Leadership development and culture change

December 13, 2017 by Wally Bock

Leadership development expert Jack Zenger wrote a provocative piece in Forbes, titled, “Change Your Leaders To Change Your Culture.” Here’s the opening.

“How would you describe the culture of your organization? Some might say, “It’s the smell of the place,” or, “It’s how things are done around here.” Research done on culture and organizational performance by Kotter and Heskett defines culture as “…gained knowledge, explanations, values, beliefs, communication and behaviors of large group of people, at the same time and same place.” They concluded that differences in culture explains why one company succeeds where another fails within an industry. Consider Apple versus Blackberry, or Target versus Kmart. It wasn’t just the strategy that determined the success of the company, it was the culture. The ultimate summary statement on the topic may have been Peter Drucker’s familiar saying, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” However, culture can’t remain stagnant. As the economy and each industry changes, company culture needs to be constantly adapting.”

Leadership development as the carrier of culture

Your leadership development program is the carrier of your culture. The program is the one place in most companies that brings together leaders from all over the company. It’s the place where senior leadership can speak directly to leaders who will return to work and become the most powerful influence on their team’s culture.

Leadership development and changing the culture

If you want the changes you encourage in your leadership development program to take root in day-to-day operations, there are some things you should do differently. You should train your leaders to understand how change happens. You should bring leaders together more often, so they can support each other and share tips and ideas for change at ground level. You should make sure leaders can access information on culture change and the culture you want to create.

Culture change will never be easy. But your leadership development program can help make sure the right changes happen.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

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