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The leader's role in building an organisational culture

A strong culture is the foundation of every successful organisation and one of the most powerful sources of competitive advantage, as no other organisation can fully replicate it. It is the invisible force that shapes employee behaviour, influences decision-making, and ultimately determines the overall effectiveness and performance of an organisation.

A company culture sends a very strong message about what the organisation stands for, both internally and externally. Culture is not static and it’s not a product of a mission statement or set values. It is also not something you can quickly gain or lose, and it cannot be measured. It evolves continuously based on the unique organisation and its people - and at the heart of building and nurturing a strong organisational culture lies the indispensable role of leaders.

The most effective company cultures value people, provide career growth and adapt to meet customer needs. It is the most powerful tool an organisation can use to drive results as it helps a team align on their purpose and its impact on customers, partners, and employees.

The culture of an organisation is most actively cultivated by the leader. Team members look to their leadership team for guidance and determine what’s acceptable, encouraged and even celebrated within the organisation. Conversely, an ineffective culture can have the opposite effect.

But how can leadership teams contribute to building a strong culture?

1. Setting the tone from the top

A strong organisational culture starts with leaders who embody the values, mission, and vision of the organisation. Leaders must lead by example, demonstrating integrity, accountability, and respect in their actions and interactions. By consistently aligning their behaviours with the desired culture, leaders set the tone from the top, inspiring employees to embrace the shared values and adopt them as their own. Leaders need to be visible, accessible, and approachable, ensuring open lines of communication and creating a culture of transparency and trust.

2. Defining and communicating core values

Leaders are responsible for defining and communicating the core values underpinning the organisational culture. These values serve as guiding principles that drive decision-making, shape behaviour, and create a sense of belonging and purpose among employees. By clearly articulating and reinforcing these core values, leaders create a cohesive culture where everyone understands the collective expectations and strives to uphold them. Regular communication, both through formal channels and informal interactions, helps embed these values into the organisation's fabric.

3. Empowering and developing people

Leaders play a pivotal role in empowering and developing their teams to thrive within the organisational culture. By fostering a growth mindset and providing opportunities for learning and development, leaders cultivate a culture of continuous improvement. They invest in their employees, offering mentorship, coaching, and training programs that enhance skills, promote innovation, and encourage collaboration. By empowering individuals to take ownership and contribute their unique talents, leaders create a culture that values and rewards initiative, creativity, and teamwork.

4.Recognising and celebrating success

Leaders must actively recognise and celebrate achievements that align with the desired culture. By acknowledging and rewarding exemplary behaviour and performance, leaders reinforce the values they seek to promote. This recognition can take various forms, including public praise, rewards, and opportunities for advancement. Such celebrations create a positive and motivating work environment, encouraging employees to go above and beyond while fostering a sense of pride and loyalty towards the organisation.

To sum up, leaders play a pivotal role in building and nurturing an organisational culture that drives success and employee engagement. By setting the tone, defining core values, empowering people, and recognising achievements, leaders shape the behaviours and attitudes that define the organisation. Through their actions and leadership, they create a culture that attracts and retains top talent, fosters innovation, and enables the organisation to thrive in a rapidly evolving organisational landscape.

Embracing this vital role, leaders have the power to transform organisations from within and pave the way for a vibrant and purpose-driven culture. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering training and development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops, and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at


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