“Research shows that the climate of an organization influences an individual’s contribution far more than the individual himself.” —W. Edwards Deming
By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM
How Leadership Impacts Culture
Culture is a set of values, behaviors, and habits that operate within the organization even when no one is looking. The culture of an organization is driven by what leaders value, how they behave, and what they communicate. Leadership ripples through the organization with either productive or devastating power. It can build or break down barriers; widen or bridge gaps. It can build others and inspire greatness or it can tear others down and cause them to disengage. Leadership either encourages collaboration and challenging the status quo or stifles teamwork and innovation.
Culture and inspiration grow from the vision, long-standing values, and behaviors of the leader. If the leader is seen as being selfless and authentic then followers are more likely to buy into their vision for the future. This type of leader inspires a trusting and consistent culture.
As a leader, employees watch how you behave to determine if you are authentic and deserving of support. You are always under observation; employees are taking their social and cultural cues from you. Are you transparent? Are you willing to share pertinent information about the organization including financial metrics and profit, operating plans, priorities, and the current focus? Are you supportive and encouraging? When you are transparent and share information employees feel secure, they feel like they are an important part of a team, and they want to be part of your vision. Your leadership has a direct and deep-seated impact on the culture of your organization.
Why it Matters
The top challenges facing organizations today are culture, engagement, and employee retention. Culture matters because it is the very fiber of the organization and determines how goals will be accomplished. The culture you create serves as the vehicle with which you get people working together towards accomplishing a shared vision. A dysfunctional culture hurts your bottom line; it results in decreased productivity and quality, increased employee absences, and higher turnover. The culture of your organization determines how employees feel about their work and themselves; when they feel good they invest 100% of themselves in their performance.
Your culture ultimately translates into your brand. What do you want your brand message to be? If you, as the leader, do not serve something greater than yourself, your employees will not follow. They may perform their tasks, but when their hearts are not in it productivity and engagement suffer. When productivity and engagement suffer, how your organization is perceived by clients, suppliers, and the community suffers. Your leadership isn’t about you; it’s about recognizing and bringing out the best in others while uniting teams under a common vision for the future. Are your employees engaged? The level of employee engagement is a good indication of the health of the culture in your organization.
Set your ego aside and take an honest assessment of your culture and the impact your behavior, as a leader, is having. Your culture will mimic the same tone, mission, and values as your leadership. You can’t fool yourself any longer; culture matters. Your culture tells everyone why your organization exists, where it is going, and how it will get there. Look around, you can see the culture in what your employees are saying about you and in the levels of positive energy or negative energy in your organization.
No one can know or do everything themselves, we all need the cooperation of others to succeed. Your leadership can transform the culture into one that is supportive and engaging or it can tear down the very fabric of cooperation and dedication. Are your employees engaged and excited to be part of your vision? What you value, how you behave, and what you communicate, as a leader, will create the culture of your organization. And, culture matters.
© 2015 Elizabeth Stincelli
Elizabeth Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the CEO of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. Elizabeth holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.
Learn more about Elizabeth by visiting her website, stincelliadvisors.com and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.