(1) If the top leadership of the company doesn’t exhibit the values/behaviours that you want to instill in the culture, then, you have a problem. If they do live these values/behaviours, this is great news. Unfortunately this does not guarantee any cultural change/shaping whatsoever. Looking up (to those leaders) is great for reassurance, but not an engine of change at scale. Looking sideways (peer-to-peer) reassures, reinforces and triggers behaviours. Much better. Stronger. Lots of looking sideways, with lots of people doing great things, shapes cultures fast.
(2) Most people don’t come to the company every day and, when in the car park, think of looking up, to see how the leadership team behaves, in order to inform how they will behave that day. What the peer group does and what the unwritten rules of the organization expects, however, shapes peoples behaviours and creates cultures.
(3) If you bring in the ‘cultural differences’ Deus-Ex-Machina, and assume that the above ‘is not true in some cultures’ and subcultures, so you continue to assume ‘it is always hierarchical in Switzerland’ and ‘it is always non-hierarchical in Silicon Valley’, you may gain some illusion of comfort with your own thinking, but you will miss fundamental and universal human mechanisms of social copying that don’t know geographies.
You’ve perhaps seen examples of uprising and massive social change (including street demonstrations by the millions) in very hierarchical and ‘looking up’ societies. Last time I checked, those demonstrating and creating change were not Silicon Valley employees. I am afraid so many change practitioners disagree, that it’s hard to convince people that change management is learned on television screens, not through Harvard’s MBA.
If you have a leadership team that is obstructive, does not get it, is uncomfortable with change, and is the cause of all impasse and all ills of the company, I have a strong recommendation for you. Years of hands-on leadership experience, years of organizational consulting and years of… years, allow me to give you this gem of a recommendation: get out, move companies, move on. Life is too short.