Culture & Leadership

A highly effective culture is led by a highly effective leader. They know that culture starts with them and that they influence the organisation to follow them.

When the people of the organisation follow because they want to, that is what creates the highly effective culture.

The highly effective leader understands that to grow the organisation they must focus on their people. By growing the people, they grow the organisation.

Do you work with, or have you worked with leaders who always have an excuse for everything? No matter what, they always have an answer for everything or an excuse to get out of a situation. It is these leaders who say the following things when it comes to hiring and keeping people in their organisation:

  • “I know there are good people out there, but we just can’t find them.”
  • “There aren’t enough people who are unemployed for us to find good people.”
  • “All the good people already have good jobs, so we can’t bring any of them here.”
  • “We have hired so many good people and after a while they leave. This has nothing to do with me.”

What would you say to a leader if they said one of those four statements to you? I would ask them to stop talking and think for a minute. Do they honestly believe that there are no good people out there for us to find?

Do they expect me to believe that the reason they can’t find good people is because of the unemployment rate and the job market? Do they really believe that the reason our good people won’t stay has nothing to do with them?

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I know for a fact that the good people that we need in our organisations, most of them already have a good job and are doing well. This is a sticking point for other organisations, but they need to realise that the reason these good people are already in a good job is because they didn’t find them first.

1. Culture

So the culture of the organisation with leaders who say these statements above and think this way is a “losing culture.” In other words, when they come to work they are looking at everything in a defeatist way.

This then cascades down to the rest of the organisation and they will look at everything in a defeatist way too.

With an organisation like this, it needs a leader who can see this as a problem and is willing to accept the responsibility to solve the problem. Whenever I have heard the statements above said by my leaders in the past, I didn’t know any different and actually agreed with them.

But, when I became a leader and I heard these statements, I didn’t accept them. I knew there was something we needed to do. I knew that this was a culture problem, but the leaders above me didn’t which amplified the problem.

The statements above are one of the reasons I wrote this article. As I’ve moved from Liverpool, to Edinburgh, to Glasgow and then to London within the UK, I hear these kinds of statements all the time in my industry.

I am from the rail industry and there are far too many defeatist attitudes with our leaders, and hence defeatist cultures within our organisations. I am pretty sure that these kinds of statements are very loud and clear in your industry and many other industries all over the world.

2. Awareness

I want this article to help you and many other leaders to raise the awareness of these types of defeatist cultures in far too many organisations is a problem. I want you and many other leaders to use this article as a starting point for changing those cultures.

We need to stop looking for these so called “good people” that are described above, and instead start attracting great people. This will take some time to do, but it will never happen unless we start making it happen NOW!

I want this article to help you and many other leaders set the direction for transforming the defeatist culture into a highly effective culture.

One thing we all need to understand is, when transforming a culture, it takes a lot of hard work. We cannot hire in consultants and get them to do all of the work for us, and then after 6 months we have a new highly effective culture. There is no easy way out of this.

There is no magic formula or magic wand that we can use to make this happen. If we want to build highly effective teams, develop highly effective leaders, and build a highly effective culture then everybody needs to put the hard work in.

3. A Leader’s Attitude

As we have said, culture in any organisation starts with the leader. If their attitude is a defeatist attitude, then that will cascade down to the rest of the organisation and will produce a defeatist culture. This is where we get toxic cultures from.

Culture doesn’t end at the organisation though, it can have an impact on people outside of our organisation. Whether that be a defeatist or a highly effective culture. Your culture will attract a certain type of person and will force other people away. We attract who we are not who we want.

How do your team feel right now? If they are feeling good, then they will be saying good things about you, the team and the organisation. If they are feeling bad and are hating their jobs right now, then they will be saying bad things about you, the team and the organisation.

This is what we call word of mouth advertising, and is the most powerful kind of advertising any organisation can get. So, if you want to receive good word of mouth advertising, then you need to treat your people well.

