Being in a leadership position comes with a lot of power and responsibility. Since you’re so high up in the organization, you have many employees watching you to see how you act, respond, plan, and ideate. In many ways, you’re like a role model within the company. Regardless of how high you sit in the organization, you’re also likely working amongst a team of leaders who are all acting as a group of role models. Employees also have an eye on how you interact with your group of peers and leverage that to decide how to engage within their own roles. Here, we’re going to dive into how you as a leader can leverage your situation to influence the wider organizational culture.
- What is leadership culture?
- The importance of leadership culture
- Types of organizational leadership cultures
- 7 ways leaders can influence organizational culture
What is leadership culture?
Leadership culture is the way that managers and decision makers throughout an organization operate and demonstrate the company’s internal values. Included in leadership culture are behaviors like how the executive team communicates with the rest of the organization, how they measure and reward goals, and how they value growth and development, among many other things. Because of how much impact the senior level of a company has on the rest of the business, leadership culture directly influences organizational culture. Things like how employees respond to conflict, how willing they are to experiment, and how motivated they are to succeed are all direct results of how their superiors engage in the workplace.
The importance of leadership culture
Managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores. Since employees work so closely with their direct supervisors, they are greatly influenced by the communication styles, motivation efforts, and overall support that they receive from their leaders. For example, employees will look at things like how reliable a manager is before deciding if they, too, should be reliable. When employees feel a disconnect between how their leaders behave and their ideal workplace environment, they’re likely to disengage and become quiet quitters who will soon leave the organization. This increases your hiring and training costs and lowers overall productivity.
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Types of organizational leadership cultures
A dependent leadership culture assumes that only the upper level of management is directly responsible for determining how the leadership team behaves. In this situation, the executive board or leader with the highest authority is in charge of determining management processes. Everyone else needs to comply within the framework set by that person in power as a demonstration of loyalty to them. There is very limited room for compromise or feedback. Over time, this type of leadership culture can be difficult to work in and may not offer as much room to grow.
An independent leadership culture focuses on the individual expertise and successes of each member of the leadership team. Discussions, negotiations, compromise, and sharing of individual knowledge are common in this style, especially when trying to gain alignment on leadership best practices. This culture is very collaborative within the group of leaders, but does not collect feedback or ideas from the wider organization. However, it’s still a decent option for companies that are navigating a difficult situation and have a lot of situation-specific expertise at the leadership level.
An interdependent leadership culture leverages the wider organization and treats the leadership effort as a collective area to work on. A lot of emphasis is placed on embracing wider perspectives, so teams are frequently collecting feedback and new ideas. The leadership culture is therefore continuously adjusted as new information and ideas are presented to the group. Many employees will feel that this is the most transparent type of leadership culture and it’s the one for which managers should strive!
7 ways leaders can influence organizational culture
- Foster an effective meeting culture
- Give and receive effective feedback
- Use mistakes as learning opportunities
- Foster alignment
- Enable open communication
- Give recognition
- Empower employees
1Foster an effective meeting culture
Meetings are an important place for communication and collaboration, making them a great place to start demonstrating the behavior you’d like to see in your team. Preparing in advance by setting a meeting agenda and establishing the meeting’s purpose will help to show your employees that you have respect for their time and attendance. In the meeting, you can encourage participants to speak up and share ideas, which builds engagement in the culture. Finally, display a value for accountability by assigning action items that give team members purpose and specific responsibilities.
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2Give and receive effective feedback
Giving and receiving effective feedback is crucial for helping teams understand their areas of weakness and strive to strengthen themselves. Feedback is also part of building a growth mindset into your team’s attitude! As a manager, sometimes it can be difficult to know when or how to deliver feedback that is truly constructive. An easy way to integrate feedback cycles into your meeting is to leverage a software tool like Fellow which offers Feedback features that allows you to give real-time comments on your employee’s work. Being honest, intentional, and supportive when delivering feedback is necessary as it allows your employees to know how and why they need to improve.
3Use mistakes as learning opportunities
Mistakes are bound to happen—even to veteran employees who have worked in the industry for a long time. As a leader, you’ll likely make mistakes as you learn, too. Being understanding that the learning process has a lot of trials and errors is important; it will give you a sense of empathy about the challenges that others are going through and will motivate you to continue striving for success. Make sure you communicate the importance of empathy while learning to your team so they see this value, too.
Alignment across the entire organization is necessary to ensure that you can collectively meet the company’s objectives and key results (OKRs). It’s also necessary for one-on-one meetings with your employees as it will allow you to understand where they want to progress with their careers in the company. An easy way to foster alignment is to leverage collaborative meeting agendas that allow all attendees to contribute talking points. When others can post their ideas, it makes them feel purposeful, engaged, and more aligned with the conversation at hand. It’s also a useful time to step back and see what your team members’ perspectives are to help you broaden your own.
5Enable open communication
Open communication practices are vital for your team to feel comfortable navigating conflict, giving feedback, and sharing ideas. Some employees can struggle with speaking up, so a great way to help them is to add communication technology that gives them easy access to notes and speaking tools. For example, Fellow has a Google Chrome extension that keeps your meeting agenda and notes directly integrated into the video conferencing session. Any attendee with a question or topic can easily know when to speak and what to say!
Providing recognition for a job well done helps motivate your employees. It also gives them a sense of purpose and helps them build better trust with you as their leader. Depending on the type of achievement and the employee’s preferences, you might opt to give recognition publicly, like in a Slack channel or team meeting, or you can share it with them in a one-on-one setting. As a leader, providing this type of positive reinforcement shows your team what great alignment, clear communication, and realistic goal setting can achieve!
As a leader, one of your top goals is to empower your employees to grow as professionals. You can do this by setting career plans with them and finding new opportunities for them to test different skills. By offering training, giving constructive feedback, and rewarding them for meeting their goals, you can encourage employees to continue their growth and development at your company.
Additional benefits to empowering your employees include better alignment with their teams and improved team morale. These improvements mean you’ll have less turnover and higher productivity, too!
Leadership culture drives the way you communicate, represent yourself, handle crises, and much more. When you recognize that your employees are viewing you as a role model for how they should behave in the workplace, it’s easy to see how even small changes can make a big impact.
There’s no need to go through your learning journey alone! Try asking other colleagues on your leadership team for tips on what has worked well for them or challenges that were the most difficult to navigate. Going through the process of developing your leadership culture in an interdependent setting is truly important for getting it to a place that will help your organization grow with speed and stability!