The admission came from a recent conversation I had with a new CEO at a financial services organization who was hired to transform her organization.
Going in, she knew she took over a company that needed to change. She was well aware of the organizational and cultural challenges she and her executive team would have to overcome. And yet, even with her eyes wide open going in, she was still surprised at the depth of the problems she encountered.
After a recent series of skip level meetings with leaders deeper in the organization, she realized there needed to be much more clarity around the organization’s new strategy. She needed to align leaders with a new set of leadership expectations, create real accountability and drive a “one-company” mindset across the leader population.
What she heard in open and frank discussions with her leaders was that her new company was leagues away from achieving those goals. Her leaders told her they were stuck in silos and were unclear on how to navigate in a more complex business environment. Of greater concern, they had no opportunities to work with colleagues across the organization to execute on priorities.
I could sense her frustration and anguish. As we continued our discussion it became clear to both of us that leadership culture was going to be her number one priority. If she didn’t make it stronger, she and her executive team wouldn’t be successful.
This would be an alarming story if it was rare. In fact, this CEO’s story is not that different from the similar conversations I have had with other C-Suite leaders. They recognize, like Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, that culture is a company’s number one asset. And, they are putting a lot of attention on understanding how to create a great culture across their organizations. To me, it begins with the leaders.
However, across all kinds of organizations in all manner of industries and sectors, leadership culture is in crisis. In fact, my global research has revealed that only 27% of the organizations we surveyed believe that they have a strong leadership culture in place. Less than one-in-three. This is a concerning data point. At a time when companies need their leadership cultures to be strong, they are weak. Why is that? This is what I want to understand.
To answer that question, we are launching a survey via Transformation Insights to explore what makes up a strong leadership culture in a company. The survey (available in 9 languages) will take you only five minutes to complete. I will aggregate the findings and report on them in the coming months.