Leadership Shapes Organizational Culture


Organisational performance is subject to several macro and micro factors affecting the business environment. Consequently, managers often strive to formulate strategies that would enable them to navigate these factors to improve productivity. Leadership is often used as a guiding tool for realising such changes and rarely has it been analysed with respect to the extent that it can influence organizational culture. The concept of leadership is a broadly used in business circles to mean the process of leading a group of people in an organisational setting towards the fulfilment of common goals (Cummings, Bridgman and Brown, 2016). Comparatively, culture is defined as “the learned beliefs, values, rules, norms, symbols, and traditions shared by a group of people” (Snaebjornsson et al., 2015, p. 3). Both concepts have been loosely adopted in change management literature as conduits to improve productivity in the workplace setting. Particularly, the emphasis has been on adopting changes to improve an organisation’s cultural performance.

Changing an organisations culture is one of the most difficult processes managers have to undertake because the concept is a product of several processes, roles, communication plans and ethics that dictate employee actions. These aspects of cultural performance have interlocking properties that is implemented through a mutually reinforcing system in corporate planning that is designed to prevent alterations from happening to safeguard the integrity of internal processes (Lee and Chung, 2020). In this regard, leadership is adopted as a safeguard to the system.

Although the overriding goal of leadership is to create stability, it is difficult for managers to effect change whenever there is a need to do so in an environment characterized by poor governance (Yasir et al., 2016). This is why many managers have failed to implement change management policies in their organisations because, even though they may register substantial change after introducing a new policy, the interlocking elements of culture eventually erode the effects of such changes and causes a retraction of all the progress made (Collinson, 2017; Bundy et al., 2017). Therefore, changing an organisation’s culture is not only a complex process but also a large-scale undertaking that deserves the deployment of various organisational tools. However, the order used to deploy these tools will have an effect on the extent and impact of these changes on employees or organisations.

Logically, the first step to follow when implementing change is to focus on leadership because it creates the vision for a new organisational setup. Afterwards, managers could use different tools to protect or improve the changes made. For example, they could develop clear roles and quality management processes to safeguard new operational systems or attitudes among employees. However, understanding the right leadership technique to use in creating such a change is as important as the change itself (Panayiotou, Putnam and Kassinis, 2019). Indeed, employing the wrong leadership approach in a conflicting cultural setup or overusing the power of coercion to influence employee performance could lead to negative experiences (Kump, 2019). Similarly, creating a strong vision or story behind a cultural change without having effective mechanisms of reinforcing the change may lead to a wastage of resources. Therefore, it is important to understand the extent that leadership shapes organizational culture as a prelude to understanding the kinds of performance improvements shareholders should expect from a change in leadership. The present study is a narrative review of published research articles that explain the relationship between leadership and organizational culture, to the extent that the former influences the latter.

Outline of Topic

Today, there is a global transformation of the concept of leadership based on the changing geopolitical landscape of world politics and the unpredictable effects of technology on human interaction (Hoof and Boell, 2019). These occurrences have redefined people’s understanding of the concept with a majority of their effects reported when investigating the effectiveness of leadership on governance (Snaebjornsson et al., 2015). For example, there has been a recent shift in leadership focus within the 21st century corporate landscape from an individualistic to a relational approach.

This change has emanated from a background of failed attempts at promoting leader-centred management approaches in corporate governance because of their tendency to promote romanticism in employer-employee relationships, which has its flaws in implementation (Schweiger, Müller and Güttel, 2020). Furthermore, this abstract view of leadership has led to the proliferation of research studies that only provide anecdotal evidence of its relationship with culture (Hoof and Boell, 2019; Snaebjornsson et al., 2015; Schweiger, Müller and Güttel, 2020). Therefore, the wide body of research on leadership and culture needs to be reorganised to identify actionable information for boosting productivity in the workplace setting.

