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5 ways leaders can influence culture change

Updated: 6 days ago

Company culture is the beating heart of an organisation, shaping your team’s identity, values and the collective mindset of your people.

We’re uncovering the pivotal role leaders play in nurturing a positive company culture change taking insights from our organisational development team’s first-hand experience of working alongside organisations to generate positive culture change and behaviours.

In a study it was found that companies which prioritise company culture are likely to see a 33% increase in revenue, adding a 27% increase from skilled managers and 6% from creating a culture that attracts talent. This just goes to show the importance of effective leadership when it comes to inspiring people to achieve outstanding results.

Waterfall to represent the role of leadership in cultural change

Leaders have a cascading effect 

Just like a waterfall, company culture is subject to the pull of gravity and leadership teams are the cascade effect that keeps this going. Leadership styles can also have an effect.

If leaders at the top demonstrate the culture they’re trying to embed, this increases the likelihood of that culture being demonstrated at all other levels of the organisation.

When leaders take ownership over their own individual responsibility this encourages others to do the same.

Company culture is built on behaviours

Many organisations make the mistake of basing company culture change on vague terms like “future-focused,” these can be hard to grasp and can often prove ineffective when they aren’t defined further.

The key components of company culture are behaviours. For example, leaders should think about the collection of behaviours that support the term “future-focused,” such as recording employees’ long-term goals and embedding these in their learning and development plans. As well as communicating common goals which have a tangible relevance for the whole team.

These behaviours should be observable and non-binary. In other words you can see people doing them, and they either do it or they don’t. Leaders should define these and demonstrate them, leading from the front.


Earth from a spaceship to represent gravity and leadership when it comes to cultural change

Leadership Communication 

Communication is key; when leaders demonstrate openness, transparency, and clear expectations this allows everyone in an organisation to understand, embrace, and champion an organisation’s culture in a meaningful way.  


As a result, people tend to feel more ownership and accountability for positive culture change, increasing motivation to embody it.  


This makes social copying more powerful whereby colleagues mirror behaviour from others. This is more likely to happen when these behaviours stem from 1) The beliefs they hold themselves and 2) When they see those they admire doing these, (such as leaders) or look up to (such as colleagues with whom they share mutual respect). 


This can also combat behaviours you want to avoid, for example the spread of negativity caused by colleagues gossiping about elements of the business they dislike or talking about teammates in a derogatory light. 

stormy sea to represent leadership

Leading the culture in a crisis

An organisation’s culture may be tested in times of stress, challenge and ambiguity; in these moments, the sympathetic nervous system’s ‘fight-or- flight’ response can kick in.

Leaders and their people may end up taking shortcuts, making hasty decisions, or responding to events more irrationally – all at odds, perhaps, with the culture they’re trying to demonstrate.

It’s important that the company culture informs how we navigate not only the good times, but the challenging times too.

Leadership Development and Company Culture Change

Next Steps for your team

At Designed4Success we help people create and deeply embed a company culture that drives continuous improvement, empowers employees and utilises the strengths of the whole team to build long-term success through team performance and mentally strong people.

Grab a virtual coffee with us to start a conversation about developing your leaders as a first step in exploring how you can build an unshakeable company culture built on trust, adaptability and agility. We also have a case study or two on culture change if you'd like to see these give us a shout.


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