Culture Bites 016 - How Culture Works Pt5 - Leadership

Published on 07 Aug 2018
How Culture Works PT 5

We talk about how Leaders impact culture through how they communicate and interact with people. This episode is hosted by David Byrum and Dominic Gourley.

This is part 5 of a 5 part series on How Culture Works. Make sure you check out the whole series to get the total picture on how all the factors work together to shape culture: Pt1: OverviewPt2: Mission, Philosophy, Structures, Pt3: HR Systems, Pt4: Job Design

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Microphone Key Takeaways and Ideas

Leadership and Culture Are Two Sides of the Same Coin:

Leaders have a direct impact on culture through the way they act, how others see them behave, and the direct decisions they make. Leaders also have an indirect impact on culture through the decisions they make around all the causal factors we have outlined during this How Culture Works podcast series: Living the mission/philosophy, setting the decision-making structures, shaping the HR systems about who gets hired-trained-rewarded, and how jobs are designed.

The culture influences the leader and the leader influences the culture. They are the heads and tails of the same coin - they are so intertwined that the metal is combined in a coin and you can't separate the two. We covered the decisions leaders make in the previous episodes of this series. In this episode we explore leader’s direct impact through the way they act and behave.

How Leaders Communicate:

Downward Communication

Do leaders send out messages in a timely fashion and are the messages complete and upfront – or are people getting messages through the grapevine because messages from leaders are late or incomplete?

A lack of good communication downwards is going to create a void inside organisations. People will start thinking it’s because something bad is going to happen and fill that void with messages which reinforce a defensive culture. Leaders need to minimise that void as much as possible. Leaders need to be clear, timely, credible, consistent, and with the right level of detail in their communication downwards.

Upward Communication

What messages do leaders receive back from the organisation and are they forthright, provided voluntarily, honest and complete – or are they guarded, only ‘good news’, or only why things won’t work rather than how to make it work?

In constructive organisations, leaders encourage people to share information ‘warts and all’. In a defensive organisation that kind of openness could be punished so people are more likely to cover it up. Leaders can encourage constructive upward communication but being open, listening and accepting what people say, understanding it and then acting upon it.

Communication for Learning

Do leaders reflect big picture thinking, inter-dependencies, learning from mistakes, and promote discussion about it? That sends messages about working together, learning and growing, and taking ownership of issues. Or are leaders focused on the details and specifics? This instead could be driving conventionality in followers by telling, or if leaders are focused at a team/department level they are going to promote silo thinking in the organisation.

How Leaders Lead

Interaction Facilitation (People Orientated)

How much emphasis and support to leaders give to working together as a team and being supportive of co-workers? Does the leader bring the team together to solve problems, learn from each other, and collaborate – or does the leader work with everyone in isolation instead? If we the team aren’t in it together, leaders can be promoting competition and power plays between their direct reports.

Task Facilitation (Task Orientated)

Do leaders help their team members to solve problems and implement solutions? If leaders a guiding with ideas and questions to solve problems or improve your work – they’re developing their people (Humanistic-encouraging) to deliver better performance (Achievement). If leaders are ‘telling’ instead of guiding, they are sending the message that others should be Dependent on them and do as they are told.

Goal Emphasis (Task Orientated)

People look to leaders to role model behaviours. Goal Emphasis is about whether leaders role model norm and expectations for excellence or not. Do leaders set a good example when it comes to setting and achieving goals – or is it a poor example? When leaders walk the floor, do they know what’s going on

Consideration (People Orientated)

Are leaders personally supportive and consider of their direct reports? Are they approachable, do they take time with people and pay attention to what people have to say – and do they follow up with action? This is sending a message to people about whether they (and their ideas) are valued or not.  

Bases of Power

Personal Bases of Power (Positive)

Do people follow their leaders because they have respect for that leader? This respect could come from the leader’s competence, they could be an expert, or it could be the relationship created by the leader being open to influence from others. Ultimately – do people value that leader and the leaders opinions? The more people respect their leaders, the more it will build a Constructive culture.

Organisational Bases of Power (Neutral to Negative)

Do people only follow their leaders because the leaders have control over extrinsic outcomes such as rewards, or because of their position in the hierarchy, or because they punish those who fail to comply? The more leaders rely on these types of Organisational Bases of Power the more defensive the culture will become.

Learn More:

Organizational culture is influenced by a variety of factors, not least the behavior of the organization's leaders. To help organizations effectively measure their culture, Human Synergistics International CEO and distinguished academic Robert A. Cooke, Ph.D. developed the How Culture Works model in 1997. This identifies a total of 31 causal factors (organized into five categories) that are responsible for shaping culture and helping an organization move from its Current Culture to its preferred or Ideal Culture.

Next Episode: We talk to Rebecca Kardos – Managing Director of Aurora Energy, and speakers at this year’s Australian Culture and Leadership Conference. Rebecca talks about why changing culture isn’t easy. This is a very real episode which a lot of you will be able to relate to. If you haven’t registered for conference yet, make sure you do!

All Episodes in this Series:
012 – How Culture Works Pt1 – Overview
013 – How Culture Works Pt2 – Mission, Philosophy, Structures
014 – How Culture Works Pt3 – HR Systems
015 – How Culture Works Pt4 – Job Design
016 – How Culture Works Pt5 – Leadership

The “How Culture Works” model and other materials presented in this podcast are from the Organizational Culture Inventory®/Organizational Effectiveness Inventory™ Feedback Report by Robert A. Cooke, Janet L. Szumal, and Jessica D. Cooke, Copyright © 2003 and 2016 by Human Synergistics International. All Rights Reserved.

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Culture Bites Podcast is Copyrighted © by Human Synergistics Australia 2018. All Rights Reserved.