4. Environment

When trying to attract good people to the organisation, we need to ensure that what our people are saying about the organisation is good. How do we do that? We create an environment that focusses on them and helps to learn to lead, grow and increase their influence.

That is the starting point for any highly effective leader. We cannot attract good people to the organisation of what our people are saying about it is bad.

I have heard some good things and bad things said about certain organisations, and people remember the bad things a lot more than they remember the good.

If you are a leader, and you work with leaders who say the kind of statements that we discussed earlier, then guess what kind of advertising they are getting from their people? It will be bad advertising which will force good people away.

So, the first thing that you need to change as the leader is yourself. If you don’t make a change first, then I can guarantee that nothing else will change.

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If leaders want to create a highly effective culture that will attract the right people and will retain them, then they need to think differently. They need to change their ways so that they can influence the rest of the organisation to follow.

It is so much easier to attract great people than keep looking out for good people, which is common sense you would think. Unfortunately, common sense isn’t always the norm in a lot of organisations and isn’t practiced a lot.

So, even though that is a common understanding, we need to act on this understanding differently.

The biggest and the best organisations in the world understand that it is common sense to attract great people, rather than searching for good people. They also know how to act on this understanding. Does your organisation know how to do the same?

Leadership is about people. If we don’t take care and focus on our people, then we are missing the point of what leadership is.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

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All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

18 thoughts on “Culture & Leadership

  1. Hi Tom,

    Culture Leadership is the process of understanding, shaping and influencing an organization’s culture.

    A highly effective culture is one that is aligned with the organization’s vision and values, has a high degree of employee engagement, and is responsive to the needs of its customers.

    So How do leaders create a culture of success?

    When culture is defined as something that shapes the way people think, feel and behave, it can have an incredible impact on organizational success. A company’s unique culture is a powerful key to attracting talent, improving customer service, and solving problems more quickly and more creatively than the competition.

    Have nice day.

    1. Hi Safia,

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on my post, and very detailed.

      It would be great if the reader’s of the post read your comment also and learned from you just as much as they learn from me.

      Keep inspiring the world with your amazing message.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. Hi Tom,

    This is a very good reminder of what a real leadership actually is and how important people are in an organisation.

    Personally, I am lucky to be working in a company where there is a lot of attention payed to culture and inclusiveness. There are various surveys and other ways in which everybody gets to express their opinions which leadership then tries to address.

    These kind of actions coming from the top of my company really give me hope and the feeling that I am part of something great.

    Do you agree that the people in high positions (the top) are mostly the ones responsible for the culture in an organisation?

    Thank you
    Tatiana

    1. Hi Tatiana,

      I appreciate you sharing your experiences with the current company you work with.

      It’s great that they take culture and inclusiveness so seriously and seems like they inspire you so much. This is very good to hear, so keep involved and share what you learn from your company with others.

      I totally agree that the people at the top are responsible for the culture of the organisation.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Hey Tom,

    I always love coming to your blog posts, as they always motivate me in the right way. I was working in corporate for about 4 years and reading blog posts like this reminds me of how wrong the environment I’ve been in was. However, since I am a soccer coach, the clubs I am working in are also having different cultures. (I guess, you know what I am talking about, in the UK, it is the same) Even though I agree with you that the culture and environment come first, otherwise, new people won’t come, I’d like to ask you. How do you find great people instead of just good people? How do you assure them they will stay once you found them?

    1. Hi Julius,

      It means the world for you to say that you love to come to my posts, I hope many others feel the same way.

      I am so pleased you describe the environment and experiences in the corporate world. I completely concur because I am still in it, but doing my best to rise above that with highlyeffectiveleader.com.

      I am a huge soccer (football in the UK ;)). When I was younger I wanted to be a footballer and I know that the environment when trying to make it professional is cut throat.

      I don’t think you find great people straight away, I think you find good people with great attitudes and you help to develop them into great people. You help them develop so they are good enough to lead, but you treat them well enough so they don’t want to leave.

