What Is Culture? What Business Does Culture Have With Leadership?

what is culture

What is culture? How would you define culture? What is the correct definition of culture?

Those are different versions of the same question I get asked often. I will give you a simple definition of culture. But, more importantly, I will show you how the culture of an organization can affect it positively or negatively.

Now back to the question. What is culture?

Simply put . . . culture is the pattern of behaviour of a group of people living or working in a community.

Your city is a community and you have a predominant culture there. For example, people speak of the . . .

  • American culture
  • African culture
  • African American culture

    In the same vein, the organization is a community. This business community has a culture or set of behaviours that are predominant in the community. We speak of this culture as the business culture or company culture.

    The organization's culture is mostly influenced by the culture of the leadership of the organization. And the culture can either be bad culture or good culture.

    For example, in some organizations . . .

    1. In some organizations, the CEO's word is law. The CEO does not entertain contrary views. In that kind of organization, the culture is follow the leader. Whatever the CEO says is right. And this culture slowly creeps down the entire organization. The result? Leaders at every level of the organization become dictators.

    2. In some other organizations, the culture is talk the talk - the leaders just talk but don't keep their promises. They talk the talk instead of "walking the talk". The result? A feeling of distrust pervades the organization leading to repeated conflict between management and staff because of many unfulfilled promises.

    Make no mistake about it. The culture you promote can grow your company's profitability and competitiveness or destroy it. The culture of your organization, promoted tacitly or actively, can make or break the organization.

    Bottom line.

    The organization's leadership define the tune and pace . . . the employees follow.

    What is culture to you the leader?

    It should mean everything.

    You should be actively concerned about the culture of your organization - both written and unwritten - because it can slowly but steadily eat away at the great company you're trying to build.

    My advice?

    1. Do a culture survey twice a year to get a feel of what is happening within your organization

    2. Don't just sit in your office and hear only what you're told. Walk round your company premises at least once a week and talk to people to feel or perceive what is not been said

    3. Hold community meetings (town hall meetings) with the entire company management team and non-management team at least once in six months to feel the purse of the organization

    4. Meet with other stake holders (For example, contractors) at least once in six months to get a first hand feel of how your people are transacting business with your stake holders

    5. Share relevant case studies with your people on an ongoing basis. The case studies should include:

  • Change management case studies
  • Problem solving and decision making case studies and
  • Management case studies

    So, what is culture?

    Does that question carry any meaning to you now? certainly it should.

    Bottom line . . . rock bottom line.

    You have to engage your people and understand the prevailing culture in your organization. Otherwise, bad business culture can erode all your good work.

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