In today’s business climate, it’s no longer ‘business as usual’ for companies. Their approach to managing and leading people has to change in order to face the challenges of the present, while being open to new ideas in order to keep up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
By developing the right leadership culture, organisations can improve results, achieve their goals and overcome difficulties that can otherwise hinder success.
What is leadership culture?
A leadership culture is a system of (not necessarily spoken) norms, attitudes and behaviours that guides managers and leaders. It creates a work climate that has an impact on the productivity, innovation and performance of the whole organisation.
Types of leadership cultures
Management style affects an organisation’s work climate. Some leadership cultures correlate positively with effort and productivity, while others negatively.
According to Leadership That Gets Results, an article published by Richard Goleman in the Harvard Business Review, the six common leadership cultures are:
Positive impact on work climate (descending order):
- Authoritative: Mobilises people towards a vision
- Affiliative: Creates harmony and builds emotional bonds
- Democratic: Forges consensus through participation
- Coaching: Develops people for the future
Negative impact on work climate (descending order):
- Coercive: Demands immediate compliance
- Pacesetting: Sets high standards for performance (“Do as I do, now”)
What all the positive leadership cultures have in common is that they enable people to feel more connected to their organisation and that their actions, opinions and ideas matter, which encourages them to contribute to the organisation based on that connection.
Negative leadership cultures do not create a connection between people and their job or their workplace, but instead makes them feel like any attempt at making an extra effort would be shot down. In a negative leadership culture, orders are given from above, while flexibility, innovation and morale suffer.
What makes a leadership culture important to organisations?
An organisation needs to operate at a level of agility that suits the complexity and the pace of change in its business environment. Leadership culture plays a key role in determining whether the organisation is agile enough to attain and retain success.
An edict-style leadership style will only get compliance in return, as employees will not go above and beyond the minimum required of them.
However, an engaging leadership style receives commitment in return. Employees are much more inclined to support an organisation in which they feel they play a part and are valued, which encourages effort over and above their role and responsibilities.
A positive leadership culture also has an impact on innovation, enabling the sharing and development of ideas, which can lead directly to improvements in customer experience, and the business environment.
Research indicates that there are hard outcomes that can be achieved through an effective leadership culture: If a leader can engender 10% more commitment from employees, it would result in a 2% increase in productivity. A leadership culture also helps to improve retention and reducing staff turnover.
How can you help create a leadership culture in your organisation?
The top five most impactful things leaders can do to build an engaged workforce are based on reciprocity:
- Being open to new ideas
- Caring deeply about employees
- Making employee development a priority
- Committing to creating new jobs
- Making efforts to avoid redundancies
A leadership culture starts at the top, so the senior management have to walk the talk and practice what they preach by being a good role model. By having an “open door” approach, senior managers can inspire effort amongst employees, offering their commitment and attention and in return receiving the same commitment and attention from the workforce.
Here is a good example that illustrates how senior managers can have a positive influence on the organisation as a whole through conscious leadership efforts.
A Production Director in a manufacturing organisation, makes it a habit to walk around the work space first thing in the morning and personally speak with every team leader.
The Production Director hears from team leaders about any problems they may have, if they were resolved or whether they needed any help or support to resolve them.
You don’t have to make grandiose plans to create a leadership culture. Sometimes simple approaches can have a big effect – not only on the people being directly affected, but on people who work with and under them.
If your goal is to help develop a leadership culture in your organisation, first identify what your current organisational culture is and what you aspire to create:
- What are you lacking at this moment in time?
- What type of culture do you want to have?
- What do you need in order to survive and succeed in the current business climate?
To understand the answers to these questions, communicate regularly with people in your organisation to find out what their personal experience is and what they feel about the organisation. Ask them (as well as yourself) how can innovation, versatility, effort and commitment be encouraged.
Solutions can include, for example: leadership training for managers, job rotation, mentoring, looking at what other businesses do and adopting certain working practices and any other action that fits your organisation.
Start developing a leadership culture in your organisation with the help of EEF’s training experts, who can create a tailored plan for you. Contact us now for details.