Leadership and Culture


To what extent do the personal characteristics of a leader define the culture of an organization?

Culture Change
Collaborative Leadership
David Feidner
13 months ago

20 answers


Excellent question! In order to answer with what I believe is a useful perspective, I'm assuming that when you say "personal characteristics," you mean their "leadership" and "communication" styles, not their gender, height, body type, etc. In my 20+ years of experience serving leadership in both industry and government, my sense is that most cultures are direct extensions of the leader's characteristics. For example, I've served many CEO's (many are retired military) who favor the "command and control" leadership style; you know, "do as I say because I'm the boss." They are direct communicators who take charge, give orders, are my-way-or-the-highway communicators and occasionally step on toes (to say the least) in order to get things done. They're not likely to have high emotional intelligence. And I've usually found that the culture of their organization is also "command and control." People do as the leader does; they follow the path of least resistance. It's very rare, in my experience, to find an organizational culture that is significantly and measurably different from the leadership and communication styles of the leadership.

Gregg Ward
13 months ago
Thanks Greg, your assumption is correct, the question is about leadership style and cultural impact. Military type command and control are a great example, although there is an interesting case recently published. General Stanley McChristal orchestrated a significant cultural change that he articulates in his book "Team of Teams". A great read. - David 13 months ago
Former Facebook employees describe company's cultlike atmosphere - Dr. David E. 2 months ago
Leadership style spread good culture. - J N Das 18 days ago
Easy when winning - tough when not. THINK FaceBook - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
Leader should be friend for prosperity. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
prosperity = meaningless - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

My experience has been in entrepreneurial organizations that have been on the leading edge of the particular field they are serving. In these cases, the personal characteristics of the leader highly impact the culture of the organization. Often, it has been the personal vision and charisma of these individuals that brought the organization into existence and attracts the talent necessary to continue to grow and progress. A common problem can surface after the initial launch if leadership holds on to too much control and gets addicted to the excitement of creating on the wings of enthusiasm without paying attention to the crucial need to build solid financial and procedural systems that are grounded in tangible business practices. If this part of the business is trivialized the creative and innovative nature of the venture can devolve into an organization that pays lip service to long-term sustainability and resorts to systems that simply 'rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.'

Susan McNeal Velasquez
13 months ago
Thanks Susan. Reading your comment, the recent example of Uber immediatley came to mind. Like the Titanic analogy. Great feedback. - David 13 months ago
Leaders - especially youngsters and wonder - kids ultmately need mature adult managers in the room.- - Dr. David E. 2 months ago
Quality leadership is rewarding. - J N Das 18 days ago
OK - what else is new - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
Just difficult - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
Personal vision of leader in company is reflected positively then all will follow it as culture. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
Perhaps? But, non-green companies are thriving - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

Leadership plays very important role in building organizational culture and a well-built and managed organizational culture can create a significant competitive advantage for an organization. Leadership differences had a more pronounced effect on organizational behaviors and subsequent performance and top management leaders’ behavior can have a significant influence on emergent organizational cultures and performance. As Richard Hendrickson in 1989 based on his research works in the field of culture and leadership, has concluded:

  • A) The nature of leadership is related to the nature of culture.
  • B) Leadership is essentially a form of cultural expression.
  • C) The overall leadership can only be defined in terms of process.
  • D) Can only lead to a multi-studied phenomenon.

Since culture play very crucial role in the success of an organization in the competitive business world, many organizations take very different approaches to build quality work culture. These approaches termed as symmetric and asymmetric leadership and organizational cultures. If an organization competes both strategically and managerially by emphasizing planning and work systems to mitigate the impact of any turbulence in the external environment, where stability is a key is known as symmetric leadership and organization culture, whereas if an organization competes by accepting environmental uncertainty and risk as a part of normal daily operations, where flexibility of the organization is the key then it is known as asymmetric leadership and organization culture. 

