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5 ways leaders influence organisational culture

Leaders play an important role in influencing the organisational culture of a business. A weak and negative work culture is often a reflection of poor leadership. The leader creates direction that the culture should take, and acts in such a way that these actions are adopted to mould the culture in a certain way. As much as every person in the organisation plays a part in creating a positive culture, the leader’s role is key.

So how do leaders influence organisational culture?

Setting pace                                                                    

According to psychologist Albert Bandura, people learn from observation, modelling or imitation. In relation to leadership and organisational culture, the way that a leader behaves impacts employees in various ways. Employees are likely to borrow certain behaviours from their leader and enact the same in their daily activities at work. If a leader expects some form of behaviour in employees, he/she should be first to demonstrate this behaviour, set the pace and employees will model that behaviour.

Effective communication

Poor or no effective communication channels can create a negative work culture. Informal communication, otherwise known as grapevine, arises and increases as a result of poor formal communication. Lack of communication from leaders makes employees speculate about issues at work that can bring about insecurities, self-centredness and uncertainties. Leaders can prevent such a work environment by ensuring that they communicate important information in a timely and effective manner.

Setting cultural expectations

It is up to leaders to set standards of culture that should be adopted in a workplace. This can be in form of codes of conduct, guiding principles or policies which inform employees of what is expected of them. For example, Google Inc. sets cultural expectations by establishing a policy to allow employees creative time in a week so that they can concentrate on developing their creative ideas. Further, they communicate these policies in a way that employees acknowledge their benefit to their organisation and themselves and therefore act as per the policies and principles.

Leaders should ‘walk the talk’

Employees in an organisation mostly look to leaders to give them direction on what to do. In many organisations, employees behave the same way that their leaders do. Therefore, if leaders show them respect, employees tend to do the same to each other and to their customers. If a leader preaches a culture that is innovative and hardworking, the leader should demonstrate the same. For example, Elon Musk the CEO of Tesla is one leader who influences innovation culture in the organisation. Being an innovator, he sets an example for his engineers on being innovative and is said to put in as many hours as his engineers when working on an invention. He not only tells them what is expected, but is in the thinking pool with them to get things done. People learn from observation and modelling and by ‘walking the talk’ leaders show employees how to behave.

Empowering employees

As much as leaders stand at the forefront of the organisation, and set the pace that a workplace culture should take, leaders cannot be completely responsible in ensuring the right culture is carried out throughout the organisation. Delegating some roles in regard to culture creation ensures that other employees have a role to play in creating a positive work culture. However, delegation only works effectively when employees are empowered to make certain decisions, share their ideas and opinions, and execute viable ideas. Leaders who want to ensure positive work cultures should therefore empower employees such that they all work in the same direction.

Conclusively, leaders have the ability to influence which direction the organisational culture takes.

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