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A positive company culture starts from the top down

Posted by Kanika Sinha

April 11, 2022    |     3-minute read (502 words)

Company culture is a responsibility shared by everyone in an organization. However, it can’t happen in the absence of strong leadership. At its core, workplace culture is how people inside the business interact with each other, which is learned behavior rather than a by-product of operations or an overlay. 

And it all starts at the top. Culture comprises everything an organization’s leaders do, from whom they hire to whom they listen to, from what they discuss in meetings to what they prioritize and even how they invest the firm’s money. These behaviors reflect the firm’s values and habits, and in turn inform how people within the organization interact with each other and work together.

Decoding the role of a leader

Here’s a comprehensive look at the three key roles leaders play in workplace culture: 

1. They manifest the company's values and goals

Great leaders exude a sense of positivity and fairness. They provide an example worth emulating and a meaningful environment. In so doing, leaders turn their personal values and beliefs into companywide ones, informing its goals and brand personality. 

What happens if there is a change in leadership? Perhaps the leader who championed positive culture moves up, and their replacement has different ideas. It depends on how successfully the firm’s leaders have already communicated their shared values and goals. If they are deeply ingrained among the team, as well as sufficiently prosocial, the positive work culture may withstand the change.

2. They set benchmarks and foster engagement

There's no shortage of research confirming that engaged employees are more productive and contribute more to the bottom line. It is the job of a business’s leaders to cultivate engaged employees who work to better themselves and the company. Leaders should clearly communicate the answers to questions like: 

• What does it take to excel in the organization? 
• What steps are required for employees to move up the company ladder?
• How does leadership provide feedback to employees? Is this done only at annual reviews? 
• What upskilling or educational opportunities are available for employees?

In addition, leaders set expectations for how employees engage and interact with one another. This goes back to the idea of the workplace environment: Are ideas exchanged freely, including with the C-suite? Do employees feel empowered to exchange actionable feedback among themselves? Does leadership reward learning from failure as reliably as it rewards success?

Probing the answers to these questions helps leaders shape a positive culture.

3. They set the tone for life beyond the workplace

The phrase “tone at the top” describes how leadership culture cascades down throughout the organization. More specifically, it means leaders determine to what extent an organization and its employees value things like transparency, integrity, open communication, optimism, respect, walking the walk and much more.

Today's workplaces are not just a collection of strangers, nor are they detached from the rest of society. This puts business leaders in the position of molding not just employees, but also citizens and neighbors.

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