Like everything else in life, corporate cultures change over time. They change because the company grows, changes, moves into new markets, offers new services, different locations, or because the staff has changed. They also change because of society’s expectations of companies and the work force. For example, there has been a lot of talk about employers being more flexible—allowing their employees to work from home or to not be so rigid in what time an employee shows up for work. Let’s take a look back at some changes in corporate culture:

In the 19th century, most of the successful CEOs had the approach of defeat and conquer which ended up eliminating their competition by either putting them out of business or acquiring them. This was perceived as desirable and successful, until antitrust laws made that monopolistic.

When the Great Depression hit in the 30s, successful CEOs now needed to understand marketing and have a marketing approach to running a business. This led into the golden age of advertising where every company who mattered, competed for your attention—could they persuade you to buy their stuff. To this day, these are still perceived as some of the most successful companies of all time.

Then in the late 70s and 80s, when inflation drove the cost of capital up, finance-oriented CEOs thrived. Those that kept the share point high were considered successful companies. To this day, we still judge a CEO based on their ability to keep the share price where investors want it.

With the economic downturn of 2008, I think we have begun another new corporate culture era. One that is more focused on what the customer wants and the company’s new responsibly to listen and respond to them. What does that mean for leadership, or determining success? I guess we will see . . .