Orrin Woodward on LIFE & Leadership

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    Former Guinness World Record Holder for largest book signing ever, Orrin Woodward is a NY Times bestselling author of And Justice For All along with RESOLVED & coauthor of LeaderShift and Launching a Leadership Revolution. His books have sold over one million copies in the financial, leadership and liberty fields. RESOLVED: 13 Resolutions For LIFE made the Top 100 All-Time Best Leadership Books and the 13 Resolutions are the framework for the top selling Mental Fitness Challenge personal development program.

    Orrin made the Top 20 Inc. Magazine Leadership list & has co-founded two multi-million dollar leadership companies. Currently, he serves as the Chairman of the Board of the LIFE. He has a B.S. degree from GMI-EMI (now Kettering University) in manufacturing systems engineering. He holds four U.S. patents, and won an exclusive National Technical Benchmarking Award.

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Leadership Culture and Cognitive Dissonance

Posted by Orrin Woodward on July 13, 2016

There is nothing more important, its proper implementation determining the destiny of nations, companies, charities, and families, than the creation of culture. Culture, a system of beliefs, values, and customs a community follows, cannot be seen, but it influences every behavior within the community.  Interestingly, despite nearly every leader expressing the need for right culture to produce right results,  few seem to build culture with specific intent. This, I believe, is one of the biggest leadership mistakes.

In other words, every community must get intentional about culture or suffer the grave consequences. Just over a year ago, in a conversation with Chris Brady, he boiled down influence within a company to the three R’s – require, recognize, or reward it. Although we weren’t specifically talking culture at the time, it didn’t take me long for me to realize Brady had just summed up the different methods one can create culture within a community. Ever since, I have thought deeply on how to create a culture that requires, recognizes, and rewards the right behaviors.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance

Needless to say, this is much more difficult to do than it sounds, for most companies suffer from cognitive dissonance – a malady where the organization promotes one thing while rewarding another. Cognitive dissonance is perhaps the biggest failure-mode for most communities because it involves a misalignment between the culture and the longterm vision. This misalignment creates cultural inertia that, left to itself, will divide the community and blur the vision. Dissonance, in a word, destroys unity.

Accordingly, great leaders must identify the purpose and vision of the community; then develop the culture of requiring, recognizing, and rewarding to ensure the proper behaviors are performed to accomplish the vision. Moreover, if the leader realizes the 3 R’s currently instituted will not achieve the stated purpose and vision, he must have the courage to make the needed adjustments. In fact, this is what makes the leader the leader, namely, the courage to create the culture in order to achieve the community’s purpose. Any leader not willing to do this, is not truly a leader, for he merely follows the current culture rather than building the proper culture. 

In essence, leaders are responsible for eliminating cognitive dissonance out of the culture to ensure the actions of the organization move it towards its purpose and vision. After all, nothing validates the leader’s value so much as his/her ability to move the cultural current in the proper direction. It doesn’t matter if it’s easy; it doesn’t matter if it’s convenient; it doesn’t even matter if it’s popular, but what does matters is whether the community can accomplish its reason for existing with the current culture. Thus, if there is cognitive dissonance, the culture must change.

When an organization is suffering in the throes of cognitive dissonance, the leader’s responsibility is to charge to the front lines and resist the improper cultural current, converting the dissonance into resonance by aligning the 3 Rs to the purpose and vision. Indeed, when the cultural current is flowing smoothly, the requirements, recognition, and rewards align the people win personally and professionally when the company wins purposefully. Proper leadership, therefore, creates the culture and the culture creates the results.

What is the purpose for your company? What is the culture of your company? Do the culture’s results aligned with the purpose of the company? If so, then the community will win. If not, then the leader must get to the front and lead, for as Harry Truman once said about leadership, “the buck stops here”.


Orrin Woodward

38 Responses to “Leadership Culture and Cognitive Dissonance”

  1. Danny Kellenberger said

    Outstanding article Orrin! Leaders create the culture the culture builds the team. It’s interesting how dissonance can so easily seep into a community. It’s also interesting that the root of culture is cult. In essence, by requiring, recognizing and rewarding we are creating a cult.
    Carpe Diem

    • Orrin Woodward said

      Danny, that’s right. All communities, companies, and societies have built a cult around the beliefs and values that are encouraged and discouraged. The key is to build the right culture to produce the desired results. thanks, Orrin

  2. Trevor Most said

    Thank you Orrin! You always have a way to take something complicated and make it understandably simple!

  3. Thank you, Orrin Woodward. Great article!

  4. Elaine Mallios said

    Orrin, this is very interesting. Applied to families and relationships, you can see that selfishness, egocentrism or the like will lead to dissolution of unity.

