The organizational culture determines the behavior of company employees and creates an environment that can contribute to their development and the achievement of company goals. Organizational culture is closely related to organizational leadership, as leaders are examples of adequately embodying this culture. Moreover, leaders guide people and implement a working and correct ways to follow the organizational culture. In general, organizational culture is a broader and more controversial concept than organizational leadership. This paper argues that Erin Bell, the press secretary of Brick & Mortar Inc. provided evidence of the sound application of organizational culture and leadership styles for the good of the company.
Organizational Culture and Leadership: The Concepts
Scholars provide readers with clear and precise concepts of organizational culture and leadership in organizations. Aydin (2018) argues that “organizational culture helps businesses to understand humans at the organizational level” (p. 267). It is also stated that organizational culture can be perceived in four dimensions: clan, adhocracy, market, and hierarchy. Moreover, according to the scholar, organizational culture has a powerful and meaningful outcome of effective organizational leadership (Aydin, 2018). Then, organizational leadership varies depending on the applied leadership styles.
For instance, these are the transformational, transactional, ethical, servant, paternalistic, and laissez-faire styles that are usually associated with distinct types of interactions with employees and employee motivation. The concept of organizational leadership is generally defined as “the ability of an individual or organization to” lead “or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations” (Aydin, 2018, p. 268). As a rule, the organizational culture determines the leadership style that is used by its managers.
Organizational Culture and Its Impact on People and Outcomes
In many companies, even the largest ones like Google, Facebook, or Twitter, the organizational culture is not given enough attention and is quite vague. Equally important, organizational culture can exist in the form of many written prescriptions but not be implemented in practice. Its implementation is possible only through effective leadership, so organizational leadership is a more specific practice. Many styles of leadership are applicable depending on the given circumstances, such as the goals of the organization, its size, the characteristics of the relationship between employees, the nature of the departments of the company, and others. Therefore, through the application of leadership styles, managers establish the organizational culture and change how people work by motivating them, becoming inspirational role models, or providing support and help when needed. At the same time, the organizational culture is implemented through the practical realization of organizational values in everyday work which has a substantive impact on employees’ morals and efficiency.
The Leader’s Impact on Culture: Leadership Styles
Interestingly, leaders can impact organizational culture through leadership styles. The concept of culture emerged at the intersection of sociology, anthropology, and social psychology disciplines, and generally reflected ethnic and national differences. But for organizations, culture is more of a code of conduct than a way to identify factors that symbolize differences between workers. In other words, organizational culture determines how an organization differs from other companies in a given area, similar to how different nationalities or ethnic groups differ from each other. Therefore, ideally, the culture of each organization is unique.
But, despite this, the organizational culture does not just declare the differences of the company but has a purely utilitarian function. Therefore, it is closely related to the achievement of the goals of the organization, including effective ways of managing employees. Scientists have been studying ways to manage employees for many years in various work environments. For example, in transactional leadership, there is a culture of rewards and punishments promoted by the leaders, who use these levers to manage and motivate employees (Aydin, 2018). Transactional leadership is a traditional leadership theory that implies the employees’ compliance with numerous rules and performance standards. Then, transformational leadership is more people-oriented and leaders aim to transform and inspire their followers.
The scholars show particular interest in the relations between the organizational culture, leadership style, and job satisfaction that lead to better employee performance. Interestingly, Sari et al. (2021) hypothesized that organizational culture and leadership style both have positive and significant effects on employee job satisfaction, and employee performance (Sari et al., 2021). Performance is perceived as the amount of effort the employees put in to meet the organization’s goals (Sari et al., 2021). The scholars also distinguish group and individual performance which are the measures of organizational performance. Therefore, leadership styles are applied to improve individual or group performance and, as a result – organizational performance. Therefore, employee performance and job satisfaction are important measures used in human resources management.
Noteworthy, the scholars also mention that several dimensions of job satisfaction include challenges at work, reasonable rewards, supportive conditions, and friendly co-workers. In other words, job satisfaction includes all the circumstances that employees meet at their workplace, and the resulting perceptions of the job as a satisfactory experience (Sari et al., 2021). Since there is a positive correlation between job satisfaction, employee performance, organizational culture, and leadership approaches, employee performance will as well depend on the management styles of leaders and the company’s values and goals. Moreover, job satisfaction supports work motivation which also enhances employee performance, which is the ultimate aim of leadership practices.
At the same time, scholars also admit the direct relationship between employee performance and organizational culture. For instance, scholars state that “organizations with a strong culture affect the behavior and effectiveness of employee performance” (Sari et al., 2021, p. 98). Likewise, the leadership style will determine the type of relationships within the framework of the work hierarchy. Therefore, leadership styles, again, play a particularly critical role in organizational performance.
It is generally accepted that leadership has the fundamental aim to motivate employees. However, in different circumstances, there may be a need for different motivational approaches. For instance, transactional leadership emphasized the ‘give-and-take’ relationships, whereas the transactional leadership model implies the existence of more developed and close relationships of leadership and followership (Aydin, 2018). Interestingly, the laissez-faire leadership style is usually applied when there is a well-established discipline and a high level of independence in employees. This one is the most non-authoritarian style when managers give the “least possible guidance to their subordinates,” who strive to meet the goals through “less obvious means” (Aydin, 2018, p. 269). According to this style, “people can complete their work when they are left alone to respond to their responsibilities and obligations in their ways” (Aydin, 2018, p. 269). Noteworthy, due to the widespread work-from-home opportunities in the face of the coronavirus pandemic’s challenges, nowadays this style has a wide field of applications.
