“The culture of any organisation is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate” (Gruenter & Whitaker, undated, source unknown).
There is a significant volume of literature, academic and popular, on the role of leaders and leadership in creating organisation culture. The above quote, accessed via LinkedIn, resonated with me as I had hours previously listened to a person in a formal leadership role share two examples of what they experience as a lack of commitment and performance.
- Employee 1 objects to having to come into the office, as the times she is required to be there clashes with her religious holidays. She is also not prepared to work at specific company sites as she does not feel safe travelling there.
- Employee 2 schedules elective surgery over a time period when specific commitments have been made that require her presence.
In my conversation with the leader of the team where these individuals work, my immediate reaction was to suggest to her that the behavior occurs because she allows it to continue. As long as people see specific behavior being “OK”, they really cannot be blamed for adopting similar behavior.
In reality though, this may not be entirely true. If one adopts a perspective of “distributed leadership” versus “the leader”, clearly there are a number of additional questions to be asked if one adopts an “inside-out” approach, such as:
- What is the worst behavior I will tolerate for myself?
- What is the worst behavior I will tolerate for the team I am member of?
- What is the worst behavior I will tolerate from my leader?
- What is the worst behavior I will tolerate for my organisation?
As much as it is the leader’s role to model culture, it is also the obligation of every person to strive every day to be the best they can be. In this context, it is also the role of the leader to very quickly take action when behavior demonstrated does not align to the vision, values, goals, objectives and activities of the organisation.