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Impact of leadership on organisational culture

Organisational culture is a collection of beliefs, values, philosophy and assumptions shared among members of an organisation (Nadler, Thies and Nadler 2001). 

Culture and leadership work together in building, developing, controlling, motivating and enhancing organisational performance (Deal and Kennedy 1982). According to Bass and Avolio (1993), organisational culture normally evolves from the leadership style in the organisation, and simultaneously, also impacts the leadership’s development.

Conversely, Cakar (2004) argued that leadership is a component of organisational culture, by confirming that shaping the organisational values, assumptions and beliefs can develop a leadership approach. Regardless of whichever one comes first, it is imperative to acknowledge that leadership and organisational culture should work concurrently.

Kotter and Heskett (1992) confirmed that the performance of an organisation is highly dependent on the culture that is shared and practised by the organisational members. Similarly, Deal and Kennedy (1982) stated that successful organisations are often distinguished by its leader’s ability to promote their strategies among the followers. Leaders can shape the way employees and their team think and behave by their actions and decisions. Furthermore, leaders are the ‘figure head’ and role models within the organisations (Bass 1990). Followers often compare the behaviour of their leaders with the organisation’s espoused values and philosophy (organisational culture).

So organisational culture and leadership both drive organisational performance as the leader’s influences will shape the organisational culture, and similarly, the organisational culture will shape the leadership.

It is important to note that leadership is not static and therefore cannot fit all organisational culture. Thus, leaders must adapt their approach to fit specific situations; it is essential for leaders to have a thorough understanding of many leadership frameworks and styles.

Bass and Bass (2008) claimed that leaders with various approaches are more flexible with their decisions to fit different contexts.

Your task

In your opinion, which comes first - leadership or culture? Why?


Bass, B. M., Bass, R. (2008)  The Bass Handbook of Leadership: Approach, Research, and Managerial Applications . 4th edn. New York, NY: Free Press

Bass, B. M. (1990). ‘From Transactional to Transformational Leadership: Learning to Share the Vision’. Organizational Dynamics 18 (3), 19-31

Çakar, U., and Arbak, Y. (2004) ‘The Effects of Charismatic Leadership and Collective Behavior on Follower Performance’. Global Business and Technology Association, International Conference 96-103, June 8-12, Cape Town, South Africa

Deal, T. E., and Kennedy, A. A. (1982) Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life. Reading, Mass, Addison-Wesley Pub. Co

Bass, B. M., and Avolio, B. (1993) ‘Transformational Leadership and Organizational Culture’. Public Administration Quarterly 17, 112-121

Kotter, J.P. and Heskett, J.L. (1992) Corporate Culture and Performance. Free Press, New York

Nadler, D. A., P. K. Thies and M. B. Nadler. (2001) ‘Culture Change in the Strategic Enterprise: Lessons from the Field’. in: C. L. Cooper, S. Cartwright and P. C. Earley, The International Handbook of Organizational Culture and Climate. John Wiley and Sons Ltd, Chichester

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This article is from the free online course:

Leadership Theory: The Basics

Coventry University