When embarking on culture change or improvement programs with organisations and large infrastructure projects I am continually asked; “how important is leadership?”  My response is always; “there is nothing else that matters more!”

Recent studies such as the high performance study undertaken by the University of NSW  (see LINK) attributed 80% of culture to leadership behaviours; however I would suggest that it may even be up to 95% when you take into account the ripple effect in terms of their impact on others.  Leaders set the tone each and every day, their attitude, mood and approach has an impact on everyone and everything around them.

Organisations and projects can tick all the boxes by having high performance plans, a compelling strategic vision,  clear client and project objectives, improvement frameworks, and employee engagement programs but the reality is people leave leaders and managers not organisations or projects!

Are your leaders effectively communicating the vision for the organisation or project?  Do they focus on the business or do they get caught up in the detailed work that others should be doing?  Are they great coaches and courageous decision makers?  Is the focus on their actions and what they do achieve or on their words and what they say they will achieve? Are they open to learning and improving or protecting the status quo?

You can bring in consultants, specialists, change agents or other expertise to help identify your challenges.  You can undertake another great strategic planning session that sets a vision that appears to make sense.  However the reality is for a culture program to be successful it must have a focus on assessing, developing  and growing your leadership team.

If you want your leaders to drive a culture of high performance your culture change programs should asses and develop the following leadership skills:

  1. Intrinsic motivation toward self-improvement
  2. Adaptability to change
  3. Ability to build and maintain relationships
  4. Desire and skills to coach and develop people
  5. Communication skills to ‘sell’  the vision and inspire action
  6. Ability to respond not react when faced with challenges
  7. Confidence to be true to yourself
  8. Ability to focus on what matters to the business and its people

If your leaders don’t currently have these critical skills, ensure your culture change program gives them the opportunity to develop them. If you want your leaders to drive high performance give them clarity on what is expected, provide them with the opportunity to develop the skills to deliver, and define a very clear timeframe for improvement.

If you don’t get the outcomes required make the tough decision and take action! Identify leaders that can perform, put them in place and back them to build a high performing culture!

What shadow are your leaders casting?