Aligning organisational culture with strategic priorities begins with authentic leadership

While there is general agreement that for organisations to achieve high-performance requires an alignment of culture and strategy, Alex Darko, Head of Culture Consulting at Nkululeko Leadership Consulting, believes it is the attitudes and behaviours of leaders that are critical in achieving success in this regard.


“In my view leadership, culture and strategy can be regarded as individual points on a triangle where if one component is missing, high-performance or sustainable organisational success cannot be achieved.


“Essentially leadership is responsible for setting the vision and then inspiring people to go along with it. And it is here that leaders need to not only step up and provide the roadmap to making the vision achievable, but through their attitudes and behaviour go on to inspire employees to follow them on that path,” he comments.


Darko says that while many organisations tend to spend a lot of time, money and resources developing their strategies – i.e where to play and how to win – not many appreciate the critical role that culture plays in the successful execution of their strategies.


“Here not only should leadership be modelling and reinforcing the values and behaviours that will be required to achieve the organisation’s vision, but need to adopt an authentic leadership approach by living the values of the organisation to ensure employees trust the leadership within their organisation,” he comments.


And trust for Darko comes with adopting an approach that is not only inspirational but wise. “Leaders need to convince people that the consequences of adopting the required attitudes and behaviours are positive. And also important here is how employees are selected, developed, promoted, rewarded, and empowered,” he adds.


However, Darko says a common issue within organisations is that leaders focus on the financial and operational aspects of the organisation, and simply allow the culture to evolve haphazardly.


“It’s often the case that top leadership do not always achieve clear or consistent agreement on strategic priorities and the culture that will be required to deliver on these. And because many organisations play in the same space, culture becomes even more important as it essentially provides the organisation with its competitive edge.


“It is thus essential that leaders acknowledge the importance of aligning culture and strategy and to appreciate that all the elements of the triangle – leadership, strategy and culture – have to work together to ensure sustainable organisational success,” he concludes.