If you’re a CEO, then your values show through and affect your company culture whether or not you deliberately set out to have an impact. In fact, the importance of understanding how your words and actions affect others in your company cannot be overstated. Strong leadership is a necessary ingredient to strong company culture, but not always in the ways you think.
Following through and doing what you say is the key to your team being grounded and understanding the direction the company is moving, and that’s true whether they agree with all your values or not. Simply knowing what is expected and how they’ll be held accountable makes for a stronger company culture. Your company will have a company culture whether or not you set out to shape it. If you don’t do your part to shape it, you’ll have little control over the organizational culture develops organically. It might not be a good one.
The Importance of Knowing What Your Values Are
Knowing your values gives you a starting point. It’s where you connect with your team and your company. Retention, commitment, and inspiration all depend on leaders knowing what they value and communicating it. Misalignment of core values can result in a variety of systemic problems, and values can’t align if you can’t articulate what they are.
Think of words and phrases that resonate with you, ones indicating an organization that has its act together and solves problems ethically and consistently. Words like
can help get you started if you’re unsure how to put your values into words. Knowing your top four or five values and being able to communicate and demonstrate them creates fertile ground for a thriving company culture.
Demonstrating Behaviors and Setting Expectations
There is no substitute for walking the talk. Your example speaks volumes, and your people look to you for leadership. Therefore, it’s essential that you do what you say you will, and communicate your expectations for yourself and your team clearly. This is especially true during times of change, whether that’s moving to a new location, replacing IT infrastructure, or redoing pay and benefits. Take the lead, or people won’t follow.
An excellent way to demonstrate positive behavior and create healthy expectations among your workforce is to be willing to improve your own professional skill set as well as providing your people with the resources, tools, and opportunities they need to do the same. Many new CEOs invest in executive coaching in order to improve leadership skills, but coaching also helps leaders better define their values and develop ways to hold themselves accountable – which are essential to leadership that inspires loyalty.
Knowing When to Zig When Everyone Else Zags
At the same time, new research is showing that your leadership style does not have to exactly mirror company culture. In fact, there are benefits to having a complementary, rather than identical style of leadership to your organizational culture. A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that companies are most effective when the CEO’s leadership style and the organizational culture differ in key ways. Mostly it’s a matter of the two complementing each other.
When CEO leadership and company culture are indistinguishable, the resulting conformity can ultimately fold in on itself, placing the company in an unhealthy “bubble” or echo chamber. But CEOs whose leadership style zigs when the company culture zags results in less cultural myopia, and keeps the organization from being too insular. For example, a “relationship-oriented” corporate culture is often perfectly complemented by a task-oriented leader. The two approaches bolster each other and balance each other out.
Your Accountability Creates a Culture of Accountability
You cannot expect accountability from your team if you don’t hold yourself accountable. Everyone makes mistakes, and when the CEO acknowledges their mistakes and moves forward constructively, it sets a strong example for everyone else. Without accountability measures, your influence will rapidly wane.
You can demonstrate accountability by communicating your own job description and how your own performance is measured. When people know what success looks like, and when their roles and deliverables are defined in understandable, reasonable ways, team members are far more likely to hold themselves accountable as well.
I have written a number of books on corporate culture and leadership, and I encourage you to check them out. Leadership without values is hollow and ineffective, and I would be honored to accompany you as you become the exceptional, effective leader you are meant to be.