The challenge for the Board is to lead and belong at the same time: being part of belonging means sharing as well as setting standards, shaping as well as being shaped by culture. If leaders dictate a ‘command and control’ culture they risk not hearing feedback from their organisation. A solitary dependence on one ‘hero figure’ can risk missing the complexity of a business and destabilising the business when they leave.
The importance of employee voice can be seen in the Financial Reporting Council’s report, ‘A key ingredient of a healthy culture is a willingness on the part of senior management to listen to their employees and recognise their commitment is often long-term. Employees usually want their organisation to succeed and have good ideas about how to make this happen.’
When a leader takes sole responsibility for culture they risk shutting out other voices. It takes too long for one mind to understand the various functions of a modern organisation. A group of leaders taking charge of, and reporting back on, their own area is much better able to shape culture, and mitigate risk, in their functions. Whilst ‘setting the tone from the top’ is important, there must still be room for employees to challenge and feedback.
Culture belongs to everyone, not just leaders. Leaders must make tough decisions, but they also need to have empathy. Therefore, a good leader listens to feedback and acts appropriately. it’s through this that leaders avoid the dangers of Barons and Fiefdoms. IBE’s review of L’Oreal’s CEO shows how effective it can be to have a feedback loop with the CEO. Their CEO makes himself available to all employees for one day each year, via live web chat, for any ethical concerns.