These are pretty intangible things, but when you start working at a place, or for a client, you can get the feel for them pretty quickly. Here are five questions that can help gauge an agency's or client's culture:
1) Are the people in the meetings empowered to make the decisions, or does everything need to run all the way up the chain of command?
2) Is there a culture of trust, or a culture of fear? In other words, do the people at the top trust the employees to do their jobs and support their decisions, or do they micromanage?
3) Are big ideas that fail celebrated or punished?
4) Is there an overall spirit of collaboration or competition?
5) Do people make decisions based on what they think is right, or are they guessing what their boss will think is right?
Company culture flows down from the top. Leaders who trust their employees create a culture of trust. Of empowerment and collaboration and big ideas. You can often feel out what kind of company you're dealing with by sitting in a meeting or two and listening to how people make decisions.
For more on leadership, I recommend Good To Great, by Jim Collins. The cases are a little dated, but the content on leadership is great.