IF YOU have a culture that does not support the efforts of your budding leaders, even the best ones may not be able to survive and will definitely not thrive.

You will need to set to work on improving that culture before attempting to nurture any new leaders.

Throughout history, gardeners have not always been revered. In some cultures, the desire to have an attractive plot of land full of flowers and other non-edible plants was viewed with disdain.

Thankfully, times have changed and most people now acknowledge the role that a beautiful garden plays to improve the look of a house, a suburb or a city.

However, you still occasionally find people who hold old views of what the British back in the early 19th century called the “pleasure garden”, a frivolous indulgence that served no productive purpose.

The same is true of leaders. The early days of the industrial revolution were a time of cruel practices by leaders, some of which continued in various forms long after the mines closed and the factories modernised.

The result is that some people come to work with a negative view of leaders, passed down to them from their parents and grandparents or from their own history lessons at school.

For others, it could be as the result of one negative experience early in their career. Some of the negative cultural views you may need to overcome include:



 The enemy

Often said to derive from the days of unionised workplaces, the “us versus them” culture with the leader as the enemy lives on.

This is because leaders often employed warlike strategies to keep costs down and workers in their place, especially when it came to changes such as mergers and restructuring.

For some shop floor workers, it is still considered disloyal to like anyone “in management”.



 The out-of-touch boss

This is the remote leader who works from a distance, does not interact with staff and is rarely seen out and about.

These leaders are accused of being out of touch with reality, making decisions without understanding their implications and never seeking their employees’ feedback.



 The incompetent leader

Often, this is the person who has been thrust into a leader’s position against his wishes. Sometimes, it is simply a sign that he no longer cares about doing a good job.

This leader’s lack of competence can stem from poor selection techniques or a lack of training. Team members often feel they are carrying their leader while “the boss” is being paid more than them for doing very little.



 The non-representative leader

Issues can arise when a leadership team represents a very narrow range of diversity in terms of gender, cultural background, age or discipline.

The result is that some employee groups feel as though decisions are being made that favour the people these leaders can relate to rather than what is in the best interests of everyone.



 The puppet

The leader who has no authority or is not made accountable for his decisions is seen as a leader in name only.

Often, what happens is that the organisation has managers who think they are leaders.

Alternatively, it could be a highly controlling chief executive officer who does not allow his leaders to act without his approval.

These “puppet” leaders spend all their time trying to stay on the right side of the CEO and other leaders rather than looking after their team.


The fallout

If you have any of these negative cultural norms in your organisation, then one of the following situations is likely to occur. Your frontline leaders will:

•   Step into line and reinforce the negative culture;

•   Fight against the culture, creating dissent and an “us and them” mentality among team members; and

•   Leave in search of an organisation that values them.


Article by Karen Schmidt, an award-winning speaker, workshop leader and facilitator with Training Edge International. She is a frontline leadership expert and describes herself as a workplace gardener who is on a mission to use her workplace gardening philosophy to help grow frontline managers into frontline leaders. To contact Karen, e-mail karen.schmidt@trainingedgeasia.com or visit www.trainingedgeasia.com