In this study, the data on leadership and culture will be reorganised and compared to understand the extent that the former influences the latter. The proposed study is worthy of a literature review because organisational culture plays an important role in aligning the purpose of employees with an organisation’s mission and values. Therefore, culture creates synchrony in the attainment of individual and corporate goals (Staadt, 2015). This alignment of purpose enables staff to perform their tasks well by minimising conflicts with management. Consequently, the proposed research would be useful in improving the relationship between workers and their employers, as well as boost their productivity. The insights highlighted in this report will also be useful to key stakeholders and practitioners involved in change management, as well as policy makers that participate in management education. In line with this focus, the information presented in this document may be useful in developing organizational masterplans and actionable steps that may be used to generate improved corporate results.

Critical Reflection of Methods

The first step in conducting the literature review process entailed contextualising the overlapping aspects of leadership and culture in one analytical framework of organisational performance. The second step involved the use of the mixed methods research approach, as the appropriate research design, for collecting data. The technique involved using aspects of quantitative and qualitative reasoning to review research information, as recommended by Silverman (2013), Silverman (2016), Bryman and Bell (2015) and Sherbaum and Shockley (2015). This stage of the data analysis process was based on the thematic and coding method, which helped to categorise data according to relevant themes. A code was later assigned to them to complete the iterative review processes.

The narrative review was used instead of the systematic review because of the exploratory nature of the research issue. Relative to this assertion, Bryman and Bell (2015) say that systematic reviews are best applicable in research investigations that have a pre-specified eligibility criterion with definite research issues to be explored. The present study is not fixated on the adherence to specific inclusion or exclusion criterion because no standards or protocols were strictly followed in undertaking the review, as expected of research investigations that have a qualitative dimension of study (Kvale, 1996; Easterby-Smith, 2015). Therefore, the narrative review was appropriate for conducting the investigation.

The use of secondary literature research means that the findings of the current study may be prone to bias of the authors who conducted the primary investigations. Similarly, the findings obtained from the review are mostly indicative of the research issue and should not be used to provide details that specifically focus on one institutional or organizational setting. Therefore, in line with the recommendations of Ricoeur (1981) and Duignan (2014), the findings of such a study should be interpreted with caution. This statement is important to the present study, which has a business focus, because corporate research is a diverse field with different socioeconomic dynamics in play.

Literature Review

In this section of the paper, the findings of 30 empirically developed articles are highlighted. They are categorised into three broad themes of leadership, culture and organisational change. Each one of them will be explored relative to the research aim, which is to understand the extent that leadership shapes organisational culture.


In the context of this study, leadership refers to the ability of a person holding an influential position in an organisation to guide others. This concept is of particular interest to managers because they implement the vision of leaders. Therefore, successful businesses have often thrived on the back of equally successful leaders. Traditionally, the concept of leadership was associated with the possession of great analytical skills; however, recently, it has been defined as the accomplishment of specific organisational goals through harnessing human resources (Barmeyer, Bausch and Moncayo, 2019). In this regard, a successful leader is one that understands the intrinsic motivating factors driving employee productivity (Snaebjornsson et al., 2015). Consequently, he or she is required to create synergy between the realisation of individual and group goals. Table 1 below shows articles sampled in the review that addressed the theme of leadership.

