Why C-suite level leaders struggle to change their culture, especially in DEI

It is easy to see that many C-suite level leaders struggle to change their culture, but what causes this?

In this post I hope to explain how this happens.

How executives change as they climb up the organisational ladder

I recently came upon a tweet that was really quite interesting as it insinuated how someone had changed as they climbed up the organisational ladder in the university sector.

This is really distressing to hear. Margaret was a beacon when A/Prof La Trobe School of Public Health. Even an inspiraton/correspondent during my PhD while a Casual Teaching Academic, doing more-being paid less-quality slipping. She knew 10+ yrs ago about the exploitation


This was in response to a comment about lecturers not getting paid to prepare for lectures and asking the Vice Chancellor of Monash University if that effected quality. Of course the answer of no was both expected and disappointing.


Why do executives change as they climb the ladder?

I talked about this to another academic who was told how to climb the organisational ladder and this point came to mind.

The higher you climb up an organisation, even though your power is greater, the more likely you have to use the power in a similar way to how it has been wielded previously.

That is to say, you have to show that you are “sound” to get the promotion, and will have to remain “sound” to keep your new role, as people in the higher positions have to know that you will

This limits the ability to change power structures, even if they have become ineffective, inefficient, or just plain toxic. This is just organisational inertia.

So in essence, you have more power, but probably can’t do what you want to do with it. The further up you go, the more limited you become.

This is essentially what this article called “The Fallacy of Representation” is saying about Barack Obama.


This is why I think executives will struggle to change their culture to be more diverse and inclusive, even though there are many resources around how to make practical changes in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. For me it has to be revolution, not evolution.