Leadership and Culture are Inextricably Linked

Visual Courtesy: joelafferty.com
Visual Courtesy: joelafferty.com

An organisation’s success is inextricably tied to the culture that the organisation has.

Culture that is defined by the behaviour of the organisational leaders, the processes of the organisation and the people who make up that organisation.

  1. People—people are diverse and when they come into an organisation they bring, along with their technical competencies and skills, their individual behaviour in terms of  leadership, team-work and communication ability.
  2. Processes—processes that are in place in an organisation impact how the staff carry out their activities. Either the processes aid daily works functioning or they hinder and as a result be the source of a tremendous stress.
  3. Business Purpose—the reason why the organisation exists and what is it they need to do to ensure the organisation is sustainable.

So when we have a diverse group of people with a load of processes in place and specific leadership styles in play, a cultural mask forms. This cultural mask is how the organisation operates on a daily basis.

The importance of behaviour from the leaders cannot be understated. What the leaders, knowingly or unknowingly, display sets the behavioral indicators for staff who then emulate the same. This has serious implications on the day-to-day functioning of an organisation, on the emotional (and physical health) of the employee, and finally on the organisation’s brand image and reputation.

The key lever here is leadership.

Depending on the industry sector and the organisations’ position within that sector and its mission, leadership becomes the only critical element that will either build or destroy the organisation. Leadership can impact on the organisational culture positively or negatively.

As a leader tasked with turning around organisation culture, it’s critical to:

  1. Understand the business you are in and thus focus on the critical aspects of housekeeping in order to get the organisation to battle-worthy status
  2. Individually, work with the teams, in those critical areas to ensure achievement
  3. Identify champions and recognise and reward them ethically and socially
  4. Groom a second line of decision makers to provide succession planning

Whilst this is neither an exhaustive  nor a fail-safe list, these four leadership must-do’s’ are my leadership guidelines gleaned over my career through interactions with CEO’s of various types of organisations who have been successful in changing their culture because their leaders undertook these four steps.