Samares B
13 months ago
thanks Samares. Good reference to Richard Henrickson. - David 13 months ago
DITTO - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
Leader's ideology reflect in organization culture. - J N Das 18 days ago
OR at least the perception of ideology - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
Ideology of leader if great and positive to benefit to all and company then that ideology shall be converted in to culture of company. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
OK - may be and perhaps! - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

In my experience over fifty years, the most successful leaders at any level exhibited the following traits:

  • Inquisitive
  • Intuitive
  • Inspirational
  • Instructional

Those personas with the above stated characteristic traits could adapt, and adjust, far better than those with rigid experiences, and were better able to lead.

Sandy Waters
12 months ago
The four "I's", thanks Sandy. I've found the inquisitive characteristic particularly valuable. - David 12 months ago
Hackneyed drival - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
I agree as valuable characterstic - J N Das 18 days ago
OK - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
Relevant characteristics of an ideal leader. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
Lead by example - Manage by metrics - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

Leadership is the art of influencing people in order to achieve a result. The most essential element for success of a business is confident and competent leadership. Leaders often face difficult problems to which there are no simple, clear cut, by-the-book solutions. In these situations, leaders must use their knowledge, skill, experience, education, values, and judgment to make decisions and to take or direct action—in short, to provide leadership. No book can provide black-and-white answers to the unlimited volume and variety of situations a leader will face. Instead, leadership training simply outlines the broad concepts of leadership and the fundamental concepts by which expectations of leaders may be established and performance of leaders may be judged. This training is intended to make better leaders of all of us. For these reasons, leadership training courses and books written on the subject are structured around our leadership values and principles as a means of communicating what right looks like and illustrating effective leadership in action.

David Barckhoff-Sag-Aftra/Producer, Director
12 months ago
Leaders engage and convince and build consensus. - Dr. David E. 2 months ago
Yes I agree. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
Exactly - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

The Authority to Lead versus the Decision to Lead
The authority to lead is established by law. Whether this authority is based on federal, state, or local law, we are legal agents exercising authority on behalf of our organizations. The ability to lead is a different matter; it is something that cannot be legislated. To be effective, leaders must earn the trust and respect of others. A leader’s journey is a perpetual cycle of acquiring, shaping, and honing
the knowledge and skills of leadership. The leadership journey is never finished.
Once we commit to becoming leaders, our focus is no longer ourselves. Fire leaders assume the serious responsibility of putting others into harm’s way and for making decisions that profoundly affect citizens, communities, and natural resources. Leadership is a tough choice. Leaders choose to sacrifice their own needs for those of their teams and organizations. They routinely face situations and make decisions that others criticize and second-guess. Leaders take risks and face challenges every day. So why do we choose to lead? We lead because leading is where we make a difference.
Fire leaders bring order to chaos, improve our people’s lives, and strengthen our organizations. Leading enables us to leave a legacy for the leaders of the future so that they can take our places well prepared for the road ahead. These are the rewards of leadership. Their effects will be seen and felt long after our careers end.

David Barckhoff-Sag-Aftra/Producer, Director
12 months ago
Thanks - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
Leader has many activities to take responsibility and to decide problem. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
NOPE = to set goals, objectives, misson and TTT = time, talent and trearue to succeed - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

Edgar Schein is my favourite researcher/author in this area, and he talks about "Culture is a result of what an organization has learned from dealing with problems and organizing itself internally" so its less about the leader per se and more about how they go about engaging people in doing those things. Fuller interview here:

The proviso I would add to this is the impact or reach of the leader depends on tenure and size of the business. I've seen new CEO's join and get rejected by the corporate immune system, and I've also seen companies which are so big and global that the culture is fragmented and local.

Alan Arnett
13 months ago
Thanks Alan. I too have seen the "anti bodies" attact new CEOs, successfully in some cases, less so in others. Thanks for the link to culture university and Edgar Schein. Totally agree with his perspective. How the leader marshalls the organization to be adaptive and solve problems defines culture. - David 13 months ago
New CEOs = think first 100 days - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
CEO should accompany company culture. - J N Das 18 days ago
OK; u mean lead or create culture! - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
All should accept positive culture. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
CEO should accompany company culture -OR- change it - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

What define the culture of an organization are:

  • Vision. Live in the future but put this in practice now.
  • Emphaty. We deal with humans, not with machines. Ok not even with machines but still with human as well.
  • Passion. Show that you love and trust in what you are doing, people will follow you.
  • Ethic. Treat people as you want they will do with you.
  • Lead people. Indeed you can develop this skill but is something innate too. Not everyone is able to do it.

