Corporate Culture: The Guide for Thought Leaders
Updated: Nov 16
In their ongoing mission, culture and strategy are among the primary tools at top leaders’ disposal to maintain organizational practicality and effectiveness.
Strategies use a formal logic for the business’s objectives and align individuals around them. Culture reveals objectives through beliefs to guide activity through shared presumptions and group standards.
In addition, a strategy offers clarity and focus for cumulative action and decision-making processes. It depends on plans and sets of options to mobilize individuals and includes concrete benefits for accomplishing goals and repercussions for not hitting them. Preferably, it also integrates adaptive aspects that can examine the external environment and sense when modifications are needed to preserve connection and growth.
Leadership goes hand-in-hand with strategy — most leaders understand the basics. Culture, however, is a more mysterious concept because much of it is anchored in unspoken habits, mindsets, and social patterns.
The Link Between Corporate Culture & Management
For better or worse, culture and leadership are connected. Founders and influential leaders frequently set brand-new cultures in motion, imprinting values and assumptions that persist for years. Over time an organization’s leaders can likewise form culture through both unconscious and mindful actions. The best leaders we have observed are thoroughly familiar with the numerous cultures within which they are embedded, can notice when modification is required, and can deftly influence the procedure.
Unfortunately, in our experience, it is even more typical for leaders seeking to construct high-performing organizations to be puzzled by culture. Indeed, numerous either let it go unmanaged or relegate it to the HR function, where it ends up being a secondary issue for business. They may set out comprehensive, thoughtful plans for method and execution; however, since they don’t understand culture’s power and characteristics, their strategies go off the rails. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. It doesn’t need to be that way. The first and most crucial step leaders can take to maximize its value and decrease its dangers is to be aware of how it works.
Culture Defined: A Thorough Definition
Culture is the indirect social order of a company: It shapes attitudes and behaviors in long-lasting and wide-ranging methods. Cultural standards define a group’s motivation, prevention, acceptance, or failure.
When appropriately aligned with individual values, drives, and requirements, culture can release remarkable energy towards a shared purpose and foster a company’s capacity to flourish. Culture can also evolve autonomously and flexibly in reaction to altering opportunities and demands. Whereas the C-suite typically determines technique, culture can fluidly blend leaders‘ intentions with the frontline staff members’ understanding and experiences.
Culture Is …
Culture is a group phenomenon. It can not exist solely within an individual, nor is it merely the average of characteristics. It lives in shared habits, worths, and presumptions and is most typically experienced through the standards and expectations of a group — the unwritten rules.
Culture permeates several levels and applies very broadly in a company; in some cases, it is even conflated within the company itself. It manifests in cumulative habits, physical environments, group routines, visual signs, stories, and legends. Other elements of culture are hidden, such as mindsets, motivations, and unmentioned presumptions.
Culture can direct the ideas and actions of group members over the long term, developing through important occasions in the collective life and knowledge of a group. Its endurance is described in part by the attraction-selection-attrition model first presented by Benjamin Schneider: Individuals are drawn to companies with attributes comparable to their own; organizations are more likely to choose individuals who fit in; and over time, those who do not tend to leave. Therefore, culture becomes a self-reinforcing social pattern that grows increasingly resistant to change and outside impacts.
A crucial and often ignored element of culture is that despite its subliminal nature, people are efficiently hardwired to respond to and recognize it naturally. It functions as a type of silent language. Since the capability to sense and respond to culture is universal, we should expect specific styles to recur throughout the field’s many models, definitions, and studies.
The Distinct Styles of Corporate Culture
Individuals interact and respond to change regardless of company type, size, market, or location. Therefore, understanding a business’s cultural needs requires determining where it falls along with these two measurements.
A company’s orientation toward individual interactions and coordination will fall from highly independent to extremely interdependent. Cultures that lean toward the previous place greater value on autonomy, private action, and competition. Those leaning toward the latter put emphasis on integration, managing relationships, and coordinating group effort. They tend to collaborate and see success through the lens of the group.
Response to change
Whereas some cultures emphasize stability, consistency, predictability, and maintenance of the status quo, others emphasize flexibility and receptiveness. Those that prefer stability tend to follow the rules, utilize control structures such as seniority-based staffing, enhance hierarchy, and pursue efficiency.
Those that prefer flexibility tend to focus on development, openness, variety, and a longer-term orientation. Using this basic insight about the measurements of individual interactions and response to change, we have determined eight styles that apply to individual leaders and organizational cultures.
8 Styles That Apply to Individual Leaders & Organizational Cultures
Caring focuses on relationships and trust. Workplaces are warm, collective, and welcoming places where individuals support and assist each other. Staff members are united by commitment; leaders emphasize genuineness, teamwork, and favorable relationships.
Purpose is exhibited by idealism and selflessness. Work environments are tolerant, thoughtful locations where people attempt to do good for the long-lasting future of the world. Workers are joined by a focus on sustainability and global neighborhoods; leaders highlight shared perspectives and add to a higher cause.
