The Value of Culture and the Role of Leaders
According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, professor at Harvard Business School, “in the face of turbulence and change, culture and values become the major source of continuity and coherence, of renewal and sustainability. Leaders must be institution-builders who imbue the organization with meaning that inspires today and endures tomorrow. They must find an underlying purpose and a strong set of values that serve as a basis for longer-term decisions even in the midst of volatility. They must find the common purpose and universal values that unite highly diverse people while still permitting individual identities to be expressed and enhanced. Indeed, emphasizing purpose and values helps leaders support and facilitate self-organizing networks that can respond quickly to change because they share an understanding of the right thing to do.”
However, according to the Barrett Values Centre, the culture of an organization is a reflection of the values and beliefs of the current leaders and the institutional legacy of the values of past leaders that are embedded in the structures, policies, systems, procedures and incentives of the group.
Therefore, to unleash performance, leaders need to first unleash their own human potential.
Organizational Transformation Begins with the Leaders
As Albert Einstein puts it, we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
That is why any organizational transformation begins with the personal transformation of the leaders. If the leaders don’t change, the culture won’t change. Many change projects fail exactly because they focus on changing the organization without considering the transformation that needs to happen on a leadership level.
The main source of positive energy in an organization is rooted in its leaders. However, cultural entropy in an organization is also rooted in the fear-based actions and behaviors of the leaders, managers and supervisors. When we are anxious and fearful, we engage in behaviors such as control, manipulation, blame, internal competition, etc., resulting in decreased employee engagement. Conversely, when as leaders, managers and supervisors we engage in caring and trusting behaviors, employees become more responsible and accountable for their work, boost performance, cultural entropy decreases and employee engagement increases.
According to the Barrett Values Centre, our individual values reflect what is important to us. They are the energetic drivers of our aspirations and intentions and a shorthand way of describing our individual and collective motivations. Together with our beliefs, they are the causal factors that drive our decision-making. Who you are, what you hold dear, what upsets you and what underlies your decisions are all connected to values. And as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi puts it, it is how we choose what we do, and how we approach it, that will determine whether the sum of our days adds up to a formless blur, or to something resembling a work of art.
When we are organizational leaders, our values are the energetic drivers of our organizations but they could also hinder its development.
According to Tony Schwartz, all of us as people have a finite reservoir of energy in any given day. Whatever amount of energy we spend obsessing about missteps we have made, decisions that do not go our way or the belief we have been treated unfairly is energy no longer available to add value in the world.
Achieving Personal Mastery
Please check our article on that called Personal Master and the Elephant in the Room.
If You Measure It, You Can Manage It.
Most organizations measure and remunerate leaders based on the financial performance of the organization they lead. However, if organizational culture drives performance and leaders’ values are the energetic drivers of organizational culture, isn’t it a bit late to measure financial performance? By the time we see our impact on culture, we have missed on numerous opportunities to improve.
According to Richard Barrett, we must begin holding leaders accountable for building a strong and enduring culture, listening to feedback, and engaging and retaining their teams. And we need to be able to measure that.
Leaders only grow and develop when they get regular feedback. Do you know what others appreciate about you? Do you know what advice your boss, peers and subordinates can offer you to improve your leadership style? Do you know how you are contributing to the successes or problems within the organization? Do you know your level of personal entropy?
That’s where we come in.
The answers to all these questions are provided by the flagship coaching tool of the Barrett Values Centre, the Leadership Values Assessment. It combines leaders’ own perspectives with how the people they lead see them. This process deepens their understanding of what they need to do to become an authentic, full-spectrum leader. It also measures personal entropy, which is the amount of fear-driven energy a person expresses. This indicates how leaders may be contributing to the cultural entropy of the organization. Also very powerful, it compares a leader’s perception of his or her operating style with the perception of their superiors, peers and subordinates. Assessors also get the opportunity to indicate how they believe the leader needs to change to help them become the best leader they can be. Emphasis is placed on a leader’s strengths, areas for improvement, and opportunities for growth. This powerful coaching tool promotes self-awareness, initiates personal transformation, and an understanding of the specific actions a leader needs to take to realize his or her full potential.