“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people”.     –Mahatma Gandhi

Your organization may be an interesting workplace with leaders that cares and inspires their workforce towards growth. Or it may be a place with uninspiring leadership without possibillities of advancement.

In the article from Harvard  Business Review; The Leaders Guide to Corporate Culture/How to manage the eight critical elements of organizational life, by Boris Groysberg, Jeremiah Lee, Jesse Price, and Yo-Jud Cheng, discussing strategies and culture; “Strategy offers a formal logic for the company’s goals and orients people around them. Culture expresses goals through values and beliefs and guides activity through shared assumptions and group norms”.

The authors identifies eight styles which applies to both organisational cultures and individuals leaders by the dimensions of personal interactions and the response to change. These eight styles include; caring, purpose, learning, enjoyment, results, authority, safety and order. I will describe each of these in depth later.

The company strategy and culture should be a top priority, especially if the company wishes to succeed, both with their people and with their goals. The article goes on to say that culture and leadership are inextricably linked, so that both founders and leaders can create company cultures that can last for decades.

Leaders can therefore shape culture through conscious and uncounscious actions. It is also mentioned that the best leaders are aware of the multiple cultures they are part of and can sense when change is necessary and will push that process.

Author’s; “Leadership goes hand-in-hand with strategy formation, and most leaders understand the fundamentals. Culture, however, is a more elusive lever, because much of it is anchored in unspoken behaviors, mindsets and social patterns”.

The culture in an organization shapes the attitudes and behaviors in many and wide-ranging ways. Here we are talking about what the company’s norms are. If the company norms are to encourage or discourage, to accept, or reject from within a group, and so on. Author’s; “When properly aligned with personal values, drives, and needs, culture can unleash tremendous amounts of energy toward a shared purpose and foster an organisation’s capacity to thrive”.

So, how do you inspire everyone to move in the right direction ?

From another article; Structure that’s not stifling, how to give your people essential direction-without shutting them down, by Ranjay Gulati, is saying; “Of course, employees desires varies. But we know from a large body of research on organisational behaviour that most people want some form of choice and voice in what they do at work, and that this can spark grater commitment and improve performance. Human-relations thinkers made this connection nearly a century ago, and since then management experts such as Peter Drucker, Jeffrey Pfeffer, Richard Hackman, and Michael Beer have advanced the argument”.

Gulati, continues by talking about freedom and trusting the employees to think and act independently. He gives us some inspiring company examples that are great guidelines in this case. One of the companies who understands employee freedom is Netflix. Author; “Its leaders assume that people do their best work when they don’t have to ask for approval at every turn. One of the company’s senior global executives told me that he personally hates to be managed and looks for the same attitude in job candidates. In a slide deck that went viral several years ago, the company described it’s culture as a blend of freedom and responsibility”.

Netflix, is a company that trust their employees, and encourages them make their own decisions about vacation time, travel expenses as well as maternity leave instead of involving HR to impose limits. The company encourages the employees to communicate openly as well as argue their point of view. Author; “But here’s the twist: This freedom isn’t merely there for the taking. Employees are expected to exercise it, as part of their responsibility to the organization. For example, it’s their job to read, understand, and debate the ideas in the foundational documents. The Netflix global executives just mentioned said that this; “requires a great deal of engagement with broad aspects of the business”. Once employees grasp the company’s needs at that level, they are trusted to have it’s best interests at heart and to behave accordingly”.

Companies that offer framework including freedom itself, is inherently fragile. You have to follow up closely. It requires maintenance, as well as motivation and inspiration to keep people going, and keep them hungry and energetic.

Both articles discusses this topic at large, however, going back to first article, we find “guidelines” as to how to achieve just this through the eight elements:

1.Caring: This is all about people’s relationships and trust. Work environments are warm and people are helping by supporting each other. Author’s; “Employees are united by loyalty, leaders emphasise sincerity, teamwork, and positive relationships”.

2.Purpose: Author’s;” Is exemplified by idealism and altruism. Work environments are tolerant, compassionate places where people try to do good for the long term future of the world”. Here, the employees are focused on sustainability, while the leaders emphasize shared ideals through contributing to a greater cause.

3.Learning: Creativity and innovation is in focus. People are open-minded and seeks new ideas as well as exploring alternative ways of doing things. Author’s; “Employees are united by curiosity; leaders emphasise innovation, knowledge, and adventure”.

4.Enjoyment: The focus on fun and excitement. Everyone tends to do what makes them happy, and the workplace should not be an exception. Leaders should promote this culture by example, through spontaneity and humor.

5.Results: Achievements and winning are in focus, and the leaders emphasise  goal accomplishments.

6.Authority: People are competitive. Author’s; “Authority is defined by strength, decisiveness, and boldness”. People try to gain personal advantages. Author’s; Employees are united by strong control; leaders emphasise confidence and dominance”.

7.Safety: This is defined by planning, caution and preparedness. Author’s; “Employees are united by a desire to feel protected and anticipate change; leaders emphasise being realistic and planning ahead”.

8.Order: The focus is now on respect, structure and shared norms. Author’s; “Employees are united by cooperation; leaders emphasize shared procedures and time-honored customs. An organizational culture can be defined by the absolute and relative strengths of each of the eight and by the degree of employee agreement about which styles characterize the organization”.

Even if we live in a profit-driven world, the focus is now shifting towards the work environment at which this can be achieved. By following some of the guidelines in the above mentioned articles, a company can achieve both economical success, as well as happy, efficient employees. An important factor in achieving this, is through the leaders’ ability to shape the work culture in a way that benefits both the company and the employees.

The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.     Henry Kissinger

Hope you enjoyed my article.

Inger Lise E. Greger, MSc. Change Management 



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