For some, the words “corporate culture” can be terrifying, evoking images of cramped cubicles, tight neckties and forced smiles at company barbecues. But corporate culture is not something to fear. Instead, by understanding the connection between leadership and culture and the importance of purpose and authenticity, executives can create a corporate culture that excites and inspires employees.
Leadership and Culture
When developing a corporate culture, it is important that employees feel a sense of purpose and autonomy. No one wants to be forced to be a part of a culture. Effective corporate culture empowers employees to serve as company ambassadors and provides them with work that is meaningful and rewarding. The connections between leadership and culture are intertwined, not hierarchical.
Susan Cramm, former CFO and CIO and current executive consultant, points to the example of Zumasys, a cloud-based infrastructure company with a voluntary turnover rate of two percent a year. Its secret: The cultural leadership of its CEO, Paul Giobbi. In addition to generous vacation time and other benefits, Giobbi started a program whereby one percent of Zumasys profits each year go to nonprofits chosen by the employees. Giobbi cares about his employees and their passions, and supports them in their community-building efforts.
If low employee turnover is not enough to spur Master of Business Administration students into changing what we mean by corporate culture, then they can look to the evidence that shows that it improves the bottom line. In another article, Cramm points to research revealing that “companies with a single-minded . . . focus on maximizing profits find that, over time, revenue and profit growth become increasingly more difficult to achieve.” Giobbi has it figured out already, though: He learned early on that “People want more than fun, perks, or the bottom line — everyone strives to live, and work, for a greater purpose.”
What the executives of tomorrow can learn from this is that leadership and culture are inextricably intertwined. Employees want purpose, and a strong cultural leadership provides opportunities for them to find meaning in the work they do.
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