If we define culture to be the values and behaviors that govern an organization, then we can adequately discuss the immense power of a leadership culture in terms of how managers and executives approach and perform leadership (or fail to) within it.
Leadership is not a position, but a process. It doesn’t just happen, but is shaped. If companies want to build a culture of leadership and mutual respect across all layers, then they need to heavily invest in their people – both with financial resources and time. Start with building a clear set of values and watch your leaders blossom before your eyes.
Our founder John C. Maxwell has been credited with bringing servant leadership to the forefront of organizations across the world.
“What’s your highest calling as a leader?” he asks. “Well, I believe it’s being a servant leader. I often teach that leaders ask the question, ‘Will I help people?’ But servant leaders ask, ‘HOW will I help people?’ When you’re a servant leader, you do so much more than just make people a priority. You look for specific opportunities to serve them and help them reach their potential.”’
A true leadership culture fosters personal growth. Employees have their own goals and skills. They want to develop and feel appreciated under your care. When employees feel encouraged, they work harder at self-improvement – an investment from which you will see a direct return.
Do you have a mentorship program? These platforms are great for not only inspiring senior staff to assist newer employees in networking and developing strong relationships, but also for allowing new personnel to witness the cycle of service: You will be mentored, and then, when the time comes, you will mentor.
The key to empathy is that it centers on others. An investment in your employees — all employees — is an investment in your company. Unless you own a business in which you are the only employee, company success hinges wholeheartedly on the people you work with.
It is worth your while to ask, “Is everything ok?” if a once-driven employee suddenly adopts a lack-luster work performance. Rather than marking their file or passing them up for promotion, challenge yourself to understand the core of the issue. Consideration has a ripple effect; the thought and care we give freely to others returns to us, positively impacting our professional relationships — both those with clients and colleagues.
Clear communication is key to nurturing a culture of leadership. When information is shared and exchanged effectively, it helps create positive relationships and keep internal processes running well. Keep in mind that most conflicts in the workplace are a direct result of a breakdown in communication. When information is withheld, or not shared in an organized fashion, people are left to fill in the blanks on their own.
Executive coaching is a great way to assess and improve the communication of your leaders. By giving thought in how (and why) we communicate to others on our team we can minimize communication mishaps and avoid taking our employees for granted.
This leads me to my final point: An effective leadership culture instills a common language. I am not talking about the professional jargon of your field, but the language of leadership. This means that everyone in your business understands the principles of leadership that your company values.
While principles of leadership can be picked up inadvertently, intentional learning is proven to be more effective. Having a formal leadership program, attending public forums, or hosting on-site workshops are all excellent methods to acquaint your team with a clear set of leadership principles.
A company with a strong leadership culture will have more engaged employees, which in turn will directly impact profit. As Maxwell says, “Your success as an organization depends on the quality of your leaders.” And leadership is not a designation only for executives, but a responsibility to us all.
The John Maxwell Podcast
Linda McGuigan is President of Corporate Leadership Solutions for The John Maxwell Company, a provider of corporate leadership development training and coaching programs and workshops, as well as personal growth products. The company’s fully custom offerings are built on the timeless principles of John C. Maxwell, a #1 New York Times best-selling author, coach and speaker who has sold more than 26 million books in 50 languages.