Leaders Create Cultures

What type of leaders create dynamic cultures? The new strategic realities and cultural imperatives require leaders who by style are a combination of visionary and inspirational. It is inspirational leaders who drive transformational change and visionary leaders who give us a new future. The notion of visionary leadership is more clearly understood as having a vision for the future, and being able to facilitate shared vision amongst colleagues. More confusion surrounds the idea of inspirational leadership. It seems to imply super human qualities, the charismatic one in a thousand, the motivational coach. The reality is much simpler and available to everyone. Leaders who inspire do five basic things:

1. Listen and show a genuine interest. They listen because they are eager to learn but they also know that listening shows genuine interest in the other person. The impact on the other person is that the simple act of being listened to generates feelings of being valued.

2. Ask for advice and ideas. They ask others for their advice and ideas because they wish to see things from the other person's perspective but also because they find different ideas stimulate their own thinking. The impact on the people concerned is that it gives them an enhanced sense of importance.

3. Act on advice received. They act on advice they receive because they understand that collaborative cultures grow from involvement of others but also because they are open to learning and understand that no one person has a monopoly on ideas. The impact is that people feel more powerful and that they have a greater capacity to influence outcomes.

4. Provide challenge with support. They challenge because that want to develop more of the potential of others and promote higher levels of aspiration and performance but also because they want to engage others actively in the vision. The impact on others is that challenge with support builds courage and confidence in one's own ability to stretch, to take a risk and to achieve and contribute to the vision.

5. Say thanks and give recognition. They express their thanks because this gives recognition to others and because during times of uncertainty people feel higher levels of anxiety and accordingly need more reassurance about the future and about their own performance. The impact on others is a feeling of being appreciated and they are more likely to contribute again.

If we want to bring the best out in people and organizations we need to build cultures where people feel valued, where they feel important and powerful, and where they feel confident and appreciated. The new generations of employees are much more willing to leave when their basic needs are not met, and are much less likely to perform for other than inspirational leaders.

Leaders emerge to drive culture
The good news is these leaders exist in all kinds of organizations. Even better, we know how to identify them with social network analysis tools and furthermore support them with competency models that are part of the culture change work.

Work conducted by Valdis Krebs of Orgnet.com in recent years clearly indicates that such leaders are instrumental in the effective communication of vision and values as well as in performance networks. His work suggests that while such leaders exist in organizations, to be truly effective, they require formal support to carry out the mission of the organization. They are the key to the relationship processes in organizations which act as conduits for execution.

The challenge then for organizations is to turn all formal and informal leaders into inspirational leaders to effectively execute the strategic intent and meet performance objectives. This alignment of culture and strategy will give its leadership team a best chance to realize collective aspiration and to create a truly distinctive organization.

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