Two Sides: Should an Organization Focus on Its Culture or Its Leaders?

March 03, 2021
MRA Edge
Leadership & Management & Supervision
Read time: 2 mins

When it comes to performance, what should an organization focus on first, a company’s culture or its leaders? We asked two MRA experts to share the cases that could be made on both sides.

Culture Is King
  • Culture is as vital to employee retention as brand is to customer retention. As Simon Sinek once said, "Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first." Culture can give employees a purpose for what they do.
  • A healthy culture attracts great talent, which has been shown to be one of the most important determinants in making a job move.
  • Companies who invest in their culture first know who they are as a company. They use their culture as a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
  • Culture is also what makes a brand unique. It can show customers what is most important to the organization and help them feel a connection to the brand. An example of a culture-driven organization is Chick-fil-A. A customer receives the same attentive experience at any Chick-fil-A across the country when the organization holds employees accountable to specific behaviors. Being closed on Sundays (and losing out on millions every year) is one example of how their culture is led by their values.
Leading the Way - Leaders Are Foundational
  • A leader is the one who inspires, reinforces, and rewards culture. Great leaders and managers are necessary to create a solid foundation that is the key to a culture’s success. Leadership teams drive culture through building trust, influencing, and reinforcing what they want to happen.
  • When a culture is being established or must change, it’s the leadership team that needs to band together and have the requisite skills to sustain a desired culture. This is accomplished through role-modeling the desired behaviors, giving frequent feedback, and setting employees up for success.  A good culture can’t magically create great leaders, but great leaders can influence a culture for the better.
  • The actions and behaviors of individuals who are in positions of power dictate the culture, not what the website, company photos, or promotional materials may say.
  • A good culture can only be fully realized when the leadership team demonstrates what it looks like in action, lives and breathes it, and encourages all employees to do the same.

Sources: Kristie Haase, Employee Engagement Survey Manager, and Janet Kloser, Learning and Development Manager, MRA - The Management Association

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