Leaders and organizational culture go hand in hand and each directly affects the other. Organizational culture cannot be built without the leader; he usually controls the tools, resources, people and processes needed to build culture and is like the compass for the direction and dimension the culture development will take.
Organizational culture, in turn, shape the personality of the leader and tweaks it to fit in with the brand and overall image of the organization. The prevalent culture will greatly influence how the leader acts and interacts internally and externally (when representing the organization). While acting in the capacity of the organization, the leader cannot afford to let his personality conflict with the image of the organization and he cannot engage in actions that deviate from the overall mission and vision.
Leaders are the main drivers of change in every organization and if there will be a need to develop, nurture or change organizational culture, leaders will have to be the ones to lead the process. The followers can only function effectively if the leader does the job of creating the process blueprint.
The Leadership Roles
These roles may seem pretty obvious and may not count as points that need to be discussed but they are important in facilitating and fostering the development of organizational culture and more importantly, they provide the pointers that the leaders need to know to lead effectively (remember that it is one thing to lead… leading ‘effectively’ is a different ball game). The leader is expected to lead down, across and up (where applicable). In his role as leader he is expected to;
Walk the Talk (Active Participation) – it is not enough to discuss the idea and paint the big picture, the leader must also be readily present and actively involved. As a leader, if you need your followers to get the idea right, show them what needs to be done and how it needs to be done.
Motivate and Inspire – motivation does not necessarily have to come in form of powerful talk and long speeches only, you can pass a strong message by connecting to the issues that affect them (within and outside the work environment). Usually, these issues shape their actions and their reactions and will ultimately determine their level of productivity and attention to what needs to be done. Praise the strengths of your team, acknowledge their weak areas and help them get better by creating an environment that is tolerant and not overly critical of mistakes.
Build a team that fits in – a leader has to make sure that his team is aligned with what the organization represents. He may provide necessary training and retraining where needed or make the hard but necessary decision of replacing team members that are unwilling or unable to fit into the developing cultural landscape.
Encourage open communication – it is the leader’s duty to see to it that followers are clear on what needs to be done. They should be able to ask questions when they get confused, make clarifications when provided information seem insufficient, show their reservations when the new idea does not seem to be beneficial or relevant – all these should be done in an atmosphere that promotes fairness and openness and is free from bias.
Create an open feedback structure – know what your followers think about the new development. ask for their opinions (What can be added? What can be removed? What can be changed? What can be strengthened? How does the culture affect followers’ level of participation and productivity? When is the best time for implementation? How best can one track and measure results of the changing culture as it affects other relevant structures). You will be amazed at how the various insight and information provided can offer distinctly important perspectives to the whole process
The Management Roles
A leader is expected to be an effective manager if he wants to ensure that the culture development blueprint is strictly followed and that the set deadlines and growth milestones are met. While the manager is seen as someone who is less empathetic, less relatable and less accessible than the standard transformational leader, his ability to get things done and his skills as a planner, organizer and executor cannot be overlooked – all of these are critical to the development of organizational culture.
How Can the Leader Be an Effective Manager?
Create the Masterplan – the leader, as a manager, should be in charge of the culture planning process. He should create the roadmap for where the organization is headed (what are the mission, vision, goals and objectives to be fulfilled?), who should be responsible for what in the process and, the resources that need to be deployed to achieve set objectives (financial, human, economic and social capital).
Assemble all Needed Resources – at this stage, the leader collates and aggregates all required resources for the culture building process. He has to ensure that resources are made available in their required quantity. The leader is expected to create teams, appoint team leaders, delegate tasks and responsibilities, delegate authority where needed, coordinate resources, build and/or strengthen work relationships (horizontally and vertically) critical to the success of the process, group activities/tasks and break them into actionable plans.
Manage and Oversee the Process – beyond the provision of resources, the leader has to manage and oversee the actual culture development phase to ensure that the idea transits well from paper to reality. Micromanaging the process is the most effective way to ensure that followers do not deviate from the actual idea.
Reward Positive Behaviors/Correct Negative Behaviors – Followers may not easily conform to the new culture and this may slow down or totally halt the development process. To ensure conformity, the leader can reward followers who readily embrace and implement the new way of doing things and set appropriate corrective measures or outright punishments for those who refuse to follow the rules. When followers know that there are rewards and punishments for compliance and refusal respectively, they will know that the leader means business and will align with the new development in no time.