To me all these elements will then define the culture of your organization.

Paolo Beffagnotti
13 months ago
thanks Paolo. Great input. - David 13 months ago
DITTO - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
Leader should be friend not boss. - J N Das 18 days ago
no no no = PARENTS SOULD NOT BE FRIENDS WITH CHILDREN. - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
SO WRONG! - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
agree with you Dr. David E. Marcinko MBA , keep this separated - Paolo 17 days ago
I know = many thanks - Dr. David E. 16 days ago
Right answer. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
DITTO - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

This also has a lot to do with the kind of organization. In an organization that is innovation focussed, the image of the visionary leader will have a lot of influence on the company culture. Tesla is Elon Musk, Apple still is to some extent Steve Jobs.

In more mundane fields, management will hardly be known other than perhaps the names. Their personalities will undoubtedly still influence company culture, but at a much smaller scale. You might even say that the company culture will attract a certain leader in that case rather than vice versa.

Bart Groenewoud
12 months ago
You can also add Elon Musk to the CEO of SpaceX, George Lucas to Star Wars, Walt DIsney to DIsney World, Steven Spielberg to DreamWorks, Bill Gates to MicroSoft. - David 12 months ago
Elon Musk = different from the others THINK: government subsidies - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
If company culture good that company shall be appreciated and rewarded, its leading personalities are highly graded. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
OK - so what now? - Dr. David E. 16 days ago
All of the companies described above that have lost their illustrious leader have since struggled to reaffirm or redifne their identity. Star Wars without Lucas is just space movies with effects (admittedly, we were heading there anyway...), Apple without Jobs hangs on to Jonathan Ive... who is a designer, not an inventor or visionary.... It's a struggle - Bart 16 days ago
Apple is THRIVING - Dr. David E. 16 days ago
Apple is thriving as a company because of solid product and services, but latter iPhones are not as innovative versus market as earlier ones. - Bart 16 days ago
OK - so it will develop more products and services - Jobs is gone - get over it - Dr. David E. 16 days ago
Dr. David E. Marcinko MBA - I think we're on the same side here. Trust me, I'm all Apple-d up, and wouldn't want it any other way. But as big of a fanboy as I am, the reality is that Jobs had a singular visionary impact on the industry that is hard to match. - Bart 16 days ago
Agreed = but I am a fan of MSFT - Dr. David E. 16 days ago
Except their phone (No-Kia) and watch (Band), I assume. - Bart 16 days ago
NOPE = not even a smart phone - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

Hi All,

I favor the concept of a servant leader. A leader who directs through a clear vision of objectives, but with humility, a willingness to listen, empathic, and committed to the growth/advancement of his/her direct reports. The servant leader is that individual who is able and willing to provide resources and encouragement so that workers have the best chance at success.

Rob Walsh
11 months ago
Hackneyed and an overused metaphor - TRUE - like the politicians - public servants. - Dr. David E. 2 months ago
Leader create even resources and listen every one to carry out commitments and also success. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
OK - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

Personal character of course influences leadership. But leaders are not born as such, leadership can and has to be learnt.

Patrick Henz
18 days ago
NOPE = managers are largely taught - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
Leadership is largely inbred - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
yes, about management, but not about leadership. - Patrick 18 days ago
Ratio of grunts and managers to leaders == a million to 1 - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
We need mangers, which are leaders, or in other words “do the right thing right”. - Patrick 18 days ago
“do the right thing right” makes one ethical NOT a LEADER - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
"right thing" ethics, "thing right" manager; "right thing right" efficient leader. - Patrick 18 days ago
Meanngless tautology and syllogisms - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
Leader is made by own outlook activities and ideology. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
OR the BOD - Dr. David E. 16 days ago
Leadership is based on internal and external motivation; plus learned leadership skills - Patrick 16 days ago
Theory X and Theory X - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

David Barckhoff-Sag-Aftra/Producer, Director
12 months ago
Thanks - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
many thanks. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
U R welcomed - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

David Barckhoff-Sag-Aftra/Producer, Director
12 months ago
DITTO - Dr. David E. 18 days ago

If you have an established company and management, how do you select a leader for an internal new innovative business unit? What criteria are important to consider?

