Culture isn’t some vague or environmental mystery.

When leaders set about executing their organization’s business strategies, their first consideration should be the self-reinforcing web of beliefs, practices, patterns, and behaviors that bind everything and everyone together. In short, they should examine their culture.

Leadership culture is the way things are done; it’s the way people interact, make decisions, and influence others. Leaders’ own conscious and unconscious beliefs drive decisions and behaviors, and repeated behaviors become leadership practices. Because these practices eventually become the patterns of leadership culture, leaders must understand their responsibility in creating or changing it.

There are 3 types of organizational leadership culture.

  1. Dependent leadership cultures operate with the belief that people in authority are responsible for leadership.
  2. Independent leadership cultures operate with the belief that leadership emerges out of individual expertise and heroic action.
  3. Interdependent leadership cultures operate with the belief that leadership is a collective activity to the benefit of the organization as a whole.

How do you know what kind of leadership culture you have, or if you have the culture required for the mission of the organization?

Decoding Your Leadership Culture

One way to decode your leadership culture is to assess how leaders go about creating a shared direction, aligning work processes, and maintaining commitment. This can vary greatly depending on the predominant leadership culture.

How does your organization decide on a shared direction? By the chart, you can see that the approach to setting direction could be rooted in compliance (dependent culture), influence (independent culture), or shared exploration (interdependent culture).

Alignment refers to how you coordinate your work so that it fits together.

Similar to direction, the cultural approach to creating alignment varies depending upon your culture type. In dependent cultures, alignment results from fitting into the expectations of the larger system. In independent cultures, it results from negotiation. And in interdependent cultures, it results from ongoing mutual adjustment.

Commitment speaks to mutual responsibility for the group, when people prioritize the success of the collective over their individual success.

In dependent cultures, that commitment results from loyalty to the source of authority of the community itself. In independent cultures, it results from evaluating the benefits for self while benefiting the larger community. In interdependent cultures, commitment results from engaging in a developing community.

Are Your Leadership Strategy and Culture In Sync?

Once you have clarity around your current leadership culture, it’s time to ask:

To what extent is the culture having a positive or negative impact on performance? Is our leadership culture helping us to achieve the business strategies we’ve set?

If the business strategy and the leadership culture are at odds, leaders need to get serious about changing themselves — so they can change the culture; create direction, ensure alignment and cement commitment.

The data has always proven that a leadership culture either makes or breaks anyone, anything or any organization when it comes to performance and, over time, sustainability.

It’s still mystifying that so little attention is given culture, especially when crisis looms. COVID-19 anyone?

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