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Leadership and Culture: Part 1 – The Case for Culture

May 20, 2012 • LEADERSHIP, Leadership Development, STRATEGY & MANAGEMENT, Talent Management

By Sean Culey

Issues of corporate culture have long been of great concern to executives and management theorists alike for a simple reason; culture matters – enormously. In this two part article, Sean Culey will first take a close look at organisational culture and the impact it has on leadership effectiveness and business performance,  and in the second part, published in the next edition, he will describe what steps leaders can take to address any cultural issues in their organisation in order to  create a highly effective, integrated, continuous improvement focused, high performing team.


Culture: Still Dining Out on Strategy?

Every organisation has its own unique culture; defined as the set of deeply embedded, self-reinforcing behaviours, beliefs, and mindset that determine ‘the way we do things around here.’ People within an organizational culture share a tacit understanding of the way the world works, their place in it, the informal and formal dimensions of their workplace, and the value of their actions. It controls the way their people act and behave, how they talk and inter-relate, how long it takes to make decisions, how trusting they are and, most importantly, how effective they are at delivering results. Culture affects staff retention, external perception and financial performance in every type of organisation, be they public or private. In a recent article1 the new head of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe, was quoted as saying, “…the culture of an organisation can put shackles on it; if only we did some things quicker, were a bit more imaginative, cut to the quick and encouraged people to take risks.

Leaders need to wake up to the power of Culture. Often misunderstood and discounted as a soft, nice-to-have component of business, culture is neither intangible nor fluffy; it is one of the most important drivers to the creation of long-term, sustainable success.

 

How important is Culture, really?
Leaders need to wake up to the power of Culture. Often misunderstood and discounted as a soft, nice-to-have component of business, culture is neither intangible nor fluffy; it is one of the most important drivers to the creation of long-term, sustainable success. Studies have shown again and again that there may be no more critical source of business success or failure than a company’s culture – it trumps strategy and leadership every time. Peter Drucker’s famous quote “culture eats strategy for breakfast” isn’t declaring that strategy doesn’t matter, but rather that the particular strategy a company employs will only be successfully executed if supported by appropriate cultural attributes. Culture is completely within the capability of the business to control and shape, yet often is ignored, with leaders instead focusing on short-term activities like cost-cutting and inadvertently choosing to create an environment where long-term strategic success is less likely.

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