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7 Traits Used by Leaders to Affirm Organizational Culture

Define cultural expectations to design leadership behavior

Wherever you go and whatever you do, there are unwritten codes that determine acceptable behaviors. You will dress differently when you attend a charity ball to the clothes you wear for a family barbecue. Depending on the situation and circumstances, you will act differently, too. Take the example of a family gathering again: acceptable behavior will be different at a funeral when compared to a wedding, even though the same people may be in attendance.

Social expectations extend to the world of work, and the unwritten code that determines acceptable behavior in the workplace is known as organizational culture.

If such expectations are unwritten, how do we convey them to our people? The answer lies within organizational behaviors, and displaying “how things are done around here”. If everyone arrives for work in a suit and tie, it doesn’t take long for a newcomer to understand that the company operates a formal dress code, even if it is not explicitly stated in the employee’s contract.

In this article, you’ll learn about the seven organizational culture characteristics that your leaders should embrace to determine how they inspire action from their people.

Organizational culture and the expectations of leadership

Organizational culture can be defined as the personality of an organization. It is its unique characteristics, enveloped in its values and beliefs, and the shared goals of its people. It defines how its people act internally and externally. There are seven distinct characteristics of organizational culture:

  1. Innovation
  2. Attention to detail
  3. Emphasis on results
  4. Emphasis on human capital
  5. Promotion of teamwork
  6. Competitive nature
  7. Stability

Every organization will value these characteristics differently. It is the combination of these values that gives an organization its unique culture. Employees will adjust their behaviors to match those that are expected of them via their perceptions of organizational culture.

How do people compose perceptions of acceptable behavior and organizational culture? By observing how others around them act. In this context, the way in which an organization’s leaders act has a significant influence on these perceptions. We see the evidence of this in behavioral leadership theory. It is therefore imperative that an organization ensures its leaders act to affirm the organizational culture, for their actions will directly influence the behaviors of its people.

How can your leaders affirm your organizational culture?

Leaders must act in line with organizational culture. They must perform how they expect their people to perform. To ensure your leaders inspire action in line with your organizational culture, you must ensure that they understand how your organization treats each characteristic of culture. You’ll need to define your organization’s approach to:

1.     Innovation

To what degree are employees encouraged to take risks, seek creative solutions, and be innovative in their roles?

2.     Attention to detail

Are employees expected to work precisely, and what are the metrics of attention to detail?

3.     Emphasis on results

Is your organization all about the results, or the journey to achieve them? What emphasis is placed on process versus outcome?

4.     Emphasis on human capital

What emphasis does your organization place on people’s wellbeing at work? Does it consider individual success and career progression as important corporate goals?

5.     Promotion of teamwork

How does your organization expect people to work in teams? Are all activities team-based, or are people expected to work autonomously?

6.     Competitive nature

Does your organization expect its people to be aggressively competitive in its markets, and internally? Or does it encourage a more easygoing and relaxed way of working?

7.     Stability

This is the degree to which your organization seeks to promote continuous change versus the emphasis it places on maintaining the status quo.

Once these seven cultural characteristics have been defined, you can coach your leaders to understand them and portray them in their own actions. By matching organizational culture with his or her own leadership traits, a leader will be the conduit that affirms organizational culture and inspires appropriate action of employees.

Contact Forward Focus today to discuss our Management Development Series, including our Energy Leadership Program, which helps develop high-performing managers into inspirational leaders.

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