‘In the end, it is down to management to build an organisation’s culture’. Can a culture really be ‘built’ by a leader? Critically review this popular management assumption.
An organizational culture entails the organization’s philosophy, expectations, experiences, and the values that guide member behavior and is expressed in member self-image, future expectations, interactions with the outside world, as well as inner workings. Culture is shared on written and unwritten rules that are not only developed over time but also considered valid, beliefs, customs, and attitudes. In an organization, culture also entails the organization's language, habits, beliefs, symbols, vision, systems, norms, values, as well as assumptions. It basically means the manner in which things are done in an organization. The organization culture impacts the way in which people and groups interact, with clients, as well as with stakeholders and it further influences how much employees identify themselves with the organization. The foundation of organizational culture is the management but the culture can also be built by a leader.
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Culture is important in the success of the organization and thus the human resource management team should create a high-performance organization culture. In most situations, organization culture is created by the organization founders at the establishment of the organization but as time goes the human resource team and the management/owners can establish new ideas and undertakings to the culture (Ibidunni and Agboola, 2013). For human resource to impact culture they work with senior management in order to identify what the company culture should be. Organization culture establishment should not only consider meeting the business goals but it should also consider the people who are the most valuable asset to the organization (SHRM, 2018). The management through human resource management is the caretaker of the organizational culture and all members of human resource must help in building and managing the culture by reinforcing values, recognizing and solving personal and organizational issues and problems, sustaining the reward and recognition system, enabling effective communication channels, as well as being the role models for organizations belief (Meng and Berger, 2017). Other roles of human resource team in building and managing a strong culture are encouraging empowerment and teams, defining roles, accountabilities, and responsibilities, promoting a supplier-customer work environment, assisting with continuous learning and training, and making sure that organizational ethics are not only defined but are also understood and practiced (Mierke and Williamson, 2017).
Organizational cultures tend to emerge over time and are actually shaped by organizational leadership and management as well as by actions and values that are alleged to have contributed to the earlier success (SHRM, 2018). The culture is usually managed through cultural responsiveness of human resource professionals and organizational leaders but it takes efforts to sustain the elements of the culture that promotes company effectiveness. The founders of the organization have a major influence on company's early culture but over time the behavioral norms develop that are in line with the company's values (Ibidunni and Agboola, 2013). Even if the majority of organizational culture emerges naturally some strong cultures start with values blueprinting where there is a conversation between leaders from across the organization (SHRM, 2018). The leaders frame the culture and then the organization establishes the values committee that has a direct link to the leadership (Brown, 1992). The role of the value committee is to make sure that the desired culture is functional and well but for the blueprinting to work the organization has to hire people who live the values and who are competent.
The human resource management team has a role in ensuring the success of organization culture. The success of organizing the organizational culture helps in establishing human resource policies, programs, as well as strategies that assist in strengthening the organization's core purpose and values. The beliefs further motivate and unite every stakeholder of the organization cascading down from C-suite to individual contributors (SHRM, 2018). Some of the tools used by the human resource to develop and sustain a high-performance organizational culture are onboarding efforts, hiring practices, performance management programs, as well as recognition programs.
There is a strong relationship between company culture and leadership (Brown, 1992). Organizational culture in terms of employees is the beliefs, shared ideals, or perceptions held by the employees in a company. The progress of company culture revolves around a shared mindset and progresses while the leaders are the acting forces (Farrell, 2018). The leaders define the values to be absorbed and transmitted within an organization. They further define not only the ethics but also the beliefs that will drive the organization including what the employees should do and what they should not do. The employees are guided by the leaders while the leader adheres to organization culture thus employees learn the culture from the leaders thus creating a strong relationship between leadership and organizational culture.
The organizational culture does not only entail the employees and the management but also the people and the community. Leadership is also defined in part by what goes beyond the company in that it is still defined by the role of the leader in the community and the world (George, Sleeth, and Siders, 1999). There are leaders who involve themselves in civic involvement and charitable giving which helps an organization in maintaining a pro-social place in the society (Craig, 2018). The nature of the leader towards the society and his or her undertaking can be adopted as a company culture where an organization can be supportive to every leader who is concerned about the society (Craig, 2018). The success of a company depends on its corporate social responsibility and in case a leader discovers a new form of corporate social responsibility that is effective than the current one then the organization can adopt it as the company culture (George, Sleeth, and Siders, 1999). This shows how a leader can build organizational culture.
There are assumptions that organizational culture is only built by the management and not the leaders. Nevertheless, leaders build organization culture through coaching. In an organization, the leaders are the coaches and the employees look towards their leaders for direction towards the organizational goals. For leaders it is not just adhering to the organization's vision rather it entails establishing a framework that outlines the strategy, goals, as well as ways of pushing the organization forward (Nelson, 2019). As a coach, the leader insists on quality work, a health work environment that entails teamwork, as well as company policies and rules among others. The employees are able to learn from their leaders and thus through coaching the leader is able to build the organizational culture.
A leader builds the organizational culture through his or her responsibilities. Enforcing the organizational rules towards the employees is the responsibility of the leader (George, Sleeth, and Siders, 1999). In an organization, employees need to know what is expected of them and must know the anticipated levels of productivity, proper image to maintain, and the channels to carryout business and on the other hand, it is the leader’s responsibility to inform them (Nelson, 2019). Through forming rules as well as holding employees to them is an important way for the leader not only to influence the organizational culture but also to build it. For leaders, they ensure that the employees receive the mandatory information and there are clear channels of communication as well as a clear line of authority. In case there are issues, it is the duty of the leader to maintain order in the company. The leader should not only hold him or herself accountable but also his or her employees and promote transparency which will result to trust in the organization and thus the leader helps in building an organizational culture like that of trust.
