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Leadership Approach to Culture Leads to Success in Recovery

May 2020
Andriana Theodorakopoulou
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Stanton Chase helps top leaders foster change in looking ahead

Bringing with it a tidal wave of change, the COVID-19 crisis has shed light on capability deficits at some companies and has shone a spotlight on leaders who are truly great at others. We at Stanton Chase have found that some managers are feeling overwhelmed and have responded with austerity and tight control, which only serves to further isolate their businesses. But those who respond with inspirational commitment, strategic planning, and trust are the leaders who will successfully navigate these troubled times.

Our client discussions with CEOs and Heads of People Operations have frequently turned to the pressure point between bottom-line financial results and leadership performance, with questions about their preparedness, expectations, and openness to new strategies and ways of thinking. What kind of leadership and culture should they foster to help the transition to an inevitable new work reality? What business strategies can be reassessed and, if necessary, left behind?

In order to answer such questions, at Stanton Chase we first gain a clear picture of business leaders’ requirements. In this way, we empower leaders and organizations to become more effective while staying by their side as trusted advisers with a strategic portfolio of services that interlinks leadership with cultural enhancement.

Never has it been clearer that leadership’s role is about creating efficiencies — both in a company’s financial performance and among its people and their level of commitment, engagement, and satisfaction. Our experience has shown us that leaders are the curators of corporate culture; those who are on top are the ones who determine and influence organizational cultures.

According to Dutch social scientist Dr. Geert Hofstede, performance hinges on the fit between strategy and culture. In order to be successful in tomorrow’s new normal, we have to make a commitment today to organizational culture and its support of corporate strategy.

We can broadly state that companies which are successful have a functional culture. But what worked yesterday may no longer work tomorrow. This is why leaders need to be self-reflective, flexible, and open to embracing new ideas.

Powerful organizations need powerful leaders in order to drive them through recovery and beyond. At times like these, how well leaders perform is dependent on how they perceive stress and how well they are able to respond to adversity. While there may not be a one-fits-all approach, our extensive experience working with senior leadership teams, like the empirical study of Hogan and Hofstede, indicates certain guidelines for success. If we were to develop an essential leadership playbook for companies in transition, it would include several key attributes like the following:

Shared Values

Studies have shown that the most effective CEOs are those whose values are most in line with those of their firm. A value that is crucial today for driving change is loyalty amid low security, with leaders who are empathetic and not afraid of ambiguity. Others include being accessible, compassionate, and willing to communicate openly and often, fostering loyalty, respecting differing opinions, and taking responsibility for employees’ welfare. Successful leaders must also be able to view the crisis as an opportunity to take risks and chart a new future with minimal planning.

A Sense of Purpose

Purposeful leadership is the starting point of great companies. It actively engages employees in a larger goal that makes sense in terms of purpose and values, in adhering to the organization’s values, and making an impact while being part of a group. This allows for creativity, smart work, productive challenges, and risks.

Motivation and Flexibility

Every leader is a leader of organizational culture whether they realize it or not. They should be flexible about change and highly ambitious, so that they can adapt and move forward, act and reflect. This type of leadership is able to handle change with composure and resilience while confidently taking the initiative on critical decisions.

Understanding the cultural context of leadership is key to creating adaptable practices that support strategy execution. Shaping a functional culture shaping and an effective team is even more relevant now to what leaders should be concentrating on their business agendas. It is leaders’ behavior that will determine how the culture develops and how it changes. By focusing on people and organizational culture, companies can successfully pass through this crisis and perform in the post-pandemic world. Our role at Stanton Chase is to ensure that top management practices and employees’ behaviors drive the realization of our clients’ organizational goals in a more efficient and effective way.

About the Author:

Andriana Theodorakopoulou is a Partner at Stanton Chase Athens.

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