What do the best leadership style, values and culture look like to you and your business? Most people would agree that each is integral to success combined with sustainability in any business. But in a world where the working norm has shifted so quickly and drastically, even organisations with the most nurtured values, culture and leadership styles face the same set of challenges of navigating a new way of doing things.
So what makes these three pillars of business success so important, why are they so inseparable, and how can you monitor and maintain them in the new normal?
Three pillars, or one of the same?
If you do an exercise where you put your culture, values and leadership style into three separate columns, you’ll see there’s a feedback loop between the three, one feeds into the next.
But when it comes down to it in practice, leadership, culture and values can become pretty inextricable in good and bad work cultures. An influential leader will showcase values that lay the foundations for a culture, which can define an organisation for years, or even decades to come.
However, if each is going to work in harmony in your business, they need to be both understood and managed individually, as well as collectively.
What are organisational values, leadership and culture?
Your values define the core ethics or principles implemented into the running of your business. Your leadership style should reflect your business’s core values, and the employees in your team should be aligned with these values themselves.
Values aren’t so much about business goals, but more about your approach to doing things. For example, if one of your values is dependability, your more likely to bring in a team who are trustworthy and will manage their workload and you shouldn’t have to worry about them pulling their weight within the business.
If you have team members that don’t share your values, they may pose a risk to your business. When you’re evaluating how well aligned your team and business values are, ask yourself:
- Do they represent the values you want in your team?
- What can you change?
- Do you have any high performing but rogue employees?
- What damage do they do to the business?
Well-established values across your business ultimately will help you to edge closer to your goals each day, as you’ll be surrounded by the right people who share your business’s core values to get there.
Leadership is a research area, as well as a vital practical skill of leading or guiding an individual, team, or a whole business. Leaders should be role models of the business’s values.
But ultimately, leadership can make or break a business, and in hard times, such as a recession, it’s essential to be a good leader- but what defines the best leadership style? There’s no single definition; however, I find ‘servant leadership’ to be most effective.
Opposite to the stereotypical leader-first kind of boss we see represented in popular culture, to use the servant leadership style, you need to ask yourself each day: what it is your team needs to succeed? And then put the right tools, support and direction in place.
Those following the servant leadership model will also be focused on helping the growth of people and the communities they belong to, creating a positive business impact, of which- more often than not- feeds into your own business.
Your organisational culture combines your values, leadership and behaviours to create a unique social and psychological environment- it doesn’t matter whether you work with your team from the office or from home, organisational culture exists.
Until more recent years, culture rarely took centre stage- in 2014, it was even reported that culture was the most overlooked element of workplace audits.
However, the global Corona pandemic has arguably changed that for good, and with millennials increasingly taking up senior roles and gen-z beginning to enter the workforce, cultural shift is inevitable, with many changes for the better, such as collaboration, inclusivity and parity amongst teams.
For example, one report found that only around half of the baby boomer generation feels comfortable providing feedback to their boss. In contrast, more than 60% of millennials and gen z employees reported feeling comfortable providing feedback, indicating that the way younger employees perceive the hierarchical boundaries in the workplace, and the value placed on great culture is evolving.
Similar findings were repeated in another study, where 66% of millennials said they value culture above salary, while just 52% of over 55s said the same.
So, prioritising culture which is built on the right foundational values and steered with servant leadership should, in turn, improve aspects like retention, job satisfaction, employee engagement and a range of other advantages.
Why do we need the best leadership, values and culture more than ever?
In our drastically changing world, businesses are having to be agile and adaptable like never before, but to have any chance of doing that successfully, your whole team needs to work as a synchronised unit, with each individual being engaged, accountable and satisfied with their work.
However, in April 2020, it was reported that at the time, 60% of the adult population was working from home as a result of lockdown. Businesses that lacked focus on the three components had the additional challenge of dealing with employees who may be unmotivated or disengaged.
While the number of those working at home is smaller now, there’s still a lot of uncertainty and so more businesses have made the permanent move to WFH. As a result, businesses need to take the opportunity to give their overall culture the care and attention it deserves so that it holds up outside office walls. This can work as part of your overall strategy to protect your business from a recession.
Looking to the future
The time of businesses whose values and success are derived from are hyper-focused on sales (to the detriment of their team, customers and society) and rigid hierarchical boundaries are coming to an end, as they’re simply not sustainable. So when we look to what business could be like in the future, it’s bright.
Firstly though, we have the unprecedented challenge of COVID19 and the subsequent recession, but your values, leadership and culture can help you thrive, even in tough economic times, as a committed, satisfied and able team with the right direction and support can be invaluable in time like these.
Ultimately, your leadership style, values and culture will mould your business even beyond your control- but smaller businesses have both the advantage and disadvantage of a more malleable culture, and so there’s an opportunity to take control now so that when your leadership style, values and culture become more established and harder to transform, you’ll have no need to make big disruptive changes.