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How Leadership Affects Culture and Culture Affects Leadership
There has been so much written on leadership that there is very little I can add. Leaders must be story tellers, communication, communication, negotiation, support, creativity, care, risk, integrity, communication challenge, motivation, and a whole host of other attributes that are too numerous to mention. There are 940 books currently available on the subject and it wouldn’t surprise me if you have close to half a million books on the subject. It is the bread and butter of all consulting firms around the world. With so much thought and insight, why is it still a problem?
The answer lies with culture. The whole purpose of leadership is to create a culture. In a large and well-established organization it can be difficult for outsiders to adopt a new culture. So, does culture create culture or does culture create culture? The answer to both questions is yes.
Culture affects leadership
“I’ve been here 25 years.” said the leader of the big city. “I’ve passed 3 City Managers so far and I’m going to pass this one.” That’s the attitude that many leaders face, especially when they are brought in by outside organizations to run or manage large, well-established organizations. A bad culture can be especially effective because the leaders are influenced by the leaders who are related to the old culture. Whether it comes from management or interest, poor leadership can create serious obstacles to change.
Bad leadership, however, can have a quick, negative impact on good leadership. WorldCom was the leader in radio and the new culture until Bernie Ebbers did it. While squeezing every cent he can from the environment and making it difficult for employees to work with less, he is pillaging the company. Turnover was high and, within a few years, WorldCom was bankrupt.
Culture as a function of leadership
Companies reflect the ethics of the managers who run them. Bob Page felt like an outsider and had to hide his sexuality. When he founded Replacements Ltd. he has made sure that it will be a place that accepts many people not only in life but in thinking and will invest in building their community. Anita Roddick created The Body Shop to show that you can create a healthy environment that reflects her commitment to environmental work. Jim Goodnight’s commitment to work-life balance is part of the culture of SAS, the world’s largest private company. Jack Welch’s commitment to excellence created an environment of excellence at General Electric. In each of these cases, the ethics of the leader became a cultural imperative.
The Obstacles to Culture Change
The real problem for culture change is what we call internal problems. Deception, fear, complacency, and preconceived notions lead to negative outcomes. When change is resisted, even the change is good. People learn different problem-solving techniques to avoid changes such as hiding behind procedures, ‘cool office’ speech or complaints, or being passive. affect the beginning. The question then is how leadership can be beneficial to organizational culture.
How leadership influences culture
Whether the leader comes from within the organization or is brought in from outside to change the organization, there are ways in which leadership can affect culture.
1. Walk the Talk People care about what you do, not what you say and the importance of a leader, not what they say, When Enron CEO Kenneth Lay and his management team stole from the owners business, many business people are laughing. they will trade small old for their heating bills. This is the most difficult aspect of leadership. Having worked with people who have written books on the subject, I can tell you that often their actions do not match their words and the effect is that many people have no respect for them. When you say you’re going to do something, you have to follow through and do it.
2. Rewards and management is a work of ethics. .
We value what we know. How are people rewarded or recognized? For example, if you want cooperation and teamwork and reward people for ‘putting their numbers’ then their strengths will be what they are recognized for. Jim Goodnight from SAS maintains that people only work 37.5 hours a week because they will be burned out if they work late and therefore unproductive. If ‘yes’ people are encouraged, then the culture will see that harmony is the only way to succeed and you will create a hierarchical culture.
3. Be patient
Passion is contagious and people love to be a part of it. According to the Marine Corp. leadership goes, “People will follow you because they have to or because they want to and who do you want with a gun on your back?” When you encourage people to change, you are rewiring their brains and they will take ownership to succeed.
4. Network with Organizations
Many senior leaders are removed from the front lines, which is precisely where the tires hit the road. These are the people who ultimately create the culture. Many managers only deal with their direct reports, which leaves them with a vague understanding of what is going on. What is really happening on the front lines of the organization? Who are the supporters and opponents in the organization? That’s one of the benefits of organizational support – they know people. Of course, problems in the organization will call for new leaders. However, it is important to have a collaborative culture. There is a culture you have and a culture many leaders think they have.
Years ago, I heard this story from a customer. He is upset that the organization has removed their smoking room because smoking is prohibited by law from the entire building. “Even if I don’t smoke,” he told me. “I was surprised by what happened there. People really talked without mentioning names because they had one thing in common – addiction. One day the Vice President came to me and told me about this man who he was talking to. He asked me who he was, I looked at him and saw that he was part of the maintenance staff. He was the one take care.”
Leaders must remove the layers around them and create in the “smoking room”.
5. Discuss clearly
It may seem obvious but when there is no clear communication there is unclear and informal communication, i.e. gossip. Gossip can lead to change and have a negative impact on leadership. People appreciate honest and fair communication, even if it’s negative. The worst part is not knowing.
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