Sandy Waters
12 months ago
Is this new unit leader going to be in a permanent position or only the leader of this new unit for a short time until the unit gets closed when it's purpose is completed? - David 12 months ago
You should first look for a current employee who have training, education and experience in the subject area the new unit with be operating in. The could be the new leader. - David 12 months ago
NAY = usually an outsider = THINK: general electric UGH - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
I guess the question starts a bit late. You need internal processes to build up internally leaders. This includes coaching and training. - Patrick 18 days ago
Maybe - likely not. Name one grunt who was COACHED to be a leader - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
Coaches = managers - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
I also like "reverse mentorships? - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
Right comments. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
Thanks - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

Leader is manger when his ideology activities and relationship efficiency working style will make followers motivated to discharge duties automatically without pressure and compulson.

J N Das
18 days ago
NOPE = leaders set goals, visions, objective and timelines, etc. Time, Talent and Treasure. - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
No pressure and compulson - no success. - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
Leader is successful manager. if act according to principle for right way for benefit of all and also for company and its members. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
Leadership is long term - Dr. David E. 16 days ago
Management is daily operations - Dr. David E. 16 days ago
L is not M - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

Organisational culture is a system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs, which governs how people behave in organizations. These shared values have a strong influence on the people in the organization and dictate how they dress, act, and perform their jobs. Every organization develops and maintains a unique culture, which provides guidelines and boundaries for the behavior of the members of the organization. Let's explore what elements make up an organization's culture.
Organizational culture is composed of seven characteristics that range in priority from high to low. Every organization has a distinct value for each of these characteristics, which, when combined, defines the organization's unique culture

18 days ago
But, the culture for workers may be different than C suite culture - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
FAKE culture - Dr. David E. 18 days ago
Company culture is leaders culture and culture of all should be followed for welfare of all. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
OR-change it if needed - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

Culture and leadership are two sides of the same coin. When organizations start or when groups start there is always a leader who has a preferred way of doing things, and those preferences by definition are going to be imposed on the group members. If you don’t like the way I run this group, I’ll replace you. The leader’s values and preferences are the first ways that a group or organization does things and if that works it becomes eventually the culture of that group. So in a very real sense, founders and leaders create culture.

Er. P.Das C
16 days ago
Often, in a large organization, the leaders has no clue what is going on inside the company - Dr. David E. 16 days ago
Due to his other responsibility and otherwise engaged. - Er. Jangyadutta 16 days ago
Why else - or not care - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

In every organization all employees as well as leaders or top managers should follow the culture of company for complete development of company.

Er. Jangyadutta D
16 days ago
Meaningless - Dr. David E. 16 days ago
Culture is nothing which can be prescribed, it is in a continuous flow. Employees have to live corporate culture, but at the same time they also co-create this culture. - Patrick 16 days ago
Nice insight - Dr. David E. 16 days ago
thanks! - Patrick 16 days ago
U earned it - Dr. David E. 16 days ago

My experience has created a view that the leader should aim to develop leaders, the style of leadership approach in my opinion works to establish a developmental approach to "task" through partnered leadership. The clarity and position of each person with a role to develop a culture and motivation that can carry personal and collective action and create scope for effective utilisation of individuals strengths and a reflective open learning environment.

To be reasonable, this model and view has progressively been eroded due to the enormous pressures and job role increases and targeted result and outcome requirements that determine that a role is mainly about task as oppose to person centred, which has impacted upon workforce motivation.

I consider trait leadership style and democracy in the workplace to be an active part of development and movement. The leader should in my view be part of a team with a specific role that should be invested in and this lead is about people and task becomes secondary, this in turn creates collegiate motivation to achieve based upon secure values in relation to the culture developed and organisational future-proofing and improvement.

Steve Walker
14 days ago

How things are done in the workplace,depends on factors affecting people interaction within the organization and policies as well as processes in place.
The leadership style and traits dictates the behavior in the workplace.

Ferdinand Cuaresma
14 days ago

Have some input?