Leadership Culture – What is leadership culture, which type does your organisation have, and how can you improve it?
Edgar Schein (1985) defines Leadership culture in an organization as being comprised of three elements: Basic assumptions, value and artifacts – with basic assumptions being the most important and in-grained element, and artifacts being the most superficial and easy to change.
Basic Assumptions in Leadership Culture
Basic assumptions evolve in a company after an action is repeatedly performed. These basic assumptions become part of our perception of our collegues and processes, and are so pervasive, they touch upon thought processes such as;
1. What we pay attention to.
2. What things mean.
3. How we should react emotionally.
4. What actions we should take in reaction to day-to-day events.
If you’d like to see a demonstration of different assumptions in action, then I’d ask you to imagine the reaction a Bailiff would have to someone objecting to pay them, and compare this to the reaction a small industrial company would have to someone objecting to pay them. To the bailiff this would be an ordinary and unsurprising occurrence – and they would feel little wrong in continuing to hassle the non-payer for money. On the other hand, a small industrial company would be concerned about maintaining good relationships with customers, and would approach the situation far more sympathetically. Neither reaction is necessarily the universal ‘right’ way to handle this occurrence, this is why different cultures form in the first place.
Values In Leadership Culture
Values are a less permanent form of leadership culture, and thus are more easily changed than assumptions. Values reflect consensus in the organisation as to how things “ought to be done”. Examples of popular values are:
1. Equal opportunities for all employees regardless of age, race, religion or sexuality.
2. Employees should strive to produce high quality work.
3. Employees should always pursue challenges and opportunities for growth.
Values sound like ‘lip service’ items, but to take ‘pursuing challenges’ as an example – in professional services firms, it is genuinely frowned upon for a member of staff to attempt to stay in their comfort zone and not wish to be promoted further. Values are those beliefs that are commonly held across the company.
Artifacts In Leadership Culture
Artifacts are the most ‘obvious’ and present manifestations of a business’s culture. These include manifestations such as
1. Mission statements.
3. Methods of communication.
4. Technology used
5. Business strategy, such as level of customer service
Artifacts are proactively constructed and sculpted, and hence can be controlled easily by management. If however, artifacts that have been over-managed can become in-congruent with the employee’s actual culture – and their influence over organisational culture becomes minimal.
How Can A Leader Change The Leadership Culture?
What this theory demonstrates is that the basic assumptions in a company’s culture need to shift to improve the culture as a whole. This can only be changed through leading by example. This means you need to improve your own leadership skills and display them confidently. If you want to quickly improve your leadership skills then I suggest you check out a cheap product that other leadership professionals and I recommend to our clients: The Ultimate Leadership Guide.