The impact of leaders on organizational culture
Leaders define the direction of their organizations. However, with great power comes great responsibility. Do your leaders have a good effect on your organizational culture?
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Throughout history, we see tons of leaders who’ve brought their cultures down with them into ruin. For example, let’s look back in time at Roman Emperor Nero. His leadership took a drastic turn not long after he came into power. His grand plan for Rome consisted of mass murder of his family and ended with the Great Fire of Rome.
See where things went wrong? Nero might have said he had in mind a well-crafted plan to bring Rome to the height of its power. But, burning the city down just so he could “rebuild it” is not constructive, no matter how you look at it.
Undoubtedly, his values as a leader did not leave room for the best interests of his country or citizens. Leaders can be the person that builds you up or the source of destruction for the entire organization. And in this downfall who are the ones that suffer most? That’s right — employees.
Your staff feeds into the culture of the organization. Making the will of their leaders their own and working toward a unified, greater goal. But when that leader is more burden than positive influence, the organizational culture as a whole begins to spiral downward.
Still, some leaders may fail to recognize the connection between their habits and their organization’s culture.
Understanding the relationship between leaders and organizational culture:
Organizational culture can be defined as the shared values, beliefs, or perceptions held by employees within an organization. (Robbins & Coulter) Knowing that organizational culture evolves and progresses from a shared mindset, we find that leaders are the acting forces in its early development.
Culture is collectively learned and transmitted by the members of the organization. At the start, your leaders are the ones who define what values get absorbed and transmitted. They decide the ethics and beliefs that will drive the organization, including what to do and what not to do. Once these core values are established, leaders then become enforcers to their creed.
Almost as if lead by the pied piper, employees are expected to be guided by this creed. In this way, a strong organizational culture emerges.
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5 ways leaders impact organizational culture
Your leaders are the ones swinging the pendulum, and your success as an organization is in their hands. It’s a cycle beginning with leadership style and ending with employees emulating your behavior and beliefs. The pull to follow along with a leader’s designated path is stronger than one might think. Here are five ways your leaders may be impacting your organizational culture.
1. Spread motivations
When you look to someone as a leader, they instantly become a guiding force in your life. But can these people be trusted to lead the way?
As a leader, your motivations and wants trickle down to your staff as they are the soldiers you employ to carry out your will. Depending on what you are motivated by, your organizational culture will surely respond in kind.
The line between innovative and toxic culture is a thin one, and your leader can push you over the edge. Leaders motived by things like money and influence attract employees who are motivated by the same. Leaving an organizational culture where your employees only show up for a paycheck.
On the opposite end, we have leaders motivated by purpose. These inspire staff members that share a common belief to commit their best efforts to their organization’s goal.
To make the best out of your leadership, get to know your staff. Open up two-way communication. Find out their motivations. Listening to and integrating the beliefs and motivations of your team will make them feel valued. A positive organizational culture begins with these satisfied employees.
2. Strong vision
The foundation of any organizations is established on the vision of its leaders. These individuals craft it, share it and watch it come to life.
An effective leader shares their values and views on work with staff members to act as a compass to follow. Providing this awareness allows staff to work as a team to act out organizational strategies. It also reassures them that their actions are for the good of the organization.
But, be careful with the visions you choose to bring to life. As we saw with Emperor Nero, his vision was strong. His ethics and execution…not so great.
To ensure the most effective leadership, incorporate a sense of integrity into your habits. Put a clear purpose in place that has both the good of the organization AND staff in mind. This will enable staff members to follow your will with no qualms, emotionally connecting them to your journey.
Leaders are your coaches. And like with any team, your employees expect leaders to give them the winning plays.
This means more than just having vision. It involves developing a framework that outlines goals, strategy and details necessary to push your organization forward.
These details may include your organization’s view on quality work, what makes a healthy work environment, company policies and rules. But it’s not enough to just state these things. Leaders should lead by example.
To be the best example, leaders must first make their choices and actions visible to their staff. Your intranet can be an excellent place to open up to your employees. You may choose to give updates through a leadership blog, video, or contacting and answering staff questions through forums. Either way, whatever you choose, your team will get a greater sense of your habits and follow suit.
Employees always need to know what is expected of them in order to properly communicate their organization’s purpose. They must know expected levels of productivity, the channels to conduct business as well as the proper image to maintain.
Enforcing these rules is the responsibility of your leaders. Forming rules and holding staff to them is a key way for leaders to influence organizational culture.
It all begins with communication. Detailed descriptions, readily available manuals and policies play a huge role. Here, providing documents via an intranet can assist leaders by both compiling necessary forms into one location and also with tracking. Mandatory reads ensure staff acknowledges receipt of required information.
When discrepancies or issues arise, it is up to the leader to return order to the organization. Not only should leaders hold their staff accountable, but they must also hold themselves accountable. A large part of that is the ability to admit mistakes and failures.
Transparency will earn the respect of the staff cultivate two-way trust in the organizational culture.
As the ones standing in front, leaders can only expect that staff follow their lead. Behaviors are repeated. Habits are imitated. But most of all, attitude is contagious.
Develop a culture of encouragement. Let your employees know they are doing a good job. Acknowledge mistakes but also give guidance on how they may improve. Do not forget that leaders are the foundation. If they are not held responsible for the morale of their staff, then the culture of their organization can fall apart around them.
It’s easy to believe that forming a healthy organizational culture is the responsibility of the employees. However, culture is not about other people’s behavior. It really begins with a leader model: one that employees will want to emulate.
When people are left without appropriate or any guidance at all, the standard of work lowers, and organizational culture suffers. Be the change that leads to an innovative and fulfilling company culture by reevaluating your leadership style.