The consistent actions of the leadership are what truly set the tone for how a culture is woven into and embraced by its associates in any company. If the behaviors of the leaders at the top reflect the company’s stated values, then the next level of leadership will carry forward those same qualities over time.
In a way, the development of a business culture is a bit like constructing a building. If your building has a deep footing and very strong foundation, it is very hard to destroy. If, however, your building has a weak foundation–not grounded in terms of values- it does not take much to bring it to ruins.
With that image in mind, think of your organization as a pyramid. The base of the pyramid consists of the leadership—a wide and strong foundation supporting the rest of the organization. If the leaders support the values that the organization is built on, the business will have a rock solid foundation that can stand up to huge pressures over time. If belief and behaviors are not rooted in values and exemplified in the leadership, the company’s culture has an exponential chance of being destroyed.
So how do leaders model this foundation strengthening behavior?
The key is to lead through example in both action and in word. I have seen and am a huge believer that leading by serving creates a culture of humility in the leadership, which spreads throughout the entire the organization. A culture driven by these two things (servant leadership and humility) generates good business, good rapport, and good relationships. In addressing what makes and strengthens a culture, it’s important to also address what can destroy a culture. In contrast to servant leadership, I have seen many companies whose stated values claim to be humility, service, trust, and honor, but their actions and behaviors show they operate in arrogance, demand, divisiveness, and manipulation. Always keep a watchful eye for these in yourself and your leaders, as these are toxic elements in any culture.
As a leader, do what you say you are going to do. Build your people in the shape of the stated values. Be sincere about being a part of the team, and most importantly live out the values in your own life.
Because none of us have “all the answers” to the business questions that we will ultimately face throughout life, remember when developing culture, as a leader, to look to others in order to gain knowledge and perspective. Look to people who think differently but truly live out their values.