Leaders and Corporate Culture

The concept of organizational culture is a relatively new one. Organizational cultures, like other human cultures, include particular types of artifacts, special values, and common beliefs and assumptions. In some respects, it is the culture that makes the organization a true organization rather than just a collection or randomly engaged people. It provides the defining characteristics that make organizations differ from each other, and the foundation for both success and failure organizationally. While organizational culture is, to some extent, organic, it is somewhat malleable and management needs to focus on those aspects of the culture which can be influenced and shaped.

 

What is corporate culture?

Culture refers to an organization's values beliefs, and behaviors. In general, it is concerned with beliefs and values on the basis of which people interpret experiences and behave, individually and in groups.

 

Edgar Schein’s five guidelines for Leaders regarding corporate culture:

 

1. Don't oversimplify culture or confuse it with climate, values, or corporate philosophy. Culture underlies and largely determines these other variables. Trying to change values or climate without getting at the underlying culture will be a futile effort.

2. Don't label culture as solely a human resources (read "touchy-feely") aspect of an organization, affecting only its human side. The impact of culture goes far beyond the human side of the organization to affect and influence its basic mission and goals.

3. Don't assume that the leader can manipulate culture as he or she can control many other aspects of the organization. Culture, because it is largely determined and controlled by the members of the organization, not the leaders, is different. Culture may end up controlling the leader rather than being controlled by him or her.

4. Don't assume that there is a "correct" culture, or that a strong culture is better than a weak one. It should be apparent that different cultures may fit different organizations and their environments, and that the desirability of a strong culture depends on how well it supports the organization's strategic goals and objectives.

5. Don't assume that all the aspects of an organization's culture are important, or will have a major impact on the functioning of the organization. Some elements of an organization's culture may have little impact on its functioning, and the leader must distinguish which elements are important, and focus on those. 

 

In Conclusion:

An understanding of culture, and how to transform it, is a crucial skill for leaders trying to achieve strategic outcomes. Strategic leaders have the best perspective, because of their position in the organization, to see the dynamics of the culture, what should remain, and what needs transformation. This is the essence of strategic success.

 

For further reading regarding Corporate culture refer to Edgar s. Schein work and Culture model – See Management in Theory and practice manual.

 

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 Recommended Readings and references on Organizational culture

Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence.  Bantam Books: New York, New York, 1995. 

Goleman, Daniel.  Working with Emotional Intelligence.  Bantam Books: New York, New York, 1998. 

Peters, Tom.  Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for a Management Revolution.   Harper Perennial: California, 1987.

Quinn, Robert E.  Deep Change.  Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, California, 1996.

Schein, Edgar H.  Organizational Culture and Leadership.  Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, California, 1985.

Schein, Edgar H.  The Corporate Culture: A Survival Guide.  Jossey-Bass Books: San Francisco, California, 1999.

Senge, Peter M.   The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of a Learning Organization.  Doubleday Currency: New York,