Table 1. Leadership Theme 

Study Sample Context Performance Measure (Independent Variable) Performance Measure (Dependent Variable) Key Findings
Kjellström, Stålne and Törnblom (2020) 21 UK labour sector Leadership development Complexity of the impact of leadership Understanding the nature of leadership development helps firms to comprehend its complexity
Abildgaard et al.(2020) 10 Labour movement in Nordic countries Leadership Participation Leadership affects employee participation in workplace activities
Cullinane et al.(2017) 14 Multinational company in the United Kingdom Leadership style Ability to negotiate rights Leadership style influences ability to negotiate rights
Mosimann, Rennwald and Zimmermann (2019) 16,044 European labour movement Type of leadership style Employee support and voting patterns Unionised workers are likely to oppose far-right leadership styles
Prowse, Prowse and Perrett (2020) 185,785 United Kingdom labour movement Leadership style Gender perceptions of organisational performance Post-heroic communal leadership is preferred by both men and women
Karsten and Hendriks (2017) 1 European labour market Leadership style Developing consensus Effective leadership enhances employee bonds
Clifton (2019) 2 European labour market Conception of leadership Perception of leadership Communication styles affect leadership effectiveness
Akdere, Hickman and Kirchner (2019) 10 Institutional analysis Leadership competencies Economic sector implementation The impact of leadership competencies vary across different economic sectors
Case and Śliwa (2020) 1 Laos labour sector Leadership style Scope of exercising power People’s understanding of leadership styles affect the scope and power of their implementation
Waring (2019) 1 Live disaster simulation Leadership style Team Spirit Extreme leadership styles compromise team effectiveness
Mythili (2019) 20 Management Education Leadership style Gender performance outcomes Women have a bigger impact on culture compared to men
Cook, Zill and Meyer (2020) 183 Management education in Germany Individual differences Perceptions of leadership patterns Individual differences impact leadership effectiveness in the organisation
Griffiths, Roberts and Price (2019) 1885 Australian Labour Context Leadership traits Gender alignment Women have a stronger impact in leading cutlural processes because of their perceived possession of positive leadership qualities

The aforementioned findings in table 1 above strive to explain turning points in leadership development that eventually lead to improved productivity. Depending on the kind of leadership context in review, employees may be subjected to good or bad forms of leadership; both of which have an impact on productivity (Morales et al., 2019). For instance, bad leadership is often associated with a single type of reward, such as financial gain, but good leadership is holistic, in the sense that it leads to the accomplishment of both personal and community goals. Relative to the above discussions, the influence of leadership styles on organisational performance has been investigated, subject to its influence on employee attitudes.


In the context of this review, organisational culture refers to systems, norms and procedures influencing employee behaviour. This concept is of particular interest to policymakers because they need to develop laws and guidelines that support, as opposed to contradict, cultural norms practiced in an organisation. Culture has a significant impact on corporate performance because of its influence on different aspects of employee performance, including their motivation, attitudes and efficiency. Therefore, it is largely seen as a lever of corporate performance that can be tweaked periodically for optimum results (Inegbedion et al., 2020). To this end, managers have struggled to strike the right balance between addressing employee concerns and tweaking aspects of their overall corporate cultures to yield the best organisational outcomes (Kalkan et al., 2020; Garg, Dar and Mishra, 2018). Nonetheless, the importance of culture in shaping organisational processes stems from the understanding that human resource performance is predicated on an organisation’s beliefs, norms and procedures. Therefore, culture is touted as one of the most effective tools for improving a firm’s performance. Table 2 below summarises findings of articles that addressed this theme.

Table 2. Culture Theme

Study Sample Context Performance Measure (Independent Variable) Performance Measure (Dependent Variable) Key Findings
Jansson (2020) 14,000 Trade Union Union Revitalization Self-Image Public sector privatization encourages unions to adopt a collectivism culture
House and Gray (2019) 40,000 Toronto aviation industry Capitalist nature of Canadian labour relations Working conditions and workers solidarity Capitalism in the labour unions has improved worker solidarity
Marino et al.(2019) Italy and Poland labour movement Institutional context Representation of vulnerable groups Institutional contexts in which companies operate dictate employee representation
Skivenes and Trygstad (2017) 6,000 European labour market Power resources and institutional factors Whistle-blowing activities The power wielded by leaders impacts cultural development
Donegani and McKay (2018) 51,000 Migratory experiences of European workers Job placement Job satisfaction Job placement impacts employee satisfaction and culture
Fuchs, Fuk-Ying Tse and Feng (2019) 3 China, Hong Kong and Europe Coercive authoritarianism Field work behaviours Coercive leadership styles make it difficult to develop productive cultures
Larsson and Törnberg (2019) 311 Metal, construction, transportation, and healthcare sectors Social networks Cooperation among employees from different industries Networks of bilateral cooperation remain within sectors, thereby cementing their cultures
Flynn and Schröder (2018) 7 United Kingdom and Hong Kong Comparative institutionalism Path dependencies Stakeholder pressure influences HRM culture
Clark and Colling (2019) 18 Leadership in Informal migrant employment Management style Employee behaviour Culture is regulated by leadership styles and employee input
Yu (2019) 250,000 European employment sector Institutional structures and norms Accomplishment of personal projects Leadership and organisational structures affect the success and scope of personal projects

