A few weeks ago, I asked the question “Which comes first: Leadership or culture?” Honestly, I must admit that I agree with the person who wrote me on LinkedIn to say this is the ultimate chicken or egg question. But you guys said in a 4 to 1 margin that leadership comes first.
It totally makes sense. It also means that organizations need to understand how this dynamic impacts them. If leaders drive organizational culture, then organizations need to:
Identify the leadership competencies that support organizational culture. Creating a world-class organizational culture doesn’t happen overnight. But it can be destroyed quickly with poor leadership. The company is going to want to have specifics on what it takes to keep their organization vibrant and desired by candidates and employees. These competencies should be included in the company’s hiring and learning activities.
Design their recruiting processes to achieve the cultural results they’re looking for. I don’t want to say that companies need to hire leaders that are a cultural fit because it’s possible that the culture stinks and the organization wants new leaders to come in and create change. On the other hand, if the organization isn’t looking for a cultural change, then they need to make sure the leaders they hire and promote are aligned.
Invest in leadership at every level. We’re talking about leadership here. Regular readers of this blog know that leadership and management are two different things. Leaders exist at every level of the organization. And if the company wants to maintain their culture, then they have to maintain their leadership. The only way to do that is with regular training, development, coaching, and mentoring.
Hold leaders accountable. When leaders do something that doesn’t align with the company culture, the organization needs to be prepared to hold that leader accountable for their actions. Even if that leader makes a lot of money for the company. If the company doesn’t do that, that’s tacit approval. And it begins the slippery slope of allowing leaders to chip away at the organizational culture.
On some level, I can see how company cultures are fragile. And a few bad leaders can have a detrimental impact on cultural structure. When that happens, it becomes very difficult to turn things around. That’s why investing in leaders is so important. Because they touch and shape and mold the company’s culture.
And the company’s culture is what sets the business apart – both from a candidate perspective and a customer perspective.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the SHRM Annual Conference in Washington, DC12