Corporate Culture and Its Role in Achieving Effective Integrated Leadership

Saleem AlSharari - Al Jawf Track
This article is written by a Youth Voice program winner. The Youth Voice Program is an enriching dialogue program that aims to engage young people from all over the Kingdom in a number of seminars, discussion meetings and trainings. It focuses mainly on critical thinking and persuasive communication skills.

Effective leadership means different things to different leaders, and many people limit leadership to a company's senior executives. But, if we look at the bigger perspective of effective leadership, we notice that it does not become a person's nature automatically when they reach a certain salary or a specific position. In fact, you can be a leader at work and in the community without having a title.

In this article, I will talk about the definition of effective integrated leadership in companies and the necessity, as a leader, to balance between purpose, culture and strategy to help the company increase its productivity and improve the employees' efforts to achieve their goals.

Through my personal experience in working with local and international companies, I found that the best definition of integrated leadership is the one articulated by Kevin Cross in his Forbes article: "Leadership is the process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others towards the achievement of a goal".  Given this definition, it is clear that leadership stems from social influence, not authority or power. Leadership also requires support from others through their efforts, which means that others do not need to be directly associated with the leader.

 

In addition, the definition does not address the leader's personal traits or qualities, let alone their position. Rather, it refers to achieving a goal and an important impact for all. Effective leadership is therefore critical to the performance of both the company and the employees. This is reflected by the results of a study by Deloitte Management Consulting, which confirmed an increase of up to 15% in equity value for companies with effective leadership.

Reflecting on many companies, we find that leadership focuses on tangible things such as strategy and financial returns, and measures them through performance measurement indicators without paying attention to the concept of integrated leadership. To achieve the concept of integrated leadership, the role of leaders can be summed up in addressing 3 main elements: purpose, culture and strategy, with the need to harmonize these elements.

 

Before we start talking about integrated leadership, we should clarify some concepts. When we talk about purpose, we mean the reason behind the work of the organization or institution. The purpose is the foundation on which the vision, message and values are built. It is the true and concise answer to the question: What is the company's purpose for existence and the impact it wants to leave on the world?

Culture, on the other hand, defines the mechanism for accomplishing work within the organization. It is the characteristics and behaviors that we encourage and that answers the question: How do employees collaborate and work together to achieve the goal?

 

Finally, strategy defines the objectives and KPIs and how the company can achieve them, and answers the question: What should the company do to succeed?

Strategy is a key pillar used by senior leaders in their relentless pursuit of maintaining organizational benefit and viability. Strategy provides common logic to company goals, which organizes and directs the people around it. Strategy provides clarity and focus for teamwork and decision, as it is based on plans and a range of options for effective people distribution.

 

All too often, strategy implementation is encouraged through tangible rewards for achieving goals and punishments in the event of failure. For the ease of comprehending and understanding the strategy, we find many leaders focusing on it and ignoring the culture because it is thought of as distant and unattainable; and because it is built on unspoken or tangible behaviors, mindsets and social patterns.

 

Corporate culture expresses goals and the mechanism of action through values, beliefs and group rules. Building and strengthening culture is key to the long-term growth and sustainability of an organization. A healthy culture can release huge amounts of energy and channel it towards a common goal to enhance the ability of the company and employees to grow and thrive. These benefits lie in attracting and maintaining a healthy culture for talents. It is quite easy to attract good talent by paying high salaries and offering job benefits, but it is the culture that will retain this talent in the company. Culture transforms us into a team and makes us agree on the “purpose” of our existence and the “impact” we are working towards. Culture determines how people behave and collaborate. In addition, culture affects the performance and well-being of employees in the company by encouraging creativity and increasing happiness in the workplace, which leads to increased productivity. However, strategy and culture alone cannot effectively achieve the goals without the very clarity on which all these elements are based.

 

Purpose is the cornerstone upon which all the key elements needed by the leader are built to achieve the company's goals. Unfortunately, it is common for leaders seeking to build high-performing institutions to confuse the purpose.

In fact, most of the newly established companies have a clear purpose. However, the problem lies in the growth of these companies. We notice that they ignore the original purpose and focus on achieving financial returns and KPIs.

 

Ignoring or neglecting the purpose has negative effects that can destroy the company and its achievements in the long run. The purpose touches the emotions and feelings of employees. These emotions are harnessed, acting as driving forces for human behavior, more than accounts and logical and financial stimuli.

 

For example, from my personal point of view, the secret to the success of the Kingdom's Vision 2030 under the leadership of His Highness, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, may God protect him, is due to the fact that he was able to translate the people's purpose to achieve a better future for this great nation. The clarity of this vision and purpose has had a significant impact on unifying the efforts of the people as a whole to pursue this ambitious purpose.

When we study the details of the Kingdom's Vision 2030, we find that all key elements of effective leadership are clear and coherent. Upon launching the vision (Purpose), 11 Vision Realization Programs (Strategy) were announced and transferred to reality. For each of the vision programs, the mission, values, goals, work mechanism and cooperation between these programs as a whole (Culture) were defined.

 

The application of integrated leadership has been a primary reason for the process of social impact, increasing citizens' efforts to achieve the goal, and leading to the success of the Kingdom's Vision 2030.

Finally, in this article, we learned about integrated leadership in companies and the necessity, as a leader, of balancing the company's purpose, culture and strategy to help the company increase its productivity and improve the employees' efforts to achieve its goals, achieve effective leadership and reap its benefits. Leaders need to connect with the emotions of employees, create a positive shared feeling among them and direct energies to reach the company's goals through a clear strategy.

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