The above findings highlighted in table 2 above, provide a basis for understanding the extent that leadership can be used to enhance cultural changes in the quest to boost productivity. Its importance in influencing organisational performance is further compounded by the evolving nature of the 21st century workplace, which is increasingly multicultural and technologically-oriented. Coupled with the need to observe organisational cultural systems as a mode of safeguarding the progress made so far, different spheres of cultural interaction seem to be at play in a typical organisation setting that has people from different social, economic and political backgrounds.

The relationship between culture and leadership has been partly explored in institutional settings where leadership has played a critical role in the running of organisational affairs (Kalkan et al., 2020). In such settings, it is established that leadership plays an instrumental role in driving cultural changes (Morris et al., 2019). This finding means that significant leadership changes have to happen in an organisation before cultural change happens. Relative to this statement, studies have also shown that leadership affects how people perceive culture. Karadağ et al. (2020) provide evidence of this relationship by suggesting that there is a positive correlation between leadership and the perception of culture. The same study also linked the two concepts to organisational success. This statement means that effective leadership can alter perceptions on culture and lead to performance improvements.

The influence of culture on organisational performance has partly been explained through the change management concept, which defines alterations to systems and processes to create new and improved outcomes. Most of the literature on organisational change processes are characterised by arguments that have been developed from universally agreed concepts of change and not the mess, conflict and power dynamics that typically characterise change processes. MacKillop (2018) shares this view in an article that strived to understand the role of leadership in organisational change management. The authors argued that leadership is a complex process characterised by iterating discursive practices influenced by the role of individual personalities on wider organisational systems. A study by Joseph and Kibera (2019) delved further into this debate and showed that culture not only influenced the financial performance of organisations but also their non-market outlook as well. It was also established that culture was a major source of competitive advantage for most businesses as it helped organisations to operate sustainably (Joseph and Kibera, 2019). In this regard, it was an invaluable tool of corporate performance.

Part of the discussions relating to the influence of culture on organisational performance is linked with employee creativity and ingenuity. Leadership has been placed at the central focus of such debates with many academicians arguing that they could directly or indirectly influence culture through creativity (Kato-Nitta and Maeda, 2016; Kim, Baik and Kim, 2019). For example, the study by Kim, Baik and Kim (2019) suggested that leadership styles adopted by corporate boards significantly influenced the hierarchical structure of power and influence in their organisations. Consequently, leadership affects how free employees are in expressing their creativity. The works of Kim, Baik and Kim (2019) highlight the role of power and dominance in defining an organisation’s cultural framework and the role of leadership in influencing its performance.

This line of reasoning has been followed by other researchers who have explored the same research issue through a “language of leadership” approach, which examines the styles used by managers to effect change in their organisations (Kato-Nitta and Maeda, 2016). Porcu (2017) and Bock et al. (2015) have further explored the role of leadership in influencing creativity by claiming that the type of style adopted in an organisation could have a significant impact on innovation and, by extension, a company’s bottom-line. Evidence of this relationship is provided from a marketing lens, whereby the actions of a team leader have a significant impact on sales and a company’s earning potential. Khan et al. (2020a) have provided similar evidence regarding the impact of leadership styles on cultural performance.

