action steps to improve your leadership for FREE!

David White is a partner and co-founder of Ontos Global. He has spent more than 25 years helping organizations manage and sustain transformation. As a cognitive anthropologist, his research and practice focus on new approaches to organizational culture and change. He focuses on designing and implementing successful, large-scale organizational transformation programs, as well as developing adaptive leaders who can do the same. His newest book, Disrupting Corporate Culture, focuses on how cognitive science alters accepted beliefs and impacts leaders and change agents.


  • A pervasive myth in leadership is that leaders set the culture. Cultures form just as well in any group without a nominal leader.
  • Culture is a reference system – a shared mental operating system – we use to make sense of the world.
  • If culture is a “given,” how do leaders work with it? Their power.
  • Power shapes practices which then shape culture. Culture follows task.
  • The values and norms established by founders are difficult to regenerate unless the practices embody those values and ideals.


  • What is some lesson, saying, or experience that continues to influence your leadership to this day? Past failures in trying to drive large-scale change in complex organizations.
  • Use three descriptors to finish this sentence: “A leader is…” Curious, self-aware, and empathic.
  • What is a question that leaders should be asking either themselves or others? How do I feel, and what do I want?
  • What book would you recommend to leaders? Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson
  • If you could get every listener to start doing something THIS week to help them be a better leader, what would it be? Get really curious about your people and organization and why they do what they do.
  • As a general life principle, is it better to ask “why?” or “why not?” “Why?” because it is more powerful. It’s more generative.



Want a FREE list of weekly action steps to improve your leadership? Download the Leadership Action List TODAY!

Mentioned in this episode:

Subscribe to Business Bitcoinization

Subscribe on your favorite podcast app

Business Bitcoinization Trailer

Listen to the trailer

About the Podcast

Show artwork for Life as Leadership: Where Leaders Gather to Grow Together
Life as Leadership: Where Leaders Gather to Grow Together
Where leaders gather to grow together

About your host

Profile picture for Josh Friedeman

Josh Friedeman

Josh Friedeman is a coach who works with organizations to improve their efficiency and revenue. Learn more about him and his guests on his two podcasts, "Business Bitcoinization" and "Life as Leadership." To explore working with Josh, visit friedemanleadership.com.