Education is characterized by expedition, expansiveness, and creativity. Work environments are innovative and open-minded places where individuals stimulate originalities and explore alternatives. Staff members are joined by curiosity; leaders highlight understanding, experience, and development.
Pleasure is expressed through enjoyment and excitement. Workplaces are lighthearted locations where individuals tend to do what makes them delighted. Workers are united by playfulness and stimulation; leaders highlight spontaneity and a funny bone.
Outcomes are characterized by accomplishment and winning. Workplaces are merit-based and outcome-oriented locations where people desire to accomplish top performance. A drive for ability and success unifies staff members; leaders highlight goal achievement.
Authority is specified by boldness, decisiveness, and strength. Workplaces are competitive places where individuals make every effort to acquire personal advantage. Staff members are joined by solid control; leaders highlight confidence and supremacy.
Safety is defined by readiness, planning, and caution. Work environments are predictable places where individuals are risk-conscious and think things through thoroughly. Workers are unified by a desire to feel protected and anticipate change; leaders emphasize being practical and planning.
Order is focused on regard, structure, and shared norms. Work environments are methodical locations where individuals play by the rules and want to fit in. Staff members are unified by cooperation; leaders stress shared procedures and time-honored traditions.
These eight designs fit into our integrated culture structure according to the degree to which they show independence or interdependence and flexibility or stability. Procedures adjacent to the system, such as security and order, regularly exist together within organizations and their people. On the other hand, designs located throughout each other are less likely to be discovered together and require more organizational energy to maintain all at once. Each design has benefits and drawbacks, and no style is inherently better than another.
Organizational culture can be specified by the absolute and relative strengths of each of the eight and by the degree of worker arrangement about which styles identify the company. An effective feature of this structure, which separates it from other models, is that it can also be utilized to define people’s styles and the value of leaders and staff members.
4 Factors for Developing & Evolving a Corporate Culture
Unlike establishing and performing an organizational strategy, changing a company’s culture is inextricable from the social and psychological characteristics of the people in the company. We have found four practices that result in effective culture change:
Discuss the culture
Similar to defining a brand-new business strategy, producing a brand-new culture should begin with analyzing the existing one, utilizing a framework that everyone can honestly discuss throughout the company. Leaders need to comprehend what results the culture produces and how it does or doesn’t align with the anticipated and present market and company conditions.
For instance, if the business’s main culture designs are results and authority, it exists in a quickly altering industry. Shifting toward learning or satisfaction while preserving a concentration on outcomes may be appropriate. An aspirational culture recommends the top-level principles that guide organizational initiatives, as at the innovation company that looked to increase agility and versatility amid rising competitors.
You might frame modification regarding real and present organization obstacles and opportunities along with aspirations and trends. Because of culture’s surprise and somewhat ambiguous nature, referring to tangible problems, such as market pressures or development difficulties, it assists individuals to better comprehend and connect to the need for change.
Select and develop the right leaders
Leaders function as important drivers for modification by motivating it at all levels and developing a safe environment. Therefore, candidates for recruitment need to be examined on their positioning with the target.
A single model that can assess organizational culture and individual leadership designs is vital for this activity. Leaders who are unsupportive of the change can be engaged and re-energized through training and education about the critical relationship between culture and strategic direction.
Typically they will support the shift after they understand its relevance, its anticipated benefits, and the impact they can have on moving the company towards the goal. Nevertheless, culture change can and does cause turnover: Some people leave since they feel they are no longer a great fit for the organization, and others are asked to leave if they jeopardize required changes.
Talk about the importance of change
To move the shared standards, beliefs, and implicit understandings within an organization, associates can talk to one another through the change. We can utilize our integrated culture structure to discuss current and preferred culture designs and distinctions in how senior leaders run things.
As workers acknowledge that their leaders are speaking about new service outcomes, they will start to behave differently themselves, creating a good feedback loop. In addition, various organizational conversations, such as roadway shows, listening trips, and structured seminars, can support change.
Social media platforms motivate discussions between managers and their employees. Change champions can advocate for a cultural shift through language and actions.
Reinforce the desire to change
When a company’s processes, structures, and systems are lined up and support the aspirational culture and strategy, new culture styles and behaviors will become far more manageable. For instance, you can use efficiency management to motivate employees to embody cultural attributes. Training practices can help reinforce the target culture as the organization grows and includes new people.
The degree of centralization and the variety of hierarchical levels in the organizational structure can be adapted to reinforce habits inherent to the aspirational culture. Leading scholars have shown how organizational structure and other design features can gradually impact how people believe and behave within an organization.
Putting Together the Right Corporate Culture
Improving organizational performance by changing the corporate culture isn’t only possible — it’s vital. And you can start implementing a better culture today using the simple, powerful strategies and models we discussed above.
First-time leaders must be aware of their organization’s corporate culture. Once they have this awareness, the next step is to define a target culture focused on improvement. Finally, they need to master the core change practices of leadership alignment, organizational design, and conversation.
Leading with culture is one of few sources where leaders can gain a sustainable competitive advantage. The most successful leaders no longer consider culture a frustrating factor — it’s a fundamental management tool.