Can You Identify Your Organization’s Leadership Culture?

Can You Identify Your Organization’s Leadership Culture? - CCL

Organizational Leadership Culture Can Be Defined in 3 Basic Ways

When leaders execute their organization’s business strategies, they can’t forget their organization’s culture — the self-reinforcing web of beliefs, practices, patterns, and behaviors — which trumps strategy every time.

Leadership culture is the way things are done; it’s the way people interact, make decisions, and influence others. Leaders’ own conscious and unconscious beliefs drive decisions and behaviors, and repeated behaviors become leadership practices. Because these practices eventually become the patterns of leadership culture, leaders must understand their responsibility in creating or changing it.

3 Types of Organizational Leadership Cultures

We’ve found that leadership cultures can be defined in 3 basic ways:

  • Dependent leadership cultures operate with the belief that people in authority are responsible for leadership.
  • Independent leadership cultures operate with the belief that leadership emerges out of individual expertise and heroic action.
  • Interdependent leadership cultures operate with the belief that leadership is a collective activity to the benefit of the organization as a whole.

But how do you know what kind of leadership culture you have — and whether you have the culture you need for the strategy you set?

Decoding Your Organization’s Leadership Culture

One way to decode your leadership culture is to assess how leaders go about creating shared direction, alignment, and commitment (DAC). The process of DAC may vary greatly depending on the predominant leadership culture, as shown below:

  • Direction determines how your organization decides on a way to go. Looking at the chart above, you can see that the approach to setting direction could be rooted in compliance (dependent culture), influence (independent culture), or shared exploration (interdependent culture).
  • Alignment refers to how you coordinate your work so that it fits together. Similar to direction, the cultural approach to creating alignment varies depending on your culture type. In dependent cultures, alignment results from fitting into the expectations of the larger system. In independent cultures, it results from negotiation. And in interdependent cultures, it results from ongoing mutual adjustment.
  • Commitment speaks to mutual responsibility for the group – when people prioritize the success of the collective over their individual success. In dependent cultures, that commitment results from loyalty to the source of authority of the community itself. In independent cultures, it results from evaluating the benefits for self while benefiting the larger community. And in interdependent cultures, commitment results from engaging in a developing community.

If right now, your organization’s leadership culture isn’t where it needs to be for the future, learn 5 principles for more interdependent leadership cultures.

Are Your Leadership Strategy & Organizational Leadership Culture In Sync?

Once you have clarity around your current leadership culture, it’s time to ask:

  • To what extent is the culture having a positive or negative impact on performance?
  • Is our leadership culture helping us to achieve the business strategies we’ve set?

If your business strategy and leadership culture are at odds, your leaders need to get serious about changing themselves — so they can create greater direction, alignment, and commitment; transform your organization and its culture; and, over time, boost performance and meet strategic business goals.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Partner with our experts to strengthen your organizational leadership culture and ensure your culture and strategy are aligned. Explore our Organizational Leadership Culture Change service.

November 20, 2020
Leading Effectively Staff
About the Author(s)
Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff, who analyze our decades of pioneering, expert research and experiences in the field to share content that will help leaders at every level. Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-based leadership articles and insights sent straight to your inbox.

Related Content

woman leading a meeting and modeling self care showing how to reimagine the servant leadership model

Reimagining the Servant Leadership Model: Starting With Self

Servant leaders have long been praised for prioritizing their people, but is often practiced in ways that subvert self in favor of others. In this webinar we explore ways to reimagine the servant leadership model to allow leaders to take care of themselves first, in order to more effectively serve those they lead.

Please update your browser. requires a modern browser for an enhanced and secure user experience. Internet Explorer is no longer supported or recommended by Microsoft. The Center for Creative Leadership recommends that you upgrade to Microsoft Edge or similar.