How does leadership style affect culture?

Harvard Business review describes organisational culture as a system of shared assumptions, values and beliefs which govern how people behave in an organisation. Culture is learned behaviour and as leaders and executives shape culture how they behave and act has a huge impact on the culture that prevails. Culture is created by four distinct methods in an organisation:

  1. Behaviours and actions of leaders
  2. What leaders pay attention to
  3. What gets rewarded and what gets punished
  4. The allocation and attention of resources

It stands to reason therefore that at different leadership styles and behaviours are going to impact culture in different ways.

Michael Germano points out that successful leaders influence those around them to reap maximum benefits from the company resources including its most vital- its people. The effectiveness of leadership in moving people to a shared vision directly affects everything from its staff to customer interaction.

Leadership models have evolved over the past half century, predominantly focused on defining the key behavioural attributes of effective leaders. This is determined by their impact on the performance of teams and organisations. Beginning with Blanchard’s situational leadership model to Burns’ transformational leadership to Goleman’s emotional intelligence leadership models have aimed to guide behaviour toward optimal performance.

Blanchard’s situational leadership was based on the principles of directing, coaching, supporting and delegating. As a theory it was developed in the late 1960s on the premise that different situations require different types of leadership. It required leaders to identify their most important tasks or priorities and then consider the readiness of their followers by analysing the group’s abilities and willingness. Depending on the level of these variables the most appropriate leadership style style to suit the situation is applied. Transformational leadership moved on from that to focus on idealised influence, inspirational motivational, intellectual stimulation and individualised consideration.

Transformational leaders appeal to the higher ideals and values of followers or in this case employees, and garner trust, respect and admiration. Not only are they involved and concerned in the process, they are focused on helping every member of their team succeed. It encourages people to collaborate rather than working as individuals, and potentially competitively with one another.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they are feeling, what their emotions mean and how these emotions can affect other people. For Goleman, emotional intelligence is an essential attribute for successful leadership. The better a leader relates to and works with others the more successful he or she can be. The four main elements of emotional intelligence are:

  1. Self awareness
  2. Self management
  3. Socal awareness
  4. Relationship management

Emotional intelligence allows leaders to improve work relationships and create healthy productive workplace environments and organisational cultures.

As mentioned, culture is learned behaviour and  leaders and executives shape culture so their approach and style in a given context has an impact on the culture that prevails.