“Leadership development can play a vital role in helping to accelerate, reinforce and sustain culture, and culture is definitely born in the executive suite – when leaders change their behaviors, others do too. It’s leaders who need to define the culture, communicate it to all organizational levels, and act and behave in ways that reflect and reinforce their desired outcomes.”
Michelle M. Smith, of O.C. Tanner says that about leadership development and culture in her post, “CEOs Rank Culture as #1 Priority for Success.”. It’s all true. Leadership thinkers such as Chris Edmonds and Mark Deterding both go so far as to say that “culture” is a leader’s primary job. But another quote from the article illuminates how easy it is to go wrong.
“Culture reflects the values, beliefs, and behaviors that determine how employees perform and interact with each other every day.”
Leadership development and the rabbit hole of the abstract
The leadership development challenge is to develop leaders who can make a positive impact on the culture of their organizations. It’s nice to think about values and beliefs, but you can’t observe them. The only thing you can observe is behavior: what people say and do. And the only thing a leader has to influence the behavior of others is his or her behavior.
The challenge is to help developing leaders concentrate on behavior. Otherwise they slip down the rabbit hole of things they can’t see, guessing and second-guessing themselves.
Leadership development to influence culture
Developing leaders must understand that it’s important to both talk the talk and walk the walk. They need to learn that their teammates are always observing them for clues about how they should act. Everything they do matters. That may not be fair, but it’s the way things work.
Thanks to Smartbrief on Leadership for pointing me to this story