  5. bill lewis said

    I can tell you this, to anyone that is reading the comments. I promise you what Orrin is talking about is going to allow life leadership to do what is was meant and intended to do. Anyone that was tough enough to make it to this point is going to be rewarded big time! Not only that but we will be able to make the impact that we all want to do. We went thru years of trial and error to get to this point and I’m telling you we have the last piece of the current puzzle. As Chris Brady use to say all the time “A rising tide raises all ships, make sure your ship is in the water.”

    • Kurt Sandborn said

      I love the three R’s rule. There are a lot of companies that need to live by them. Bill, I couldn’t agree more. Every thing up to now happen for a reason, now that you have helped us break though our cognitive dissident we are set up to lead the masses. I can’t wait! Thanks Bill and Orrin for all of the work you guy do!

  6. Elizabeth Sieracki said

    What a great article Orrin! I know you spoke a lot about companies and organizations in your article but I read this through my fairly new “Mom Lens.”
    I cannot adequately express how passionate I am becoming on creating the right culture in my family for our two little ones. Having a two year (that mimics everything) I find that she is like a litmus test for us in our parenting on whether or not we are creating a good culture or a bad culture. We clearly see that, as parents, if we are not in alignment then there is frustration and a the blurred vision you spoke of for both us and her. Because of the leadership information we have read and listened to, we are striving to create the desired culture for our family.
    Thank you

  7. CJ Calvert said

    Orrin, fantastic article. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Kenyon Robson said

    Love this! Wholeheartedly agree! We are so grateful for your leadership!

  9. Very interesting!
    Vision, proper behaviors, required, recognized, and rewarded…
    Rewards, recognition, requirement, what behaviors, what is the vision…
    PDCA and reverse engineer what is around me…
    A well lead community will have effect outside the community. Does the vision of that community coincide with your vision(s)? Very useful information! Thank you!

  10. Lloyd weiler said

    Wow, what a great checkup on the culture we as leaders are creating!

  11. Steve Duba said

    Thanks Orrin. Great job with the meat and potatoes. Powerful insite. I just went back into Good to Great by Jim Collins. Hedgehog, flywheel, and the doom loop. Both meld together nicely. Thanks for sharing. God bless.

  12. Tim Kern said

    Orrin, thank you for sharing this article. One thing that I’ve always been proud of us that the leaders of the Life Leadership organization have never been afraid to make adjustments to benefit the entire organization when they see something needs to be done. I know where ever this group leads, Peggi and I are following because we know it will end with helping more people.

  13. Rick Tillmann said

    Your post makes me think of the book, “Energy to Lead,” which came down through the LIFE Leadership system. The author talks about the laws of thermodynamics being interchangeable with the laws of leadership. One law states that energy cannot move from a lower state to a higher state, which means that leadership can never come from the masses. It is simply one of the laws of nature. It is then up to the leader to put energy into the system to move it. Thanks for continuing to put your 1% thinking into the culture of LIFE

  14. Great entry, Orrin. I re-posted it onto my blog, changing ‘company’ to ‘organization’ (because people act like the broad spectrum of people…everywhere). I’m about to begin a 6 month leadership development program with a large church in the area looking to offer leadership tools for several ministry directors, along with the Director of Ministries. We initially spoke of simply having people read their bibles more – a strategy that would certainly work IF the proper amount of application-to-reading were implemented.

    We’ll be using the LLR workbook edition, along with 5 CDs: Lens Effect, Ant & the Elephant, Subway to Metropolitan, Levels of Influence & Mentoring Matters. Beginning with a survey to access the “where we are now” component, we’ll move through the PDCA of Reading, Listening & Associating, conduct interviews along the way & conclude with a final report addressing the targeted project results.

    It’ a “What’s the vision?”, “Where are we now?” & “How should the community look as a result of our work?” type of project – for which our materials are perfectly suited.

  15. Jennie Dibala said

    Great article, Orrin! This is such a powerful concept and I have seen it in full effect in the field of education while creating a classroom culture. Taking the extra time to ensure the culture is generating the correct results is very crucial to fast growth later in the school year. I can see how this parallels our business. Learning to recognize cognitive dissonance, taking responsibility, and having a plan to fix it are all super empowering! Thank you.

  16. Tony Hoffman said

    Knowing I read this after Life Leadership’s Master of Leadership Conventions, how blessed we are to have a leader such as yourself Orrin, who applies/takes action on what you learn! The 3 R’s are being aligned and the people in this world will see light and be blessed (our purpose and vision)!! Thank you for your courage as our LEADER!!!

  17. Tina A. Abernathy said


    Fantastic article!!

    What a great reminder of making sure we consistently evaluate and align our actions with our purpose. We truly appreciate the sacrifices you, Laurie and all of the PC have made to create a business/movement that will allow our Purpose, Passion and Profit to align and make a difference in this turbulent world. We also appreciate your willingness to continually PDCA to make sure our culture stays true and pure.

    Onward to 1 million and beyond!

