Three Key Leadership Lessons For Promoting Cultural Cohesion
Leadership is more than a role or an office occupied by an individual by way of happenstance, appointment or willpower. Leadership equates to influence. The leadership style, behavior and rhetoric of any given leader — and the values represented therein — can direct the culture in which the leader operates.
Here are a few key lessons on the elements of leadership that can promote cultural cohesion and drive sustainable success in an organization.
1. Cultivating A Culture Of Diversity And Inclusion
Diversity cannot be viewed as a box to check or a measure undertaken for the sake of demographics reports or stakeholder expectations. Diversity can be a key element in ensuring that a culture remains fertile with creative potential. In fact, research published in Financial Management found that organizational policies focused on building a more diverse workforce are linked to higher levels of innovation. Creating an agile organization in competitive, highly disrupted markets may require that leaders embrace a workforce with employees who come from a range of backgrounds and can bring to the table the differing opinions, life experiences and areas of expertise that promote innovation.
What’s more, Gallup found that "engagement and inclusiveness are closely related." This is likely a result of engaged employees also feeling valued at work. When employees sense that their opinions matter and that leaders care about their input, they typically feel more committed to helping the organization achieve success.
Organizations with higher than average diversity and inclusion rates not only can achieve elevated agility through innovation, but they also can gain a greater sense of cohesion and may see higher overall rates of employee engagement — which, according to Gallup, can translate to higher productivity and 21% higher profitability.
2. Fostering Loyalty
Loyalty is of paramount importance to most leaders. When members of a group remain loyal to their leader even through times of decreased performance, doubt or struggle, leaders may feel confident in persevering in their duties to achieve desired results.
However, the method by which leaders attain loyalty is no insignificant matter. Commanding loyalty through positional power tends to guarantee only temporary advantages. By leveraging their positional power, leaders maintain loyalty only by virtue of their office — not thanks to any particular personal strengths, abilities or righteousness. As it is, positional power is easily abused and can morph into scare tactics, manipulation and unilateral control that's exerted in order to obtain allegiance that they haven't earned. Members of the team remain loyal out of fear, coercion or incentives rooted in power-related promises.
Conversely, persuasive power inspires loyalty by way of a leader’s influence — the virtue of their vision, decency and transparency. Loyalty that's built organically, rather than coerced or artificially contrived, is rooted in the authentic commitment of team members. This kind of loyalty can promote purposeful engagement at work that's driven by a dedication to realizing the leader’s vision and the desired outcomes of the group. As such, it can require less oversight during periods of crisis as team members remain assured of their leader’s abilities regardless of circumstance.
3. Reactivity Versus Proactivity
Overcoming both anticipated and unanticipated challenges is a daily requirement for most leaders. How they choose to handle these hurdles can send a clear message to the teams they head — indicating whether the organization should act or react in the face of an obstacle.
In response to their leaders’ approach to meeting challenges, team members can form beliefs about how they should think and act in high-stakes situations. If a leader is faced with a challenge, he or she sets the precedent for beliefs and conduct for the rest of the organization.
A pattern of reactive responses can create a belief in the workforce that reactivity is the correct method by which to handle challenges. Ultimately, the blame game is given free rein over an organization, which can deplete team members’ faith in their leader while undermining confidence in one another, both within and between teams and departments. The result? Internal silos, splintering loyalties and a lack of team cohesion that can inhibit productivity and performance.
On the other hand, proactive leaders react with grace and effectiveness: They recognize a problem when it arises, take psychological ownership for the problem, mobilize creative problem-solving efforts to create a meaningful solution and deploy the most effective solutions in order to overcome the challenge seamlessly.
Closing The Gap With Strong Leadership
Leaders can create a sense of strong collective identity and promote increased innovation by championing diverse opinions, skill sets and backgrounds. At the same time, fostering loyalty through the positive influence of demonstrated honesty, tenacity and vision can create a deeper commitment to achieving shared goals. Finally, leaders can meet challenges head-on with a proactive approach to problem-solving that illustrates a high degree of accountability for delivering positive results.
When leaders foster diversity and inclusion, build loyalty through authentic virtue and overcome challenges with grace and agility, they set a precedent for the rest of us. When we all buy into and embody beliefs that contribute to our collective good, we can mobilize meaningful change and achieve greater success together.