Don’t Sell, Create the Gap—with Leadership and Culture

By Tim Kuppler


We received our best audience feedback ever after the 3rd Annual Ultimate Culture Conference. For the first time, one specific speaker insight stood out and was highlighted by numerous attendees. What was this insight about leadership and culture? Why did it resonate so much? I think it’s a sign of the times as culture transitions from a subject of interest for many to the sustainable driver of effectiveness that many feel compelled to nurture, develop or change.

Make an Impact, Influence Others and Transform Results

Dr. Peter Fuda, Founder and Principal, The Alignment Partnership and Adjunct Professor, Macquarie Graduate School of Management, delivered a captivating presentation titled, Make an Impact, Influence Others and Transform Results. Dr. Fuda was in the middle of his presentation, and the audience was hanging on every word. He said, “We’re all motivated to do this work. Now here’s the problem: You can’t motivate anybody to do anything they don’t want to do. Why? People will tolerate the conclusions of others, but they will only act on their own conclusions.” We’ve all experienced this dynamic in some form. It might be a discussion with an individual or team about a change or another subject that is unbelievably clear…to you. You’ve tried every approach in the book to build some understanding, define the case for change, and engage in a dialogue that truly helps. Sometimes it works; sometimes it’s endlessly frustrating.


Dr. Fuda continued, “Here’s the challenge, and it took me a very long time to figure this out, so I want to give you the shortcuts here today. Don’t sell, create the gap. Don’t sell, create the gap.”

Many people use 360s and other instruments to help define a gap. Dr. Fuda explained that he utilizes a hundred different instruments in his business transformation practice, but there is only one third-party instrument he uses to help leaders visualize the gap. He described it as “the best leadership instrument in the world,” and it’s called Leadership/Impact® (L/I).1Leadership/Impact® basically asks two questions. Ideally, how would you like to motivate and encourage those you lead to behave (their Ideal Impact)? It’s asking you what is your leadership vision. You are setting an aspiration, and then the 360 surveys go out and you get feedback from others and they tell you how you are actually motivating and encouraging them to behave (the second question, which reveals their Current Impact).” The results are plotted on a Circumplex so they can be visually compared.

Research Sample Leadership/Impact® Data


Leadership/Impact® Circumplex. Research and development by Robert A. Cooke, Ph.D. and J. Clayton Lafferty, Ph.D. Copyright © 1989-2017 by Human Synergistics. All Rights Reserved.

He continued, “When they fill in the [Ideal] Leadership/Impact® survey, almost always it looks like that [see left picture above]. They have a very blue picture. Why? Let’s go to common sense corner for a minute. Most leaders want to encourage others to set and achieve worthy goals. They want to encourage and motivate people to bring their whole self to work and think and act in creative and innovative ways to solve real problems. They want to encourage people to develop themselves and develop others, and they want to encourage people to work collaboratively as a team. All this does is codify that with rigor and validity and all the rest of it.”

Not only do leaders consistently report these Constructive styles (blue) as being ideal; they systematically view the Aggressive/Defensive (red) and Passive/Defensive (green) styles as inappropriate and not to be encouraged. In general, their ideal profiles show minimal or non-existent extensions along Passive styles such as Dependence and Avoidance and, at most, moderate extensions along Aggressive styles such as Competitive and Power.

Seeing the Gap

“Here’s what happens when they see their actual impact…now they’re suffering post-traumatic rationalization. They might say, “You know what, Peter? I think the 85th percentile Power is really a good thing because we’re in a tough industry, we’ve got to kick ass and take names.” So what do I do? I let them get it all out because I’ve heard it all before. I’ve probably perfected some of those strategies myself…then I say let’s just go to pages further on. Is that in your Ideal? It’s not there [the Power results]. As adults, adult to adult, there is clearly a gap between your noble intentions and how you are currently motivating and encouraging people to behave. The only question today is, are you interested in doing something about the gap? If you’re not interested, there’s nothing I can do to make you change. If you are interested, I can give you some very specific strategies.” Peter explained the assessment results were actually from his doctoral research, and he emphasized that the CEOs involved in the research wanted to bridge the gap. The changes they achieved, described in Peter’s dissertation and his book, were significant and inspiring.2

VIDEO CLIP: Dr. Peter Fuda on the impact of leaders and the constructive cultures they help shape.

History behind “don’t sell, create the gap”

“Don’t sell, create the gap” may sound obvious on the surface, but there is some history behind the structuring of assessments to enable this approach. I talked to Dr. Robert Cooke, CEO of Human Synergistics and author of Leadership/Impact®, about this history. His interest in “creating the gap” goes back to the development of the Ideal Culture version of the Organizational Culture Inventory® (OCI®).3 In the OCI-Ideal assessment, leadership and other members of the organization define the behaviors they believe should be expected to maximize effectiveness and enable the organization to reach its goals. The OCI-Ideal profile is compared to results on the original version of the OCI, which measures the current culture of an organization in terms of shared behavioral norms—that is, the behaviors that members believe are currently required to “fit in” and meet expectations.

The approach of “creating the gap” has proven far more effective than trying to “sell” leaders on a certain culture. To reiterate Peter’s point, people only act on their own conclusions. Providing them with a side-by-side comparison of the culture or behaviors they’re reinforcing versus those they’d ideally like to drive allows them to reach the conclusion for themselves—and creates the gap in a very real way.

Rob adds, “Though it was unusual, if not unheard of, to generate a personal standard or ideal as part of a 360 survey, our learnings from the OCI-Ideal swayed me to use the self-report form of Leadership/Impact® to capture the leader’s vision. It seemed that an ideal impact section would not only increase their awareness of the fact that they do have an impact, but also provide them with a clear picture of the impact they should work toward. Peter’s extensive advising and research with leaders has shown not only the importance of the ideal, but also how it creates a gap—one that renders the difficult and often futile process of selling unnecessary.”4

Editor’s notes:


1 Cooke, R. A. (1996). Leadership/Impact® (L/I). Plymouth, MI: Human Synergistics.

2 Fuda, P. (2013). Leadership Transformed: How Ordinary Managers Become Extraordinary Leaders. New York, NY: New Harvest.

3 Cooke, R. A. & Lafferty, J. C. (1987). Organizational Culture Inventory®. Plymouth, MI: Human Synergistics.

4 See Chapter 3 (“Master Chef”) in Fuda, P. (2013). Leadership Transformed: How Ordinary Managers Become Extraordinary Leaders. New York, NY: New Harvest.

About the Author

Tim Kuppler


Tim Kuppler is the Director of Culture and Organization Development with Human Synergistics. He is also the co-founder of, a 100% educational site with a faculty of culture experts and a purpose to positively impacting society on a global scale through culture awareness, education, and action. He is an accomplished speaker and recognized as a top 100 leadership conference speaker on He was a senior automotive executive and managed numerous culture and performance transformations with best practices featured in case studies, books, and keynote presentations. He was previously President of Denison Consulting and is the author of Build the Culture Advantage, Deliver Sustainable Performance with Clarity and Speed.