The term leadership culture can be interpreted in two key ways. These are:
- The culture of leadership in the business: By this, we mean how leaders behave and the impact that this has on the rest of the organisation, either in terms of helping create and sustain a great culture, or otherwise.
- A culture of leadership in the business: By this, we mean that all employees are encouraged and supported to be a leader of themselves through their own behaviour and professional development.
Many business owners strive to create a leadership culture (A) within their organisation, whereas this environment arises naturally in others. For other businesses, however, a shift in the leadership culture (B) is needed. If a business’ leaders aren’t inspiring, motivating or they play a part in creating a toxic work environment, it can seriously harm employee morale and overall business growth.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at each aspect in turn so you can see how creating a leadership culture and/or changing leadership can benefit your organisation.
When should you change your business’ leadership culture?
Here at There Be Giants, we are frequently working with our clients to support them in creating a healthy leadership culture i.e. making sure the ways in which leaders work together and with their teams is positive. The shadows senior leaders cast is so critical in shaping and influencing an organisations’ culture, consciously or otherwise. That’s why we always like to start from the top.
What we know about successful OKR implementation is that it’s so much easier if senior leaders are aligned, informed and committed to supporting the change OKRs bring. If not, you’ll experience more delays, confusion caused by competing priorities, overwhelm caused by highly demanding timeframes and more. Ultimately, in the wrong environment, OKRs are more likely to fail because they weren’t supported, promoted, piloted and championed by leaders. This is where changing leadership culture can help.
If your team dynamics are suffering and staff don’t feel psychologically safe in your leaders’ hands, you’ll need to think about how to change your business’ leadership culture.
There are different types of behaviours that will get in the way of implementing OKRs will impact any change programme. These include:
- Leaders competing for resources
- Failing to reach an agreement on priorities
- Agreeing to move forward with OKRs but then continuing to bring forward other projects and workstreams
- Creating scope creep and then inertia
- Wanting to retain control of decision-making too far down and across the organisation i.e. blocking empowerment.
We’ve seen it all over the years. Leaders at all levels, and especially the most senior, are well-advised to work on their own leadership culture, style and impact both as individuals and collectively.
We like the term conscious leadership, which for us means that leaders are highly emotionally intelligent, conscious of what they are doing and saying. In most cases, conscious leaders display behaviours in line with the values of transparency, authenticity and accountability.
We’ve worked with leadership teams of all shapes and sizes… Our Giants have developed a range of approaches to support and engage them in the OKR process so that the investment made by the business comes to fruition.
OKRs can still work if leadership culture isn’t great or even heading towards toxicity, as middle management often develops ways to shield their teams from the impact. OKRs usually don’t fit across an entire business (we discuss this in our GPS (OKRs) and dashboard (KPIs) analogy.) So much can be done with OKRs through pilots and focused project areas that don’t involve every team or department. The enthusiasm, commitment and determination from OKR coaches spur projects on without senior management getting involved. But it’s just so much less consuming of time and energy if leaders are on board.
So in terms of OKR implementation, we strongly recommend that work is done early with senior leaders to ensure they understand their role in relation to OKRs. It’s also essential to put the resources and support in place to role model a leadership culture that will assist, not detract, from OKRs delivering the growth and innovation they want to see.
The advantages of creating a leadership culture
Let’s turn our attention to the second aspect, a culture of leadership (B). We have worked with some businesses over the years who may not have named their culture as one of leadership, but through their values and leadership role modelling, have created a leadership culture that is inclusive of everyone.
Values such as empowerment, accountability, going the extra mile, taking the initiative, being an ambassador for the brand, all speak to the idea that each person in the business is a leader of themselves and their behaviour in their daily work.
In addition, staff are offered informal and formal learning and development opportunities to give them exposure to leadership and management experience.
Here are some practical examples of leadership culture in action:
– The annual staff conference is led, organised and run by staff members, rather than senior leaders or the HR team
– Secondments and job swaps are easy to put in place and the additional value from this approach in extending learning, creating capacity and developing relationships across the business is felt and understood.
– Staff members initiate service/product improvements (which is often much easier to do if you are using OKRs!)
– There are plenty of internal applicants for vacancies that offer progression both upwards and sideways. All those applying also get supportive feedback and guidance if they aren’t successful.
– Reverse mentoring happens – this is when typically younger, less experienced and more junior members of staff are trained and supported to mentor those in leadership positions. As well as more traditional mentoring in which typically someone more senior mentors someone more junior. There is a wealth of learning to be had from both these approaches, particularly when there is clarity about the behaviours that bring values such as transparency, accountability and authenticity to life.
Tools that will help you create a positive leadership culture
A culture of leadership could also be expressed as an OKR culture, so once again we know that implementing OKRs can have much wider benefits than the outcomes it drives in terms of spotlight focus on important priorities.
And there is nothing to stop you from building an OKR around leadership culture – whichever definition we have discussed here is in line with what you want to work on. Or perhaps both aspects are relevant in your organisation.
Leadership culture surveys
A leadership culture survey is a type of workplace culture assessment or survey that only relates to the leadership team. These can be company-wide to get an idea of the general consensus on attitudes towards leadership. Alternatively, you could conduct a leadership culture survey within the senior management department only. This will help your senior leaders to evaluate their own behaviours, as well as their colleagues, to see where improvements can be made.
How can TBG help?
The OKR method can bring about a wealth of benefits for a business, including creating a more inspired, motivational and supportive leadership team. If you’re ready to reap the rewards, get in touch with one of our Giants today to kickstart the process!