Leadership and Culture

Interplay between culture and leadershipOrganisational culture is the sum of our collective experiences and interactions. It is the experience we share as a whole, influenced and informed by the values we share and the behaviours we exhibit. Leading a healthy and vibrant organisational culture requires an understanding of this dynamic, and courage to demonstrate the espoused and ideal values of the organisation.

Yet leading an organisation in developing or living a healthy culture is not the cause of it, but is also influenced and is a by-product of a culture that exists beyond the organisation. No leadership truly exists in isolation of its context, and in the case of organisational leadership, leaders are influenced by and exist within the culture of the community the organisation serves. This could be the geographic community, the client community, and/or the political community. The prevailing culture of that community colours the leadership style that is relied upon to guide the living of an ideal organisational culture.

And it doesn’t stop there. The leadership of the broader community will influence the culture of that community. The leadership may be explicit, such as a clear appointed leader (e.g. head of a union, political party, industry association), or implied (i.e. a community led by the people within that community, such as many grassroots movements). However, the traits of those that are seen to be leading (in some form) a change in views, ideals, processes etc influence the culture of the broader community.

Beyond this there is another layer. The countries that these communities are in have a particular culture and ways of living and interacting with other. These norms shape the ways in which people expect to be lead, how they expect to interact on a daily basis with one another, as well as the values that the country leaders hold to be true.

Leaders need to be aware of this evolutionary cycle of between culture and leadership. Leaders do not lead in isolation of what has come before nor in isolation of the cultures they are deeply embedded in already. Creating great culture requires strong and values-driven leadership, which must both resonate with and bring along the people in the culture. One cannot exists without the other.

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