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Company Culture vs. Transformative Leadership

You’re ready to make some positive changes. Your organization is in a good place, but you know it’s time to ramp up your efforts and take your brand to the next level. By prioritizing growth, you will position your company on the cutting edge of its industry and promote your business as a thought leader in your community and industry. With this boost of brand integrity, you can simultaneously benefit your sales and your reputation as an organization. Sounds good, right?

But what about the company culture you’ve worked so hard to cultivate? Won’t moving forward with your company cause your internal office culture to suffer?  Whether you’re leading your organization to adapt to new, more efficient technology or to develop a new product or service, moving forward can feel like stepping into the dark. Since every stride ahead involves leaving something behind, it’s easy to focus on the risks over the benefits of growth.

“The best way to roll out a transformation in the culture is to involve the natural leaders in the process.”

Thankfully, moving your brand forward and protecting the trails you’ve already blazed are not mutually exclusive. In fact, if you want to build a meaningful legacy, you will need both mindsets.

Enter transformational leadership, a methodology that helps build brand integrity that simultaneously defines your organization’s vision and builds internal buy-in among your team.

Overcoming your fear of the unknown and taking strides ahead as an organization may be as easy as changing your mindset around what it means to move forward and how it affects your organization. Here are a few nuggets of insight from experts to consider along the way.

Self-Evaluation Is Healthy

A big part of transformational leadership is encouraging employees to evaluate their roles on an ongoing basis so they can discover what drives them. Of course, this may lead your team to make-or-break decisions about their roles in the company—but that’s a good thing.  For example, Paul Keijzer, CEO of The Talent Games, once led a large company through leadership development. In one seminar, he encouraged employees to consider what they really wanted in life, reminding them to follow their hearts instead of their heads.

After the seminar, several employees asked him if this leadership approach could lead to employee resignations. Keijzer was honest: “Yes,” he said. Encouraging employees to focus on what makes them happy could lead to them leaving the company. But in most cases, Keijzer said, transformational leadership allows people to strike a better balance between their personal and professional passions, not leave the company that employs them. But if your guidance leads people to a path toward true happiness, consider it a good thing, and wish them well. They’ll be grateful for your understanding, and you’ll get to replace them with someone whose source of happiness is working for you.

Changing the way you do things might even result in senior leaders or executives leaving the company, which could negatively affect morale and discourage the larger team. Rather than viewing this as a loss, try to think of it as an opportunity to jumpstart your growth and enhance your brand’s vision in a way that benefits its reputation and revenue. New leaders inevitably come with new skills and perspectives. So for this reason, “weeding out” those who may not share your vision allows for healthy growth.

Culture Strengths Are Your Secret Weapon

Organizational transformation can be difficult. Since many aspects of your company culture are intertwined, changing one thing can impact all of them. “Everything from job roles to operating procedures to branding to incentives are interlinked,” consultant Robin Burk, MBA, PhD, says. “But the good news is that existing culture can be an asset in effective transformation.”

To start, Burk says, distinguish your goals and objectives from how they are met. Translating your transformational vision into shorter-term, bite-sized objectives feels less intimidating, especially when you’re careful to identify what changes actually need to occur in daily operations.

As you move forward, engage your company in a discussion of how these required changes can be met in a way that leverages the best aspects of company culture. “What virtues exist within the culture that you as a leader can rally?” Burk asks. “If you ensure that your transformational moves evoke and build on the key strengths of your culture, you have the means … to meet transformational goals but also to help the culture evolve without trauma or resistance.”

Transformation Strengthens Culture

There’s something to be said for disruption. Companies like Apple and Google, who are known to do things differently, get ahead (okay, very ahead) for a reason. Think about the way Apple has consistently reinvented the way we use our phones, listen to music, and share information by perpetually refining its products. Or, consider the way Google is changing the game of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and quantum computing. All of these successful products and services can be traced back to company culture. Google may have amazing sales, but it’s also known for taking care of its employees with amazing perks and benefits.

To move your brand in a positive direction, focus on investing in your people. After all, they are the ones who will strengthen your products and services. In addition to getting helpful input for company growth, seeking employee perspectives will make transitions less difficult.

Consultant Sally Srok says to move toward the transformation you desire, you’ll need buy-in from your stakeholders, which means listening to and protecting their opinions. “The best way to roll out a transformation in the culture is to involve the natural leaders in the process,” she says. “Rather than surprise employees with a new mission statement, or a new process, plan an off-site meeting with key influencers in the organization and seek their input.”

Keep in mind that those you involve in the transformation journey don’t necessarily need to be leaders by title. Rather, they should be the people in your company others naturally gravitate to. Once you gather your team, define your intentions, and then co-create. Srok considers this a “fail-safe” way to gain buy-in and inspire employees. “[Employees] will feel valued and ensure you are on the right path for transformation,” she says.

Fearlessly Transforming Your Organization

Transformational leadership can help you reach new heights as an organization, but it may also shake up the culture you and your team have come to value.

That’s because change is a natural side effect of growth. Changing the way you do things can open up doors to strengthen your reputation among consumers and build new relationships in your community. Still, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your company’s legacy just to benefit its reputation. By staying mindful of how you got where you are in the first place, you can both protect the integrity and reputation of your brand and increase revenue and sales.

If you want to discover even more ways to lead your organization (and your team) into greatness, check out Leader vs. Boss: Give Your Best Self To Your Marketing Team.

Ashley Abramson
Ashley Abramson
Ashley Abramson is a freelance writer in Minneapolis. When she's not writing for clients, she's working on her online magazine or spending time with her husband and two young sons.