If you’re conducting a job search and trying to identify organizations with great cultures, the best way to target your research is to follow the leaders. CEOs and their leadership teams drive key elements of culture that make all the difference in whether work life is fulfilling or meaningless, pleasant or painful.
Leaders who are stewards of great cultures set clear direction; prioritize initiatives and make decisions effectively; engage, empower, develop, recognize, and reward their employees; remove obstacles so employees can contribute their best work; minimize restructurings and layoffs; discourage internal competitiveness and politics; and facilitate work-life balance.
On the other hand, leaders of toxic cultures set unclear direction; stir up numerous, conflicting priorities; take too long to make decisions; demotivate, disempower, disengage, and fail to recognize and reward their employees; create constant organizational churn through repeated restructurings and/or layoffs; foster internal competitiveness; and devalue work-life balance.
So, researching leaders – their styles, values, actions, decisions – is key to understanding the culture of organizations you are considering in a job search. You can do this in a variety of ways, including:
- Asking colleagues who work in (or otherwise know about) prospective organizations to tell you about the leaders
- Requesting informational interviews with employees for insider insights
- Reading articles written about leaders
- Posing questions about leaders during job interviews (and directly asking those leaders with whom you interview)
What should you find out about leaders? You’ll want to learn about their values and how they enact these values in the organization; leadership style, strengths and weaknesses; their approach to driving change and transformation; how they handle difficult decisions; which aspects of the culture they want to preserve; and which cultural aspects they’d like to change.
Look at Leaders Internally
It’s equally important to follow leaders when considering taking a new role in an organization where you’re currently employed. Whether you’re looking at a lateral or upward move, it’s vital to understand the leaders where you may land. Organizations have sub-cultures, and not all departments, functional groups, and geographic areas are equal. Find out how people feel about their leaders in the part of the organization you are considering joining. Investigate before you make your decision.
Follow the Leader Out the Door
What if you’ve found a leader whom you love, you’ve built a strong working relationship with him or her, the two of you are doing great things together, and now he or she has decided to leave the organization for an exciting new opportunity? You might explore with this leader the possibility of taking a role continuing to work with him or her in the new organization. These types of opportunities can be rare, so examine your options.
Selecting the right organization and/or making a job change in your current organization is a complex decision. Leaders and their influence on culture are huge factors to consider. You want to ensure that your choice aligns with your vision for meaningful work.
I invite you to sign up for a complimentary discovery session. I’d love to explore how I can guide you through assessment, exploration, and action to realize meaningful work.