Communicating as a Leader

Leaders Establish Corporate Culture

Ed Horrell asked:

What leaders of corporations and organizations say about others can play a powerful role in the culture that their company adopts. In addition to actions, policies, and communications, companies reflect what their leaders say. This can be revealing.

Take Donald Trump, for example.

From all appearances, Trump seems to run a successful organization. The success of his companies, just as is the case with ANY company, has as much to do with the character of its leaders as its strategy. This character, referred to as its culture, is much more powerful than its strategy. It defines who the company is.

When a leader uses phrases to describe other people including “fat”, “slob”, and “ugly”, it makes a strong statement to the employees of the company. This statement comes in two flavors.

One is the statement that is made to leaders of the company. In most cases, leaders of any group tend to emulate THE single leader. Leaders want to be included in the plans of the key person and will tend to follow that person’s culture via their actions and words. In other words, they want to impress that key leader and what better way is there than to be like them? If the leader likes his or her self, they will certainly like others who are similar to them… right?

So it becomes easy to emulate that leader by talking like them. If it’s okay for the leader to use these phrases, it must be okay for his followers to use them.

The leaders who don’t feel comfortable in this culture will find a way to separate themselves from this talk, often leaving the company. They will be replaced by others who “fit in” with this kind of attitude.

This leads to the second statement, which is made indirectly to the employees, especially employees who sense that they fit into the categories being described unflatteringly by the leaders.

These same employees, many of whom are probably of high value to their organization, hear these comments which come from their leaders and begin to feel that THEY don’t fit in the culture which the leaders are describing verbally. As they sense this lack of inclusion, they will similarly feel their lack of fitting in and separate themselves from others, again often leaving the company.

Can casual comments actually lead to such cultural changes? You bet. Take a close look at the adoration of employees of a charismatic leader such as Donald Trump. They watch every move, every comment, very closely, especially those with desire for upward mobility. They want to impress this leader, be “like him”. Others within the organization want to be liked by their leaders.

Carefully study the heads of companies that you do business with or that you observe. Listen to the words of these individuals, watch their actions. You’ll see that same attitude throughout the organization, from top to bottom. They will attract employees and managers with similar beliefs.

And if you like working for a name-calling, tough-talking company, I’ve got a suggestion for you.

(c) 2006, Ed Horrell. Reprint permission granted so long as article and byline are reprinted intact and all links made live.

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