This style works best if the employees are initially well-suited to their roles in terms of training, ability, and professionalism. Then, when managers implement the paternalistic leadership style, they treat the followers in a more authoritarian way. In particular, the leaders demonstrate “discipline, fatherly authority, and morality” embedded in this style (Aydin, 2018, p. 269). In other words, the main elements that determine the paternalistic leadership style are moral leadership, benevolence, and authoritarianism. Then, ethical leadership “focuses on ethical beliefs and values and the dignity and rights of others,” establishing the culture of “trust, honesty, consideration, charisma and fairness” (Aydin, 2018, p. 270). In other words, ethical leaders require the employees to demonstrate the values and morals that are desirable and appropriate in society. Finally, in the framework of the servant leadership style, leaders are role models who serve others and demonstrate a developed morality and a holistic approach to work. At the same time, servant leaders promote a sense of community and shared responsibility in the decision-making process.
Insights from the Interview
During a long and interesting conversation, Erin Bell, the press secretary of Brick & Mortar Inc., shared valuable insights about the organization she works at, its culture, and its leadership. Brick & Mortar Inc. is a web design firm that makes turnkey websites. Despite being a small company, managers here take organizational culture seriously. In particular, they strive to create a strong culture and embed practicality, innovation, and openness as core values of organizational culture.
As the first step in this direction, the management creates conditions for better mutual understanding between employees and their families, neutralizing possible negative effects and promoting the work-life balance. This approach is implemented in full accordance with the theory of the importance of organizational culture for employee job satisfaction and improved work performance (Sari et al., 2021). Therefore, the practical approach implemented by the company is in line with the theoretical premises.
The second important step is that in Brick & Mortar leaders pay particular attention to establishing relationships of openness. All employees have the opportunity to make suggestions and participate in discussions that take place in writing or orally. Employees, if they have the relevant experience or expertise, participate in decision-making, including critical decisions regarding the company’s further strategic development (Aydin, 2018). Brick & Mortar also supports the idea of the importance of direct interaction of employees with each other during the working day for the exchange of knowledge and practical skills within the framework of their professional tasks. It is noteworthy that an organizational culture, where human values take priority, contributes to the creation of an atmosphere of openness. This approach is consistent with the theory of laissez-faire leadership style, as employees are provided with significant opportunities for independent interaction or initiative.
Brick & Mortar’s most effective management practice is that it promotes good relationships between employees and their families, to ensure a positive psychological climate in offices and a good work-life balance. The company creates opportunities and conditions for social interactions between employees, creating a friendly environment where people can communicate freely. Therefore, organizational culture and structure include an element of good communication, which contributes to increased motivation (Aydin, 2018). Within the theories discussed above, a friendly atmosphere and mutual support from colleagues contribute to better job satisfaction.
Overall, Erin endorses organizational culture and describes the leadership style practiced here as transformational. According to her, this style is most appropriate for the circumstances of the work, as the company often hires new employees in connection with the stage of expansion and growth of the company. Therefore, in addition to the necessary training and education, applying a transformational leadership model helps to unite new employees and inspire them to successfully achieve work goals together (Aydin, 2018). Equally important, transformational leadership is consistent with a policy of openness and creative exchange of ideas.
The corporate culture at Brick & Mortar is one of the fundamental aspects of organizational culture. Creating the right atmosphere for productive communication allows realizing the values of collaboration and the exchange of ideas (Sari et al., 2021). Such an atmosphere is created thanks to daily joint hot lunches, corporate events, and congratulations of employees and their families with the presentation of gifts. Although some employees criticize the corporate culture, as it is partly a crossing of the boundaries between personal and work relationships, most workers eventually perceive holidays and gifts positively.
Thus, the concepts of organizational culture and leadership were reviewed and analyzed in light of an interview with Erin Bell, the press secretary of Brick & Mortar Inc. In the company, the corporate culture is an important element of the organizational culture, which allows the company to implement a policy of openness and productive exchange of ideas. The company also practices a transformational leadership model, which is most acceptable given the constant influx of new employees and the expansion of the company’s business. The emphasis on employee relationships and the maintenance of a spirit of independence in them stems from the fact that Brick & Mortar Inc. strives to create an atmosphere of equality and joint decision-making, which is also characteristic of the servant leadership style. We can also conclude that the company embodies the elements of the laissez-faire leadership style since many employees have sufficient experience and professional qualities to fully independently perform professional tasks.
Aydin, B. (2018). The role of organizational culture on leadership styles. MANAS Sosyal Araştırmalar Dergisi, 7(1), 267-280.
Sari, F., Sudiarditha, I. K. R., & Susita, D. (2021). Organizational culture and leadership style on employee performance: Its effect through job satisfaction. The International Journal of Social Sciences World (TIJOSSW), 3(2), 98-113.