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Leadership lessons for culture management

[fa icon="calendar"] 08-Nov-2016 12:18:06 / by Walking the Talk

Leadership lessons for culture management


The US votes today. Less than 24 hours from now we will know who has won the battle to be the next President of the United States. And it has been a battle, one that has captured the attention of the entire world.

The US election has surfaced a divide between people who believe that they have and the people who believe that have not, giving voice to a proportion of the population who do not feel that they have been heard by their politicians and leaders for many years. A similar discontent saw the UK Brexit earlier this year. What will it result in in the US?


There are many aspects driving the discontent but I want to focus on leadership. When we work with clients who are leading culture transformation and culture management, we work with them on three core qualities which are critical to build a healthy organisational culture - responsible, open and principled.  In our experience, the presence of these qualities is strongly linked to business performance and engagement of employees. These core qualities are vital if you are leading change and are also a critical foundation for all good leadership. It is interesting to look at the US election and the candidates through this lens. Let’s consider each element.

Responsible, or response-able is understanding that in any situation you are an active agent, that you have choices and that to think otherwise is to be a victim of circumstances. Trump’s insistence that the electoral system is rigged against him is an example of low personal responsibility – seeking to blame others for outcomes, looking outside yourself for reasons and excuses. On the whole, we admire leaders that own their actions – good or bad. Clinton provided a fine example of this when she accepted responsibility for her mistakes over the email fiasco. 

Open is about accepting that you don’t have all the answers. It is about being humble, listening and embracing others ideas. This is difficult for any politician - after all, it is their job to have answers to the country’s problems. “Sorry losers and haters, but my IQ is one the highest.” “Our leaders are stupid. They are stupid people.” There has been little humility in Trump’s statements or behaviour and whilst Clinton has spoken about working together to find solutions for all, many question whether she is genuinely open to the views of others.

The last quality, principled is fascinating. For many the FBI investigation of Clinton’s emails is part of a pattern of behaviour which puts her and her family’s interests above that of the people. This has consistently damaged her during the campaign. Being principled is having absolute clarity about where your line is drawn and being prepared to stick to it, even if there is personal cost.  Being principled is an action, not a statement and there is no question, what is appealing to many is that Trump appears to be prepared to take a position irrespective of whether people like him or not for that view. Only time will tell whether these positions are backed up by action.

Whichever candidate succeeds they will need to work on consistently demonstrating all three qualities if they are to genuinely drive forward the US. As with the UK, the next President will have a significant challenge to unite their country and this will take leadership.

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Topics: Leadership, Culture management

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