A company will always follow its leaders, but what influence do they play on the company culture?

Whenever I read, listen, or watch a story about a company’s CEO (or any other executive) I have two images that come to mind, one is of a “fat-cat” in a suit, that makes high-level decisions to only benefit their individual fortune.

The other CEO stereotype that I think of is a “for-the-people” executive. They type that is focused on creating an amazing place to work, one that can masterfully maximize profits while ensuring that employees are happy.

Whatever the scenario it may be, a CEO will affect a company’s culture. And they will serve as a representation of the company’s values and mission of the company. It’ll follow throughout the infrastructure of the company, as managers, department heads, ambassadors, and representatives, will embody the company and everything the high-level executives represent.

There are many ways that leadership within a company influences company culture, but these stood out to me:

Collectivism vs. individualism

It used to be that employees would knowingly work for horrible bosses, with the understanding that it is a privilege to be hired for a company.

The “Greed is good” mentality is no longer acceptable by leaders in today’s society.

Well, millennials are now entering the workforce and they’re no longer interested in working for companies because “it’s a privilege to work there,” but more because a company is a great place to work at and has great leadership. Basically, millennials will rather work for a company that has a collectivist company culture that is socially conscious and employee-centric.

If your company’s leaders are have more of an individualist vibe, they will often do things that will appease to the managers and higher-level executives. I’m not trying to knock on any company in particular but there are a lot of examples of company’s like this getting bad publicity, one of the things that will happen is that a company will start choosing profits over people.

Remember, this all starts at the top and trickles all the way down. There’s a reason why the company culture at Google is world-renowned, it’s because the founders believed that they can create a company that people would want to work at while creating a home-like environment.

Attitude determines altitude

A leader’s attitude will really determine if a company’s going to succeed or not. For example, there are a lot of good (and bad) things said about Steve Jobs.

He was able to create one of the most successful companies ever by having a lot of ambition and drive to create wonderful products, even though a lot of them were scolded by his colleagues.

There’s a certain demeanor that a leader has to have to allow others to follow, more importantly, succeed.

If you notice that a lot of the leaders that come out of Apple (Ex. Guy Kawasaki, John Ivey) have very similar traits as the late Jobs, and this goes to show how the attitude of the person at the top influenced all of those that are under him.

So drive and passion prove to be those intangible qualities that people often overlook, but if the person at the top has plenty of it, people will want to follow and want to be like them.

On the other end of the spectrum, when you have a boss that has lacks motivation or initiative, that will spread among the people that he hires and the people that have leadership positions. So the company culture resembles that style of leadership.

I’m sure you’ve dealt with a company that has a very bureaucratic system set in place, where if one thing needs to be done, they push it off to another person who they believe will do the work. Well, let’s just say that those non-motivated leaders created this kind of culture. So all the work that has to be done will get lost within finding out who has to do it, till it gets pushed down to the very bottom.

This style of “leadership” is causing people to go startups, in fact, older generations are now looking to get into the tech startup scene (so the movie The Intern wasn’t too far off) and they’re bringing in their experience to the growing tech sector.

It’s also why younger generations are swarming to tech startups as the require more innovation and heuristic tasks, than those of old-fashioned companies.

Leadership and engagement leads to innovation

Quite frankly, when you have amazing leadership you feel motivated to succeed and achieve. More importantly, you are given those creative freedoms to do what you’d like to do and it gives you an appreciation of those redundant tasks that you would have to normally do.

When you have a leader that wants to engage employees and bring a positive atmosphere to the office it makes the job a lot easier, it sparks innovation.

Without creative leaders, you won’t have a creative atmosphere.

When employees feel engaged it betters the company culture, people will want to do more for the company and make sure that they are pleasing their bosses and their peers. They feel as if they’re a part of a strong team.

However, when a company has employees that are disengaged along with poor leadership … well, you guessed it the result end up quite negative. The company ends up being an awry place to work, think of that office from the 90’s film Office Space, minus the funny characters. Work becomes a grueling and daunting tasks, rather than a fun place to learn and create new things.

It’s all up to leaders to decide how the workplace will take shape; it’s what separates the bad companies from the great ones. That’s why when you hear of Mark Zuckerberg, Tony Sheih, Richard Branson, Sergei Brin, you imagine great leaders that have a clear, transparent, and fun company that people want to go work at.

Leaders make companies thrive. So make sure that you’re working for someone that values your time and knows that you mean something to the company. And if you’re a leader, make sure that you’re doing your best to motivate others, as you will exemplify your company’s culture.

By: Jeffrey Fermin

About the author

Jeffrey Fermin is cofounder of Officevibe, an employee engagement platform that encourages collaboration through team building activities. When he’s not working on his product, he spends the majority of his time reading, writing and meeting new people.