Organizational Culture and Leadership 3rd Edition
In this section of the book I will define the concept of culture and show its relationship to leadership. Culture is both a dynamic phenomenon that surrounds us at all times, being constantly enacted and created by our interactions with others and shaped by leadership behavior, and a set of structures, routines, rules, and norms that guide and constrain behavior. When one brings culture to the level of the organization and even down to groups within the organization, one can see clearly how culture is created, embedded, evolved, and ultimately manipulated, and, at the same time, how culture constrains, stabilizes, and provides structure and meaning to the group members. These dynamic processes of culture creation and management are the essence of leadership and make one realize that leadership and culture are two sides of the same coin.
Leadership has been studied in far greater detail than organizational culture, leading to a frustrating diffusion of concepts and ideas of what leadership is really all about, whether one is born or made as a leader, whether one can train people to be leaders, and what characteristics successful leaders possess. I will not review this literature, focusing instead on what I consider to be uniquely associated with leadership—the creation and management of culture.
As we will see, this requires an evolutionary perspective. I believe that cultures begin with leaders who impose their own values and assumptions on a group. If that group is successful and the assumptions come to be taken for granted, we then have a culture that will define for later generations of members what kinds of leadership are acceptable. The culture now defines leadership. But as the group runs into adaptive difficulties, as its environment changes to the point where some of its assumptions are no longer valid, leadership comes into play once more. Leadership is now the ability to step outside the culture that created the leader and to start evolutionary change processes that are more adaptive. This ability to perceive the limitations of one’s own culture and to evolve the culture adaptively is the essence and ultimate challenge of leadership.
If leaders are to fulfill this challenge, they must first understand the dynamics of culture, so our journey begins with a focus on definitions, case illustrations, and a suggested way of thinking about organizational culture. In this part, I begin in Chapter One with some brief illustrations and a definition. Chapter Two expands the concept and argues for a multilevel conception of culture. In Chapter Three, I examine in some detail two cases that illustrate well the complexity of culture and will be used throughout the rest of the book. And in Chapter Four, I show how culture arises in the process of human interaction.
At this point, the most important message for leaders is this: “try to understand culture, give it its due, and ask yourself how well you can begin to understand the culture in which you are embedded.
In Part Two of this book we turn to the content of culture, and in Part Three, to the dynamic processes involved in the interaction of leadership and culture.
|January 11, 2018
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