Leadership is the act and art of influencing and impacting others.
This means everyone is a leader.
As the picture below shows, the impact you have starts from within. Powerful impact starts with self-leadership; how you think about yourself and how you see yourself becomes what you send out. And that in turn affects what others see and experience – from your team through the organisation and externally too. That’s the ripple effect you have.
You’re a culture shaper. Just like everyone else, you shape the culture of your workplace by what you do, but also by how you are, how you behave. As culture can be described as “how things get done around here”, it includes the daily interactions between people; how we act, react and respond to one another.
Leaders at all levels have a responsibility when it comes to the organisation’s culture, but the buck stops with the CEO and the senior leadership team. Everyone’s behaviours shape the culture, but the behaviours that are displayed by and accepted or even rewarded by leaders are the biggest culture shapers. They impact the culture the most.
The ‘Bad’ culture shaper
Imagine a CEO who speaks about the value of transparency and openness, but who goes behind his/her executives backs, sharing certain things only with his ‘trusted few’. The executives that experience this become cautious, thinking it’s not about transparency at all –
I’d better tread carefully around here from now on. These executives in turn become less transparent with their teams, who become disenchanted by the false behaviours (=not in line with the values) of their leaders. That is how leaders shape culture.
The ‘Good’ culture shaper
Imagine a company that says it values and respects people’s work/life balance. The leaders then reward and praise people who work smarter and within work hours, and who work together in teams to achieve. They are rewarding what they value not what they don’t value (they are not rewarding people who work long hours and sacrifice their personal lives. That is how leaders shape culture.
Culture should be on every board’s, executive team’s and leader’s agenda. Leaders at all levels set the tone for ‘how things get done’. Culture starts at the top but can’t just be dictated from the top. It needs to resonate with people at all levels, as something they would ‘stand for’ themselves.
So leaders who want to maximise the power that is culture, must look to themselves first: How am I behaving? What messages am I sending through my behaviours? What behaviours am I creating in others? And then start changing and adapting their behaviours, creating new habits if needed to create the kind of workplace culture you want to have.
This topic is what we talked about at last week’s WeAreFutureLeaders conference in London – a great event, which we were very happy to be part of!
Next week we’ll continue to explore the concept of how leadership = impact = culture.
Until then, have a great week – and great impact!