What is the relationship between leadership and organizational culture? The answer is more complicated than you might think. On the one hand it’s very difficult to impose organizational culture, taking a top-down approach.
Organizational culture really needs to come from the team, and you’ll need widespread buy-in for any cultural changes to be effective. At the same time, I do think companies need leaders who set the tone, articulate a clear sense of mission, and embody organizational culture through the daily example they set.
The 7 Leadership Styles in Organizational Culture
The good news is there’s more than one way to apply leadership within your organizational culture… and some leadership styles are more effective than others. As you consider the best way to lead your culture-building initiative, allow me to share with you seven basic leadership styles, along with my comments on how effective each one is.
1. The Democratic Leader
A leader will gain feedback and insight from each team member, then make a final decision based on the group’s consensus.
This doesn’t necessarily mean everyone is on equal footing, as the senior leader or manager may still have basic veto powers, but it does empower everyone on the team to feel like they have a say, and some authority over what the organizational culture looks like. For this reason, I’d consider democratic leadership to be one of the more effective approaches.
2. The Autocratic Leader
Autocratic leadership, meanwhile, is the polar opposite of democratic leadership. In this leadership style, there’s one manager or executive who makes the decision all on their own, without soliciting input from anyone else on the team.
In my opinion this just isn’t a good way to run an organization. Yes, sometimes, you may have a situation where you will just have to make a tough call, and it may be a decision that team members don’t especially like. But that should be the exception, not the rule. Taking a full-on dictatorial approach will cause resentment to fester, and it can destroy your best-laid employment engagement strategies.
3. The Laissez-Faire Leader
This third category of leadership is almost like the democratic approach taken to an extreme. It basically means that the “leader” leaves all authority to the employees, allowing them to call the shots without any checks or balances.
Trusting your employees to simply work however they like, whenever they like, can actually be a decent approach in smaller and younger companies; indeed, you’ll generally see this leadership style used in startup environments. In more mature companies, though, it can often lead to trouble… a lack of purpose, a lack of unity, a lack of cohesion.
4. The Transactional Leader
Another leadership style to consider for your organizational culture is; Transactional leadership. With this approach, employees are always rewarded on the basis of the work they do; so, the team that brings in a big new account will receive an increase in their paycheck or bonus. In other words, transactional leadership is all about incentivizing.
I believe that there are some strengths here, but also some limitations. On the one hand, it’s helpful to clearly lay out roles, responsibilities, and expectations. At the same time, it can actually encourage employees to put in the bare-minimum effort they really need to do to get the desired reward.
5. The Coaching-style Leader
Still another form of leadership to consider is the coaching style. And yes, this works much like a sports coach: The leader will work on identifying and then honing the strengths of the team as well as each individual employee. Most of the time, a coaching-style approach will lead to each employee having a few areas of expertise; hopefully, when you bring all the skill sets of the team together, it results in something cohesive and impactful.
I think this is a fairly effective way to lead a team, and in fact it has a lot in common with my favorite leadership style, which is transformational leadership.
6. The Bureaucratic Leader
Another leadership style to think about is bureaucratic. Leaders who adopt this strategy strictly adhere to company policies and procedures. They may sometimes solicit employee input, but they’ll reject it any time it contradicts existing standards, practices and routines.
As with autocratic leadership, the bureaucratic approach may stifle your employees, making them feel too closely controlled; again, it can really deflate your employee engagement strategies. I’d generally recommend against it.
7. The Transformational Leader
Lastly, there’s transformational leadership. This is the model where you are always looking for ways to improve a company’s existing systems or processes. It is goal-oriented, participative, and aspirational.
I think it’s the best way to lead a team and develop organizational culture because it provides employees with a lot of autonomy, but also keeps everyone focused on the same big-picture objectives. So those are my 7 different leadership styles that you can use for your organizational culture.
I think it’s the best way to lead a team and develop organizational culture because it provides employees with a lot of autonomy, but also keeps everyone focused on the same big-picture objectives.