What’s in a Leadership Culture?

culture lead 1We have spent a great deal of time discussing important matters of personal leadership behavior, how to demonstrate it, who benefits, and why.  This gives rise to wondering how many leaders committed to their art are practicing it in an atmosphere akin to the wilderness? Seriously, if you are alone on your team in having an interest in this genre, if at least to be personally more effective at your job, that is a tough battle each day.

Pull back the lens from ourselves for a moment and consider “leadership development” as an element, if not the foundation of your organization’s strategy.  As much as marketing, customer service, information technology and the like are key components to success, so is an organization’s commitment to developing a leadership culture.

Ken Blanchard’s company believes that an organization needs leaders disbursed throughout all of its levels to ensure  that its strategies are consistently carried out. Leadership development  programs can train or inform every level of your team, which increases the chances that your philosophy will be cemented throughout the organization. The most important goal of a leadership development program is to build a culture based on the positive effect of good leadership throughout everything your team does.  A lack of a good leadership culture in an organization  usually means that poor communication, blame, evaded responsibilities, confusion, a lack of respect, and apathy for change will combine to make it unlikely the team will succeed at anything it tries.culture lead 4

culture lead 2Hopefully, you read through that paragraph and said, “I am in!” Where then to start turning your team, or organization’s culture into one that is leadership-based ?  Fortunately, it’s not a budget item (at least at first).  Look at your team and consider to what degree these are present:

  • Ensuring that everyone on the team treats each other, stakeholders, and customers alike with respect is the first element of leadership behavior.  When it is practiced by the ENTIRE team, the effect is powerful.
  • Every team or group within your organization operates at a high level because communication is open, and ideas are respected.
  • Recognizing and rewarding behavior you are looking for. We value what we recognize so put some thought into the ways you acknowledge your top performers.
  • Passion is encouraged and contagious. You find ways to position your passionate people to succeed.
  • Leadership, including relevant descriptions and potential to affect desired outcomes, is a constant ongoing discussion.
  • The ability to self-develop by those who want to is supported and encouraged to the highest level.
  • Coaching, teaching, and mentoring are key components and expectations.
  • Everyone knows the mission, the vision, and how they contribute.
  • It is impossible for someone to get from the front door to their desk everyday without passing something that speaks to what you are trying to accomplish

culture lead 3So, having conducted your analysis, let’s assume the results were positive.  What can you do tomorrow, from your position, to contribute to ensuring that a culture of “leadership” is the best descriptor of your team? Start with making sure that at every opportunity, you paint a picture of the future, and how critical the team is to getting there. This brings clarity to everything the organization does, and directly undermines the confusion and rumor mill that is spawned when the team doesn’t understand what is happening. The next action you take is to talk as often as you can about how leadership behaviors and actions are the key ingredient to the desired shared outcomes. If you aren’t saying it, then you are hoping someone else is.  Hope is not a plan.  Speaking of taking opportunities, connect the dots whenever you can. Whenever you can explain how different functions and programs tie together, do it.  Don’t assume everything you are doing makes sense to everyone. Hold your leaders accountable for their development. Yes, you are critical to their success.  However, they must take the initiative to accept that they need to be in learning mode all the time.  Support it. Lastly, be honest. That may be a simple statement but here’s the context. Leaders have successes and failures every day.  We learn from each.  Don’t let yours go to waste. Getting to a point where your failures and “not-proud” moments can be used to teach others is a critical step.  I am not talking about some kind of full disclosure, mea culpa but an event which you have critically analyzed after the fact, saw your error or roads better taken, and walked away smarter.  When the boss does that, it tells everyone, especially your leaders, that it is OK to admit, and learn, from failure.culture lead 5