Research Paper: Organizational Culture and Leadership

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Org Culture Leadership

Leadership, Learning and the Dimensions of Organizational Culture

Organizational theory and academic business discourse examine, amongst a host of other key organizational principles, the formal idea that leadership is an essential part of effective management, or, for that matter, an essential part of comprising an effective contribution to any working team. However, like many academic concepts which do not easily make the leap into real world applicability, this theoretical conception of leadership is just that, and in practice, this type of educational content and perspective is actually quite a bit less relevant than the curricula of formal education might argue. (Koskella, 2002; 1) While leadership is unquestionably an inborn talent that can be honed and improved, it is nonetheless an individualized talent and therefore both rarified and special. Such is to say that the dually important aspects of experience and ability are those which cannot be taught in an academic context. Especially in the organizational sense, one must gather and sharpen these respective qualities, suggesting that leadership theory bears only a passing relationship to those instincts and principles which one must know or of which one must be capable in order to function successfully in an organizational leadership role.

Of the functions and qualities attributed to managerial competency in the theoretical setting, perhaps leadership is an organizational and theoretical term most difficult to discern from the overall roles prescribed by a position in the fold of a company's management core. But in fact, leadership is a concept unto itself, that is necessary for sound management but is not exclusive to the purview of such positions. Indeed, it is a quality which can often mean the difference between effective management or authoritative impotence. However, on a humanist level taken apart from a discussion of management roles and corporate hierarchy, leadership is an ability which, either inborn or, developed through hard work and ingenuity, presents the members of the organization with a paragon to forging action toward rational and collective goals. While it is the responsibility of managerial personnel to issue directives, instructions and clarifications on goal-orientation, it is only a leader who can find ways to motivate the members of his organization. This is to make the overarching argument that the presence of a positive leadership model is a central part of defining the organizational culture which permeates a business context. Likewise, a negative model of leadership will have a damaging impact on the organizational culture. This dynamic reinforces the claim made by Schein (1992), "that leadership and culture are conceptually intertwined."

We will explore Schein's claims on two distinct levels hereafter. The first of these applies Bloom's Taxonomy to the intertwining relationship between leadership and organizational culture, with the model of education helping us to better understand the ways in which leadership will facilitate the learning of organizational culture. The second level of exploration will center on the Dimensions of Organizational Culture and will support the argument that these dimensions are driven by the orientation of the organization's leadership.

Bloom's Taxonomy:

According to Bloom's Taxonomy, there are six distinct levels at which learning occurs. Within the scope of these six levels, we can gain a greater understanding of the way that leadership will impart a cultural tenor within an organization and the way that personnel learn and adopt this culture. An evaluation of organizational cultural within the scope of these six levels can help us to understand the distinct role played by leadership in shaping behaviors, morale, motivation and procedural conditions for all members of an organization.

Learning Organizational Culture:

Indeed, Trice and Beyer (1993) report that the characteristics of organizational culture are found in the ideologies that influence the individual and group actions within the organization such as their beliefs, values, and norms, as well as their behaviors. Schein (1992) highlights that there are three levels of culture: "artifacts, espoused values, and the basic underlying assumptions" (p.17). Culture is what identifies the organization and determines its strategies and practices. Those strategies and practices are often accepted by the organization's members and taught to new comers upon their joining the organization. Indeed, Schein denotes that organizational culture is something which is learned, and that this process of inducing the cues provided by other members of an organization is conducted on a distinct learning curve. It is thus that familiarity and experience will play roles in the way that individuals learn to conduct themselves within the context of an organization.

Khasawneh (2005) states that learning is key to organizational development and competitiveness in that organizations should use learning to increase creativity and achieve their objectives and goals. Therefore organizations have to develop a learning-supportive culture. A learning-supportive culture emphasizes the acquisition and sharing of knowledge and rewards its members for doing so. To develop a learning culture is to create a set of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs that support learning throughout all organization's levels. If the organization has a an "expansive learning environment" that does not restrict learning development to higher management only and an assumption that learning is central to all functions of the organization, then knowledge is likely to be shared freely between and across different departments and employees (Fuller & Unwin, 2004). Additionally, Lopez et al. (2004) state that a learning culture should have shared core assumptions that managing change should be a proactive process, that leaders should trust and respect employees, that the organization places value on teamwork, and that employees are trustworthy and will benefit the organization when empowered thusly.

Remembering Organizational Culture:

Cultural assumptions have a major impact on the stage of remembering where learning organizational culture is concerned. Assumptions influence the quantity, frequency, and type of learning that occurs within the organization. They also influence the way leaders and social units manage and promote learning across their organizations. It is manifested in the beliefs and practices that result from such assumptions. Therefore, Watkins (2003) suggests that leaders should create mechanisms that encourage employees to get involved and provide their feedback without fear of reprisal. Leaders should also introduce learning opportunities in teamwork, and have learning resources widely accessible across the organization levels. Additionally, leaders should create a "systems thinking" that enables organization members to participate in policy making, as well as have a system in place that rewards learning and creativity. These are all methods which denote am emphasis on recall of cultural values, with positive association helping to train personnel toward automatic reflection of these values.

Understanding Organizational Culture:

One of the most important ways in which organizational culture is learned is through the expression and demonstration of value systems on the part of leadership. In other words, once personnel have been familiarized with the practical implications of knowing and recalling cultural norms, adoption of the principles implied there within will demand a more nuanced recognition of that which is 'meant' by the culture's norms. To this point, Schein provides the fundamental assertion that in many organizational settings, the focus is heavily trained on cultural aspects with the understanding that all additional positives will emerge there from. Accordingly, he remarks that "in this context, managers speak of developing the 'right kind of culture,' a 'culture of quality' or a 'culture of customer service,' suggesting that culture has to do with certain values that managers are trying to inculcate in their organizations." (Schein, 7) This is to argue that leadership can incubate and direct a certain type of culture in which desired personnel behaviors and performance outcomes become a matter of inherency. When we speak of the creation of a company culture that is driven by ethical imperatives, for instance, it will not simply be enough for members of the organization to learn and remember conduct codes. There must be a more permeating understanding of these codes and the cause for their preeminence. This will emerge in an organization where leadership and personnel are programmed to share a value system that is inherently driven toward ethical priorities. These ethical priorities will be borne on the common grounds of industry, external culture and internal health.

Applying Organizational Culture:

Of course, education as to the semantic basis for certain cultural realities may not alone be sufficient. Absent of either the demonstration by leadership of participation with cultural norms or the selection of personnel capable of carrying out anticipated norms, a culture may not reflect that which is intended by its code of conduct. The process of application must also accord for the practical particulars of achieving a unified culture. This is driven by proper personnel recruitment. This is an efficiency of recruitment which must of course impact the initiation of leadership roles in an organization as well. Certainly, this is a condition where Simon is concerned with the positive capability and orientation of the suitable leadership candidate. At the core of his argument is Simon's position that "an extremely important function of authority is to secure decisions of a high quality of rationality and effectiveness. It had long been recognized that specialization… [END OF PREVIEW]

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