To operate properly, any organization should have several assumptions setting the norms of behavior for its employees and informing the basic values. Leaders also play a pivotal role in organizations, and the quality of their work does not depend solely on their style of leading others. This essay discusses the manifestations of organizational cultures, the benefits and disadvantages of strong cultures, and credibility and authenticity as the components of effective leadership.
Schein’s Model and Manifestations of Organizational Cultures
There have been numerous attempts to get to the core of the so-called organizational culture and explain its components. According to the model proposed by Edgar Schein in the 1980s, culture presents a set of shared basic assumptions developed within groups to cope with external and internal problems (Máñez Aleixandre, 2019; Organizational Communication Channel, 2017). Since it is closely tied with organizations’ approaches to developing relations, culture is reflected in different aspects of business operations, as well as corporate events.
With the help of Schein’s model, it is possible to understand the aspects of work that shed light on companies’ organizational cultures. According to Schein, culture heavily impacts employees’ psychological well-being when they interact with colleagues (Máñez Aleixandre, 2019). Based on that, by studying people’s perspectives on working for particular organizations, one can gain insight into the basic assumptions that form these companies’ cultures. Moreover, culture is predictive of the way that people perform at work, and this is why it can be reflected in approaches that employees use to fulfill their responsibilities (Máñez Aleixandre, 2019). Other things that the author believes to be the concept’s manifestations include the organizational climate and the system of rewards for the most productive employees (Máñez Aleixandre, 2019). Thus, numerous aspects of business activities can become a source of knowledge about some organization’s culture.
The model being discussed also offers the theory of the multi-level structure of culture in any organization. Based on that, culture has three levels that are different in terms of visibility, and this idea helps to delve into the problem of manifestation (Máñez Aleixandre, 2019; Organizational Communication Channel, 2017). Underlying assumptions is the term to define the level of unconscious values that is followed by the level of espoused values or beliefs that are formalized with particular documents or public statements made by management teams (Máñez Aleixandre, 2019). These two dimensions contribute to the emergence of behaviors and artifacts (Máñez Aleixandre, 2019). An organization’s culture is the most manifested at the level of artifacts and behaviors since it is illustrative of the actual uses of norms and values related to the previous levels. Therefore, the lowest levels provide the basis for the explicit manifestations of organizational cultures.
Strong Organizational Cultures: Advantages and Risks
I have some experience with both strong and weak organizational cultures. Based on my impressions, both types have their advantages and limitations. A few years ago, I had a temporary job in one company in the services sector, and that organization’s internal culture was rather strong. The company’s management team paid close attention to employee education and provided each person with unequivocal instructions, which was beneficial to new people in the organization. Moreover, the executive team valued clarity and teamwork, and the clear distribution of responsibilities was positive for the company’s position in the market. Continuing on the positive aspects of its strong organizational culture, the company used strict quality and ethical standards for each job position, thus reducing variations in the outcomes of different people’s work.
However, from my conversations with employees from different departments, it became clear that they were tired of countless standards and pressure to do their job perfectly every day. In extreme cases, such pressure may spiral into verbal abuse and aggressiveness (Isaac, 2017). Also, I learned from other people in the company that the management was obsessed with client-orientedness, which resulted in fines for not meeting customers’ expectations even indisputable situations. Therefore, strong organizational cultures sometimes involve the risks of employee demotivation and even workplace burnout.
Authenticity and Credibility in the Context of Leadership
Today, leadership and the key characteristics of effective leaders are among the most discussed topics related to business and management. The need for strategies increasing the degree of employees’ commitment to goals pursued by their teams has sparked research interest in this area, thus leading to the emergence of new leadership theories. First of all, modern authors are willing to prevent confusion between the notions of leadership and management. Based on the ideas of Bennis and Nanus (2005), leadership is mistakenly identified as the function to be fulfilled by managers, and it underestimates the unique purpose of leaders. In the simplest terms, management involves following rules and encouraging employees to do the same, whereas leadership is impossible without understanding the meaning of any work-related tasks and treating employees as the most valuable assets (Bennis & Nanus, 2005). Therefore, in modern literature, leadership is regarded as an independent research topic.
Nowadays, authenticity can be listed among the crucial parts of leadership. For instance, according to George (2005), “leadership begins and ends with authenticity” which is simply defined as “being yourself” (p. 3). This opinion does not align perfectly with what can be found in modern literature on the development of leadership skills (George, 2005). According to the researcher, the need to make efforts to develop specific abilities and habits runs counter to the idea of authenticity, which involves independence and distinctiveness (George, 2005). With that in mind, the image of an effective leader is still changing to proceed from the use of clichés to authenticity.
In the context of leadership, the concept is important since it raises the problem of form versus content in working with people. George (2005) believes that individuals who have the talent to lead others can achieve success when they develop their leadership styles instead of implementing some popular ready-made solutions. Based on that, to gain authenticity, prospective leaders are expected to learn new things and apply them properly to formulate their methods of work that are consistent with their personality traits and values (George, 2005). By the same token, authenticity is likely to be lost if a person becomes unable to think outside popular truths about leadership and implements someone else’s values into practice (George, 2005). Consequently, leaders lose this quality when they agree to conform to styles that may be effective but are incompatible with their personality traits and views of life.
Credibility is another concept that is widely discussed in modern leadership studies. In the context of leading others, this term can be defined as the combination of honesty, trustworthiness, and an ability to inspire other people (Kouzes & Posner, 2005). The importance of credibility in leadership cannot be overstated since a team leader who does not possess it is unable to cultivate trust-based and effective relationships with followers (Kouzes & Posner, 2005). Irrespective of culture, employees want to believe in leaders since these people use their resources and efforts to transform them into positive outcomes (Kouzes & Posner, 2005). Thus, the absence of credibility nullifies the chance to build collaborative relationships leading to goal achievement.
Since credibility is critical to success, the ways that it is gained and lost require close attention. According to Kouzes and Posner (2005), credibility cannot be earned within a short space of time, and gaining it is a long process. This process often begins together with the start of one’s professional life and is similar to building a house by laying and securing bricks one by one (Kouzes & Posner, 2005). Therefore, to earn it, a prospective leader is expected to be consistent when it comes to values, work honestly, and have a sense of purpose (Kouzes & Posner, 2005; Pearce, 2005). Credibility can be lost easily if leaders fail to consider other people’s opinions for some reason, take followers’ trust for granted, and betray their teams’ confidence in them (Kouzes & Posner, 2005; Pearce, 2005). Importantly, one inappropriate action can sometimes thwart the results of long years of work, which makes credibility a fragile thing.
To sum it up, organizational cultures find reflection in numerous aspects of working practices, including employees’ approaches to collaboration and communication with clients, reward systems, and the organizational climate. Strong cultures can be advantageous since they promote effective role distribution and set high-performance standards, but too much pressure on employees involves the risks of burnout. With that in mind, the effectiveness of leaders should be taken into account. It is closely interconnected with being honest and trustworthy, as well as emphasizing the content of leadership instead of its form.
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