Organizational Culture and Leadership: two sides of the same coin

Leadership and organizational culture are two sides of the same coin. The change in the way an organization is led must be accompanied by deeper cultural changes that must, in turn, be exemplified by leadership. It is a virtuous circle. Culture defines and delimits the assumptions, beliefs and values shared in the organization and the leader exemplifies this culture through his behaviors: the way of communicating, collaborating, relating, and acting must be in line with the culture. 

The evolution should occur from the role of authoritarian, hierarchical leader, who maintains relationships with little commitment, to another based on trust and openness that entails a profound cultural evolution, both in the way the organization operates – processes, reward, and incentive systems – as well as in the empowerment, autonomy and development of teams.

The current context, where problems are increasingly complex and competition is growing, requires leaders who can trust their teams, who encourage dissent and transparency to favor innovation and collaboration, which will in turn reinforce the organizational ability to adapt and learn faster.

The need for adaptive cultures and a new leadership model

One thing is clear: the corporate culture that brought us here is not what will take us where we want to go. The rules of the game have changed: we live in a hyperconnected, multicultural world with an accelerated rate of change. To be able to face this new scenario, we have to be able to innovate quickly, adapt to change and be more flexible. But at the same time, we must take into account elements that were not previously part of the equation, such as social responsibility, environmental impact and a new generation with a different concept of work and career, where purpose and well-being are more important than ever before. This reality, coupled with technological advancements, brings with it the need to evolve and place emphasis on generating adaptive and collaborative organizational cultures and a new leadership model based on trust, commitment, and involvement.

Based on our experience we know that the leadership model required today largely depends on the interpersonal relationships that leaders are able to generate with their teams and peers. Currently, most of the problems faced by organizations are not found in the nodes, but in the interactions; that is, it does not lie with individuals, but in the way they relate to each other. This is reflected in various organizational symptoms that affect business performance, such as lack of openness, trust, collaboration and even avoiding conflict or falling into bad practices due to inconsistencies between everyday speech and actions.

Human capital is currently one of the most important assets for organizations, where purpose, mutual respect and commitment become key values to satisfy and improve employee performance. Gone are the days when they conformed to being just one more link in the value chain; today they seek to be part of something bigger, to be seen as professionals with cross-functional skills and experiences, generate closer ties, adapt, learn and grow both individually and professionally, form communities, have motivation beyond just financial. The leader who can give them that trust, that openness and that growth will not only improve the individual performance of each employee, but will also optimize that of the organization. The role of the leader of the future becomes a collaborative relationship aimed at creating or doing things differently.

Thus, in the hyperconnected world in which we live, where sustainable growth and adaptability to change will be the key to the success of any organization, the evolution of the leadership role has become essential. One who is able to generate bonds of trust and close relationships will be the one who takes us where we want to go tomorrow. However, we must not forget that just as leaders shape the culture, the culture of the organization defines the scope of action of leaders. The evolution of one inevitably implies that of the other.

Anne Cortina Zapfe
Manager at Tandem.

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