Driving Culture Change with Leadership

In yesterday’s Advisor, guest columnist Lee Ellis explained the benefits of balancing results and relationships in leadership. Today we take a look at a recent study that demonstrates the importance of prioritizing company culture in order to lead effectively.

A comprehensive global study recently released by the Hay Group division of Korn Ferry®, an international advisory firm, demonstrates that executives see the need to make culture a priority to drive alignment, collaboration, and performance.
Hay Group’s “Real World Leadership” study of more than 7,500 executives from 107 countries found that “driving culture change” ranks among the top three global leadership development priorities.
“Culture is no longer seen as an afterthought when considering the business focus of an organization,” says Noah Rabinowitz, senior partner and global head of Hay Group’s Leadership Development Practice. “Culture is the X-factor. It’s the invisible glue that holds an organization together and ultimately makes the difference between whether an organization is able to succeed in the market or not.”
This survey affirms the critical role that leaders play in steering culture. Executives reported that the most widely used strategy to improve culture is “communications,” followed by “leadership development” and “embedding culture change in management objectives.”
In addition, the study found that “improving organizational alignment and collaboration” is the primary reason executives choose to focus on improving culture, followed by “improving organizational performance.”
But research finds the alignment between strategy and culture is more often the exception than the rule in most organizations. In a 2014 Korn Ferry survey, 72% of respondents agreed that culture is extremely important to organizational performance. However, only 32% said their culture aligns with their business strategy.
The findings suggest that organizations need to make culture change a more significant aspect of their leadership development programs and overall leadership agenda. “Culture change occurs, ultimately, when a critical mass of individuals adopt new behaviors consistent with their organization’s strategic direction,” says Rabinowitz. “Leadership development can be the most effective tool to change behaviors. And when leaders change their behaviors, others do so, too.”

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