  18. Kirk birtles said

    Orrin, GREAT ARTICLE!! The right Culture creates the current that produces the title wave of purposeful growth!!

  19. Amanda Matha said

    wonderful article. As a former school system employee I can say that the FIRST thing that came to mind for me when reading this article is how our school systems say one thing (good education for students) but teach to the test to get ‘rewarded'(as per state guidelines). if only…..

  20. Juleen Ray said

    Orrin, thank you so much for sharing this with us. Putting the 3 R’s in place will help all communities thrive – family, friends, job, LIFE. Sharing hope and opportunity with others is always a good thing.


  21. Danny Campisi said

    Great article Orrin and I am excited to see what the future brings. My ship is on the water!!! Talk to you soon!

  22. The ironic thing about cognitive dissonance is its subtlety. We think we are taking the right steps or rewarding the right behaviors. Thank God for the scoreboard and a leadership team I afraid to check it and adjust accordingly. With the changes coming this November, the elephant and ant will be aligned like never before!

  23. Rachel said

    Great article Orrin! Thinking about how to use this at work, since I have to be there for now.
    Thank you for being such a blessing,
    God bless

  24. Holger said

    How blessed we are to have a culture of servant leadership through the example of the Woodward’s and the Brady’s. Not keeping the status quo is part of the LIFE LEADERSHIP culture and that is a good thing even though it sometimes results in changes that have an adverse effect. Over the long run this continuous PDCA leads to excellence. Thank you!! Today’s The Day!!! Holger

  25. Gyorgy Veszpremi said

    Great post. Thank you Orrin.

  26. Pat Edwards said

    Orrin, what an awesome article! It made me stop and think. I looked up the definition of cognitive dissonance: (the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.)When I thought about leadership and community building and a group with many “leaders”, the power of Cognitive Dissonance is incredibly powerful. My thought, what about leaders that have “unconscious” cognitive dissonance? especially when they’re all trying to lead the same groups of people. What a cultural nightmare for the team! Thanks for making my cognitive dissonance conscious again! Unity of beliefs, thoughts and attitude is key to aligning the team with the vision and purpose. Thanks Orrin! Pat

  27. Michelle said

    Orrin, phenomenal article and synthesis of human behavior in companies, organizations, families, communities….people will mechanically put a “check in the box” and do what’s required, yet true motivation will only come when we align our thinking & behavior to pursue meaningful recognition and reward! Again, you have eloquently created a framework for us to evaluate our behavior: we’ll “chase” what’s required, recognized and rewarded but is that behavior aligned with our true purpose or what we do best? Love how you’re leading! Thanks!

  28. Mike Hartmann said

    Excellent, thought-provoking article. Thanks for sharing!

  29. Jim Craig said

    Orrin, I thank God daily for blessing us with your thinking and Leadership. You and Chris continue to lead by example through your words and actions. You freely share with us truthful information that allow us to develop our thinking to become more effective leaders ourselves. Your blog continues to challenge me and my thinking and I love it! We’re going to a million my friend! To God be the Glory!!

  30. Sandra A. Montenegro said

    Thank you Orrin for providing the key to analyse and improve our existing results in our journey to a million people. Cognitive Dissonance a misalignment between the culture and the long-term vision, a misalignment between what we say and what we do. Yes, “the buck stops here”! God bless you!

  31. Chris Schill said

    From the time I first was introduced to Orrin and Laurie, I knew there was something different, something that made you want to follow them. I think it’s summed up in this one sentence from this article…

    “In fact, this is what makes the leader the leader, namely, the courage to create the culture in order to achieve the community’s purpose.”

    Orrin has ALWAYS displayed that courage and as a result is the leader he is. One WORTH following.

    Now it’s our turn to simply have the courage to follow and do what we were intended to… be the light.

    On to a million, we are with you!

  32. Meko Arroyo said


    Outstanding! I have seen cognitive dissidence in all companies at one level or another. If unchecked this creates a victim mentality culture at the core of the company. It takes great leaders to identify, take action and elimitate it.
    So Proud to be apart of this company.

  33. Diana Wiggins said

    I am grateful and blessed to be involved with a community under your direction and leadership. Your article is direct and to the point. I will take responsibility for building community, as the Buck does stop here. Follow the system, learning from great leaders. Blessings

  34. Jim Wilson said

    Multiculturalism is diametrically opposed to a unified culture. It seems like that throughout history when countries were unified in their culture, they flourished. When they were diverse, they foundered. When every culture has some some different vision of freedom or how the government should work we will have cognitive dissonance. Futher,the rewards systems being used by our governments are certainly encouraging improper Behavior.
    Thank you for your insights.
    Jim Wilson

  35. Hunter Davidson said

    You should give some examples of specific companies or organizations that use the dissonant leadership. It would be more interesting to see how the success and employee performance of an organization using cognitive dissonance compares to a company using emotional intelligence or resonant leadership.

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