A leadership culture doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by careful, persistent reinforcement of leadership behaviors and values.
If you have succeeded in developing such a culture, you’ll know that the benefits to the team are tremendously important. In a leadership culture, goals are embraced, there’s a ‘bias towards action’, there is built-in accountability, and an overall sense that every contribution matters and is important.
But when there is little or no evidence of a leadership culture, everything will seem sluggish.
I was once traveling overseas to conduct a series of leadership meetings, when the impact of a low leadership culture hit me in the face.
I was set to start a meeting with a group of leaders from an organization, with a start time of 9:00 am. I was waiting in the meeting room when one of our partners came in and informed me that “We will have to push the start time back about 20 minutes”.
When I asked why, he explained that, as it was raining that morning, it will take people longer to reach the office in which we were meeting.
“Does it always take longer to reach this part of town when it rains?” I asked.
“Always,” he answered.
“It’s been raining for two days,” I mentioned.
The blank look on my partner’s face told me I needed to better explain myself.
“Since everyone knew that it takes longer to reach this part of town when it rains, and since everyone knows it has been raining…why wouldn’t they have left earlier in order to arrive on time?”
The look of wonder on his face told me everything I needed to know about the culture of that team. Clearly, the thought would have never occurred to the members of this team to adjust their travel time in order to allow for the slow-down caused by the rain. There was almost no leadership culture there.
Here’s how you can easily test for the presence, or absence, of a leadership culture:
Do people honor punctuality?
Do people own outcomes, or make excuses?
Do people have the freedom to innovate?
Whatever team you lead, your first job is to develop a leadership culture. Getting this right can be the difference between a harnessing plow horses or releasing race horses.