      I hope that helps.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. A negative culture is hard to change and unless you are prepared to work very hard as an effective leader that can bring about positive change, then perhaps it is easier to join a work environment that already has an existing positive culture.

    However, if you can transform a negative culture to a positive culture in the role of an effective leader then you will certainly earn your stripes and is that not what effective leadership is all about? As you mentioned in this article. Positive change starts within.

    1. Hi Schalk,

      Thank you for contributing to my article.

      I couldn’t agree more that a negative culture is hard to change, but if you’re passionate enough and willing to put in the effort then it is very much achievable. As a highly effective leader, it is so important that you go that extra mile for your people to make the culture as good as possible.

      Keep working on creating that environment that focusses on people and helps them to learn to lead, grow and increase their influence for the good of others.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Great article on how culture relates to people and raising awareness of how important culture and the environment in general are. Leaders must be tasked with focusing and caring for their people, otherwise, everything loses meaning and purpose. Thank you for this article and I’m sure that it will be useful to many and to find answers to the questions that are bothering them.

    1. Hi Zvezdan,

      Appreciate your comment on my post, means a lot.

      You are totally right that leadrs must focus on caring for their people. Take care of the people and everything else will take care of itself.

      Sounds simple, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds.

      Keep caring for your people and keep leading them by example.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. This is a great article for current and future leaders to review, internalize and work on themselves so that they can understand the various cultural diversity in an organization. I even like the last quote you made on leadership, is about the people. Thank you for this informative article.

    1. Hi MadyibiLG,

      Thank you for commenting on my post.

      I appreciate your kind words and knowing that this article and my other articles will help current and future leaders.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. Hello Tom,

    I lost my job before the pandemic actually, and the whole team lost our jobs, including my manager. This is due to acquisitions and we are already redundant. After about 2 years in during the pandemic, I already have a job but my manager contacted me and asked if I want to work with him again. And of course, I said yes. He is actually building the old team. The positive culture that he cultivated with us before was my main reason.

    And I really learned a great deal from his leadership in those old days when I was building my team too or finding people with the correct attitude. Thank you for reminding me about this, Tom.

    I think you find great people in unexpected ways. Sometimes, the candidate was not qualified at the onset, but you will find the right attitude within them to be a team player, lead and provide example, respect for others, “no one left behind”, accountability, etc.

    1. Hi Lemuel,

      I’m really sorry to hear that you lost your job, just before the biggest pandemic to hit us.

      It’s great that you got a new job but it’s even better that your old leader contacted you. He was obviously that…a Leader. Well done to him for creating that great culture for you and your people.

      Keep learning from him and keep being inspired to help others in your team and your organisation. That is what it is all about.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Hi Tom,
    I have been retired for quite a few years, and now I work from home. But, I was also in the rail industry and worked as a welder in the freight car repair shops. They were always behind the curve in good worker relations, because management could not quite relate to the actual conditions in the shops.

    Needless to say, it was simply a numbers game of production. And the culture was just the old scientific management style. If you can do one piece in 10 mins, you can do 60 pieces an hour.

    But, that is never the case. Supply problems and breakdowns always factor in. As well as worker fatigue. The only upside was it was a union shop, and paid nice wages. Some bosses understood the real world, and others just wanted to impress their boss with numbers.
    The bosses who understood, never had much turnover. Is it any wonder?

    1. Hi Chas,

      I appreciate you sharing your experiences of working in the Freight repair shops.

      I have worked in freight also and it is pretty much the same culture as working in the TOCs. You are right that it is simply a numbers game instead of a people’s game.

      I hope your working from home is going well.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. A very good post. It is so true that culture should be one of the main driving things because that is what leads countries and thus can be the same for orginazations

    1. Hi Thabo,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on my post.

      I completely agree that culture drives organisations. However, it must be the leader who drives the culture.

      Keep that in mind with your people.

      All the best,

      Tom

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