Strong corporate culture always has and always will require strong leadership.
Leadership quality is the primary determinant of the quality of the work culture.
In fact, my own experiences and many studies of corporate culture conclude that the single most important factor in having a strong corporate culture is having outstanding leaders. This will not change in 2020. In fact, if anything, the importance of leadership to a thriving corporate culture will grow in importance.
But many other changes in corporate culture are on the horizon, and they have to do with human culture, connectivity, and technology. The old top-down management, 9-to-5 jobs inside office buildings equipped with rows of cubicles are starting to become the exception rather than the rule. As we reach 2020 and beyond, culture will depend on agility and innovation; social responsibility and sustainability; and reputation and transparency.
Corporate Culture Will Require Agility and Innovation
With technology continuing to evolve at a blistering pace, agile work environments are necessary. Individuals, teams, and entire businesses are increasingly expected to be engaged with customers and clients, and to respond to demands quickly via technology.
And not only is technology evolving rapidly, so are consumer demands. Individuals and businesses have more choices than ever in terms of product and service providers, and the businesses that neglect agility stand to lose out in a major way.
Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability
Corporations’ responsibilities no longer end with shareholders, employees, and customers. Today’s business is expected to be a part of the larger community. And this is not just a “feel-good” PR move. Companies that invest in their communities, learn about them and strive to make them better are naturally more attuned to “what is going on” in the world, and what people need.
Sustainability is another principle that will become harder to ignore. Reducing waste and innovating new ways to minimize impact on the environment is good business. It’s also good for corporate reputation, which is another factor that is becoming more critical to business success.
People expect businesses in their community to help make the community a better place.
Corporate Reputation and Transparency Increasingly Important
The combination of social media and the mobile revolution has meant that businesses have no choice but to pay attention to their reputation. Bad reviews or scandals can be exposed to people around the world instantly. But one thing will always true: the best way to have a good reputation is to conduct business ethically and honestly.
Corporate culture has a bigger impact than you might expect on company reputation. When culture demands “more by whatever means” and neglects the well-being and development of employees, people will eventually cut corners. And when such an attitude becomes entrenched, reputational problems will follow. Businesses that prioritize transparency and honesty publicly, and that practice those principles privately are far better positioned to maintain a good reputation (which tends to attract the best talent, in a virtuous cycle).
Leadership Is the Key
Without excellent leadership, businesses will be ill-prepared to make the most of company culture. Good culture struggles to survive when it is led by apathetic, out-of-touch, or stuck-in-the-past leaders. Leaders who don’t invest in their own leadership capabilities do their organizations a major disservice. There’s no going back to old leadership structures and models that are no longer effective.
Companies that invest in leadership coaching not only demonstrate their dedication to having great leadership but also their dedication to having a great corporate culture. Leadership coaching can be an outstanding way to help seasoned leaders understand why changes in markets, demographics, and technologies require that they continue to grow too.
Leadership isn’t static, but something that thrives (or doesn’t) along with changes in corporate culture. Leaders who pay attention to how the world in general and their workforce, in particular, are changing are leaders who will be better prepared to meet the challenges of business in 2020 and beyond. I hope you’ll be on the lookout for my new book, The Intelligent Leader, available starting October 15.