Leadership and Organisational Culture

Many organisations develop a clear style of leadership that both flows from and partly defines its culture, values and behaviours.

Some organisations have open and inclusive cultures where participative leadership styles are common at all levels of the operation. Apple for example has a culture of open information sharing and creativity. Its values as an organisation encourage everyone to collaborate and co-operate. Its Leadership from top to bottom have a supportive approach, providing employees with the tools and information to do a great job.

Other organisations develop more rigid and controlled cultures. Processes and procedures are clearly defined, and more authoritarian leadership behaviours are common place.  Bureaucratic organisations like the civil service tend to evolve such cultures, a systematic approach to work becoming a systematic approach to leading people.

The culture in some contemporary organisations is so laid back and informal that it is difficult to identify any traditional definitions of leadership at all. Google is a globally successful organisation; its employees know what its goals are and are trusted to bring about the organisational vision in the way they best see fit. As a result, some of Google’s most innovative ideas were as much of a revelation to its management as they were to the public (in some cases they were hearing about them at the same time as the public)

The question remains, does the culture of the organisation shape the style of leadership or does the way people are led create the organisational culture?

It seems that both are to an extent true. Leaders are responsible for the Vision and Values of the organisation which then lead to the development of rules and behaviours that set out the way the organisation operates. The rules and behaviours create a culture that defines the organisation and that in turn influences the style of leadership that is adopted.

Once a style of leadership becomes a facet of the organisations culture it becomes difficult for leaders at any level to adopt a different approach, the processes and practices of the organisation reflect and reinforce the status quo.

Changing the leadership culture of an organisation requires the commitment and cooperation of all levels of leadership, with radical change to the processes within the organisation required.

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