Cultural Impact of Leadership


How often have you sat in a meeting where there were only three key issues for discussion?

  1. Impact of leadership on the organisation
  2. Evaluating key technical & behavioural competencies of the employees that has delivered the results
  3. Exploring the benefits and negatives of the work culture in operation

Chances are your response would be—“once” OR –“not at all”!!

This doesn’t surprise me, as in the Asian context, these are quite sensitive issues to discuss and are always swept under the carpet as being not directly related to business activity. But that’s where we make a mistake!

Leadership, the people in the organisation, and the culture—all three– are key elements in how the organisation brand is perceived and in its sustainability or its’ ability to be profitable over time and keep delivering value to its eco-system.

I have written earlier on how leadership affects brand sustainability and on work culture and how it creeps in  and on the importance of having engaged employees.

Leadership styles in the C-Suite have a direct correlation with profitability of an organisation. The correlation comes through the attitude and performance of the senior management team who are tasked with the strategy development & execution.

If the leadership style is one of humility, empathy and authenticity there will be clarity of purpose and a team that’s well-engaged in the business mission. This results in positive behaviour manifested as a working culture of interactiveness, co-partnering  and healthy team participation across key projects for the organisation.

On the other hand if the leadership is a control & command’ style wherein the C-Suite is aloof, unapproachable, not-present and indecisive there will emerge a serious gap between the leadership & the senior management. This gap will foster a lack of clarity on strategic goals & in communication. This can, and usually is, disastrous for the organisation from a business growth, employee morale & brand reputation perspective.

As a leader a key requirements is understanding the prevailing culture and in using specific leadership styles to influence employees to generate engagement and buy-in from the employees.


Why is buy-in critical?

A leader is given the mantle of leadership. This is a responsibility and in the corporate world, it usually is associated with designations.

Yes, always, the head of an organisation is the leader by virtue of the C-level designation and yes, the buck stops there with regards to reporting of organisational performance to the board.

But neither the designation nor the reporting process provides the leader the buy-in of the employees or the people who are the face of the brand.

Obtaining buy-in from the senior management & rank and file takes some hard work.  A few key attributes that are “must-haves” in this hard-work area are:

  • empathy
  • humility
  • getting hands dirty

These three attributes, by far, are the ones that endear a leader with the team. When people sense and feel that their leader understands, listens and is willing to work together to get the job done well, most throw in their lot behind this type of leader. Net result is an engaged and energized organisation where the authentic energy is palpable by the respective stakeholders as they interact with various people from the organisation.

Does all of this sound too esoteric?

It’s not. The key here is authenticity & communication.

Authenticity demands you to be human i.e. show vulnerability, be yourself and acknowledge that without the team you can’t achieve. In other words, show appreciation and recognition.

Communication, based on this authenticity, resonates strongly with people across an organisation as it’s pitched on an emotional level. People are emotional beings by nature and operate from the perspective of ‘feel—think—do’.

So can an organisation get this going in a beneficial way?

Yes! It’s very possible to do this provided the leadership commits its time and prioritises this as a primary project. If done well the cultural change will result in a regular productive behaviour over time.

In my next post I’ll share with you my 3-steps for aligning leadership style with organisation culture.