There are different organizational cultures and even if the management can build some of them there are others that can only be enhanced by the leader, for instance, the culture of motivation. When a person looks at someone as his or her leader, he or she instantly becomes a guiding force of that person’s life and this is not an exception to how employees look at their leaders. The leader’s motivations, as well as needs, trickle down to the employees as they are the soldiers for carrying out the leader's will (Nelson, 2019). Depending on what the leader is motivated by, his or her organizational culture will respond to the kind but there are some motivational leadership cultures that some leaders possess yet they were not built by the organization management. There is a thin line between toxic culture and innovative and the leader has the capability of pushing an employee over the edge. What a leader is motivated with builds the culture of that motivation, for instance, if the leader is motivated by money then he or she can influence employees who are inspired by the same thus creating a culture of motivation through money (Szczepańska-Woszczyna, 2015). There are leaders who are motivated by vision or purpose and this kind of leader inspires the employees who share the same conviction to commit their best towards the organization goal and thus the leader builds an organizational culture of purpose (Szczepańska-Woszczyna, 2015).
Organization leaders are the ones who establish the vision of an organization. The leaders craft the vision, share it, and watch it prosper. Furthermore, leaders usually share their views and values with employees which assist the employees to get direction form these views and values. Through these views and values, the employees are able to work as a team and act as per the organizational strategies and further ascertain to the employees that their actions are for the betterment of the organization (Nelson, 2019). Nevertheless, even if there is vision, the leader has to have great ethics and execution. Through integrating the sense of integrity into the habits, the leader is able to ensure effective leadership. In addition, a leader should have a clear purpose and communicate it with the employees an act that will enable the employees to follow the leader and connect with the leader towards achieving the vision thus building an organizational culture (Nelson, 2019).
According to Nelson (2019), behaviors are repeated while habits are imitated but attitude is contagious. Even if the management has established the organizational culture it is up to the leaders to build a culture of encouragement through attitude which is personal (Tran, 2017). The leader should let the employees know they are doing a good job through acknowledging them and in case of a mistake giving them guidance on how to improve. The leaders are supposed to give morale to the employees in order to enhance the team well and consequently maximize productivity but this is possible only when the leaders build a culture of encouragement and a good attitude (Tran, 2017). Healthy organizational culture is the responsibility of employees but the foundation of it is the leaders who are emulated by the employees (Tran, 2017).
In an organization, leaders set expectations and assist employees in building the needed skills. Most employees want to improve their professional skills and make a difference but to do so they need opportunities, resources, and tools that assist them in growing and gaining confidence in their ability to meet expectations as well as fit into the vision of organizational culture (Hasler, 2005). On the other hand, the leader offers coaching and training, as well as reinforces the company mission, vision, and values through regular communication to the employees. A leader sets expectations in form of personal objectives and he or she makes sure that his or her team knows the part of the culture he or she is forming and communicates on how the organization will assist in establishing the needed skills to be successful contributors. Through setting the expectations and communicating it to the team, the leader is setting a culture which consequently translates to organizational culture.
In an organization, there is the main culture and sub-culture. The main culture is mostly built by the management at the time of founding the company and as the company progresses (Ibidunni and Agboola, 2013). On the other hand, leaders have their own subculture and ways of success. There are different ways of leadership like bureaucratic leadership, democratic leadership, autocratic leadership, transactional leadership, strategic leadership, transformational leadership, as well as coach-style leadership among others (Epstein, Buhovac, and Yuthas, 2010). A leader practices his or her own leadership style and has got his or her own ways of dealing with employees. When a leader joins a new organization he or she introduces his or her own subculture of which the employees follow it. In case this subculture is effective towards achieving the organizational goals, values, and vision, the organization may adopt it. Organization culture is adopted if it is effective and in case a leader introduces a subculture that proves to be effective then it can be adopted an organizational culture. This shows that not only the management builds the organizational culture but also the leaders. ‘
Building an organizational culture is a process and not just coming out with policies and rules. For an organizational culture to be effective different parties have to be involved form the management who established the culture, leaders who should make sure that the culture is effective, and the employees who need to follow and maintain the culture (Hasler, 2005). In this case, the leader has the biggest responsibility towards building a culture since he or she is the one to communicate it to the employees and make sure that the employees understand the culture and work towards the values, goals, and beliefs of the organization (George, Sleeth, and Siders, 1999). Building the culture cannot be complete if the culture is not effective and since the duty of the leader is to make the culture effective then he or she plays a major part in building the organizational culture. In most cases, the organization establishes rules and policies but it is the responsibility of the leader to determine the process of enacting these rules and policies. Furthermore, when making the rules and policies, the management involves the leaders in the process and these leaders contribute towards the policies which later are adopted as company culture. By assisting in establishing the company culture it means that the leaders are part of building the company culture.
In conclusion, the assumption that the organizational culture is built by only the management is not correct rather even the leaders build the organization culture. There are many ways in which leaders build organizational culture and some of them include through coaching, motivation, his or her responsibilities, attitude, through introducing a subculture, being involved in establishment of organization rules and policies, when assisting the employees in building skills and experience, through community involvement, as well as through vision establishment among others. A leader is the one who is responsible for daily activities in an organization and he or she interacts with employees daily and thus his or her attitude, motivation, beliefs, values, and perception is what the employees know and is what they adopt thus making it the company culture. The fact that organization culture emerges over time and is shaped by the organizational leadership, management, and by actions and values that are perceived to have contributed to earlier success means that leaders are builders of organizational culture and not just implementers.
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