Real World Leadership: Part three: Create an engaging culture for greater impact

Development that drives transformation and growth. Part three of the Real World Leadership report series.

Culture is the lifeblood of an organization. It reflects the values, beliefs, and behaviors that determine how people perform and interact with each other every day. In some organizations, culture is widely discussed and understood by all. In others, it is an unspoken set of rules and norms. Culture, regardless of how it is communicated, plays an enormous role in organizations’ performance.

To explore this issue, Korn Ferry conducted a comprehensive global survey on leadership development generating more than 7,500 responses from business and HR leaders in over 100 countries. The results in the third of four reports in this series reveal that organizations see the need to make a priority of culture to drive alignment, collaboration, and performance. Yet many acknowledge they have not effectively aligned culture and strategy.

Key findings include:

  • "Driving culture change" ranks among the top three global leadership development priorities.
  • "Organizational alignment and collaboration" is considered the primary driver to improve culture.
  • "Communications" is the most used strategy to improve culture, followed by "leadership development" and "embedding culture change in management objectives."

The findings suggest that organizations need to make culture change a more significant aspect of their leadership development programs and overall leadership agenda. Culture change occurs, ultimately, when a critical mass of individuals adopt new behaviors consistent with their organization’s strategic direction. Leadership development can be the most effective tool to change behaviors. And when leaders change their behaviors, others do so, too. 

Culture change starts in the executive suite. Top leaders need to define the culture, communicate it to all organizational levels, and act and behave in ways that reflect and reinforce desired outcomes.

Leadership development can play a key role in accelerating, reinforcing, and sustaining culture change throughout the organization. This is the third in a series of four reports that discuss the results and implications of our global research on leadership development. We hope the insights provided will help organizations develop the leaders they need to succeed in these challenging times.


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