Creating a We-centric Culture….The Most Valuable Competitive Advantage
By Deb Oliver, Organizational Performance Consultant, Iowa Quality Center
As we all know, the leader’s role in any type of quality management system within an organization is critical. Taking this one step further, a strong trusting relationship between the employees and leaders is toted as being one of the last unexplored areas of competitive advantage. One way to build this relationship is to establish a We-centric culture.
Whether leaders realize it or not, their actions are observed daily by their employees. Through these observations, employees determine what is expected of them and how to behave, how power is used (or misused) and what gets rewarded and what gets punished. Many leaders do not recognize the impact their behavior has on their employees, relationships, teams and, last but not least, business results.
The organizational culture under I-centric leadership allows the leader to have power over others. This style can be described in such terms as: power and control, directing and delegating, power at the top, leaders and followers, servants and masters. To fulfill the role of this leadership style, leaders must be powerful, dominating, authoritative and forceful. Would anyone want to work for this type of leader?
At the other end of the spectrum, as an alternative choice to the I-centric model, is the We-centric leadership style. Leaders who practice this style are willing to share power with other. Terms to describe this style would include: “….inclusion, support, development, learning, nourishing, future-focused, co-leadership, and co-creativity. People are encouraged to experiment, take risks, speak up and push back”.
Often leaders say one thing and do another. There are common warning signs that will help leaders identify that there are incongruencies in their behavior between what they say and do. One of these areas is strategy development. Employees are encouraged to be involved in the future of the company, but at the same time, the employees often have no input in the strategy-setting process. They feel they have no voice in the future of the organization. A second example is how many leaders encourage the employees to break down the silos between functions and at the same time fuel the competitiveness between functions. A last example is speaking about the future where employees are encouraged to accept change, while leaders are holding onto the past in their actions.
These mixed messages are what is described by experts as “crazy-making”. When the leaders say one thing and do another, employees and customers are confused. The suggested course of action to move toward a more We-centric leadership style is to strive to draw out the power in others and challenge yourself daily to match what you think and what you do. Take time to evaluation your organization…are your leaders I-centric or We-centric? What action can you take to build the foundation to support an effective quality management system?