Leadership Matters: Building a culture of trust

What is the primary responsibility of a senior leader in any organization?

by Captain Mark E. Brouker, Pharm. D., MBA, FACHE, BCPS, CU Management

Why is it that mid-level managers from a variety of areas—sports, healthcare, sales, banking, insurance, manufacturing, churches, non-profits, academia and the military, to name a few—who appear ready, willing and able to succeed in senior leadership positions end up leading teams that fail outright, woefully underperform, or never come close to reaching full potential? One common reason is they do not understand that with their new role comes a renewed responsibility: their vitally important role in creating team culture. Specifically, creating a culture of trust. Many of these senior leaders fail because they focus on results rather than their vitally important role in achieving those results. To build a culture of trust, senior leaders should focus on the only aspect of their job where they have 100% control—their own behaviors.

Lead By Example

Exactly what is “team culture” and how is it created? Team culture is a product of the members’ collective behaviors. It’s defined by how people on the team interact with one another. Culture is learned behavior—it is not created from words in a policy and procedure manual. Team culture is created from—and a direct reflection of—the senior leader’s behaviors. In fact, it is the senior leader who is teaching others how to behave, and consequently, creating the culture. This is a key point: Senior leaders create the culture of the organizations they lead; senior leaders own the culture. For example, when a senior leader’s toxic behavior goes unchecked in an organization, it reinforces toxic behaviors down the chain of command. The result is easy to predict—a toxic team culture.

 

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