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4 Ways Leaders Can Create a Culture of Leadership

By Sue Wigston on November 27, 2018

A culture of leadership is one in which ongoing professional development focuses on advancing individuals throughout their careers. High potential employees are identified and cultivated to learn the skills that will allow them to perform at a higher level, both in their individual work and as leaders. The benefits of developing this type of culture include a higher level of accountability, better productivity, and a stronger leadership pipeline. This sets the organization up for success, both now and in the future.

4 Ways to Create a Culture of Leadership

As with developing any type of corporate culture, creating a culture of leadership doesn’t happen overnight. It requires intention, commitment, and participation from the existing leadership team. In addition, understanding the following four core requirements will help you cultivate a culture that is dedicated to identifying and developing future leaders.  

1. Communicate a Clear Vision

Regardless of the type of culture that is desired, leaders must develop and communicate a clear vision for the organization. This creates an environment that attracts people with shared values. Without a clear vision from leadership, teams cannot operate with unified goals and individual decisions are not consistent across the organization.

Culture transformation requires setting clear goals, communicating them with employees, and defining a clear path forward. This includes explaining why you want to create a culture of leadership and how you plan to do it. Once every employee understands your vision and the reasoning behind the new goals going forward, they will be far more likely to be open to the actions they will need to take to succeed in the necessary training.

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2. Model Leadership Behavior

A culture of leadership is not defined by written documents, but by the behaviors of leaders. No matter what your policies say or what catchphrases are written on the walls, if leaders don’t model the behaviors they want to see in others, culture transformation won’t happen. This includes demonstrating accountability by following through on commitments.

It also requires leaders at every level to participate in ongoing training. Leadership development doesn’t stop when an individual gets promoted; it continues at a different level to teach the skills necessary to stay on a growth path. When employees see that even the most seasoned executives are committed to ongoing development, it demonstrates that this behavior is valued and expected.

3. Build Leadership into Hiring Practices

Talk about leadership expectations before individuals are even hired to set the tone for the culture. Establish goals during the onboarding process to ensure that the company’s values are clear from day one and to determine whether the candidate is a good match for the organizational culture.

After a high potential individual is hired, create a clear leadership development path early in their employment so they know what to expect in the future. Setting leadership goals and providing the training to reach them sends a clear message that the organization is committed to developing its emerging leaders.  

4. Embrace Change

Culture transformation is not an easy undertaking. It starts at the top, and if leadership is not on board, the transformation won’t fully take effect. Get buy-in from leaders at every level and approach change with an infectious positive attitude. If leaders aren’t able to embrace the culture transformation, employees won’t do it, either. If you recognize that employees are not embracing change during a culture transformation, make an effort to find out what the roadblocks are. Soliciting this type of feedback will help you identify the barriers to change so you can determine the best ways to overcome them.

Creating a culture of leadership ensures that the organization always has a pipeline full of ready-now leaders to step in when the occasion arises. For this to be possible, it all starts with a clear vision, current leadership that models the expectations, incoming leaders that align with those expectations, and a culture that embraces change—not fears it. After all, in a world of constant change, it’s essential to the long-term growth of any company.

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As Chief Operating Officer, Sue's extensive senior leadership experience and facilitation skills have established her as a trusted partner and organizational development expert. She has a proven track record of successfully leading culture transformation in Fortune 500 companies and has established herself as an authority on training and development. Sue has over 20 years of experience in the creation and delivery of programs and custom designed solutions for Eagle's Flight.

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Founded in 1988, Eagle's Flight has earned its reputation as a global leader in the development and delivery of business-relevant, experiential learning programs that achieve specific training objectives and lasting behavior changes.

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