The workplace context through which social interactions happen has also been mentioned as a useful framework for understanding the role of culture in shaping organisational performance. Its application is an important step in reviewing the effects of culture as a moderating variable of organisational performance because people’s culturally induced behaviours in the workplace setting may be different from their behaviours in the home setting. On this basis, Saleem, Shenbei and Hanif (2020) say that the work environment plays a mediating role in shaping organisational culture. This claim was made after reviewing the effects of the work environment on employee engagement. Their relationship outlines a broader context for evaluating a firm’s productivity. In this regard, the role of employee engagement in shaping organisational productivity and the cultural background that supports it is largely understood by examining employee actions as products of team learning and development. Koeslag-Kreunen et al. (2018) advances this view by saying that the first building blocks of organisational culture are laid at the team-building phase of structural growth.

The concept of organisational commitment has been mentioned in several studies that have explored the role of culture in boosting organisational performances. In multiple contexts, it has been used to mean employee loyalty (Abasilim, Gberevbie and Osibanjo, 2019). This analogy is a product of the influence of cultural factors in an organisational setting because employees who love their workplaces or jobs tend to be loyal to them. While investigating the implications of leadership on firm performance, several researchers have mentioned organisational commitment as one of the key indicators of a leader’s effectiveness in boosting workplace productivity (Abasilim, Gberevbie and Osibanjo, 2019). In line with this view, a study by Erdurmazlı (2019) investigated the effects of servant leadership on organisational commitment by sampling the views of more than 300 volunteers working in various business enterprises. The findings showed that servant leadership has a significant impact on organisational commitment (Erdurmazlı, 2019). Building on the functional approach theory, the author also suggested that servant leadership should be pursued as an ideal form of leadership in the 21st century corporate landscape (Erdurmazlı, 2019). McNeff and Irving (2017) have also explored the influence of servant leadership on organisational performance by investigating its impact on job satisfaction. Garg, Dar and Mishra (2018) did a similar investigation in the private banking sector. Broadly, the researchers confirmed that servant leadership has a positive impact on job satisfaction levels. Additionally, they suggested that the practice of valuing employee contribution in an organisation is one of the single most powerful forces influencing employee performance. In this analogy, leaders who show the most value to their employees reap the biggest rewards (McNeff and Irving, 2017).

To understand the extent that leadership shapes organizational culture, it is equally important to acknowledge different aspects of culture that have been used to convey its effects. For example, job satisfaction and organisational commitment have been highlighted as constituent aspects of culture that have been remodelled through effective leadership. For instance, in a study conducted by Kerdngern and Thanitbenjasith (2017), it was established that effective leadership has a positive impact on job satisfaction and organisational commitment. The authors also revealed that job satisfaction had a direct negative influence on employee turnover rates (Kerdngern and Thanitbenjasith, 2017). In a different study authored by Bashir et al. (2020), the effects of leadership on organisational performance was also reviewed relative to its effects on employee commitment. By basing the analysis on transformational leadership, it was established that this governance style also had the same positive effects on organizational commitment and transformational leadership (Bashir et al., 2020).

Unlike the findings of Kerdngern and Thanitbenjasith (2017) described above, the views of Bashir et al. (2020) explored the effects of leadership on organisational commitment by using career growth opportunities as a moderating variable. In this context of analysis, it was established that the variable had an impact on the effectiveness of leadership qualities in the workplace setting. Stated differently, the findings meant that the effects of leadership on employees varied with their levels of experience or job group assigned in the organisation. The role of transformational leadership in improving organisational performance has further been highlighted in research studies that have linked it with knowledge sharing as a key resource in the 21st century business world (Sparre, 2020; Bharadwaj, Chauhan and Raman, 2015). For example, Son, Phong and Loan (2020) found that transformational leadership has a positive impact on a firm’s financial performance, while knowledge sharing boosted operational performance. To this end, the authors suggested that transformational leadership can be an effective tool for promoting knowledge sharing. Nonetheless, its influences have to be moderated in a known cultural context.

Organisational Change

In the context of this review, organisational change refers to the ability of leaders to help firms transition from one state to another. This concept is important to educators because they help guide change management processes. Table 3 below summarises findings of articles that addressed the theme of organisational change.

Table 3. Organisational Change Theme 

Study Sample Context Performance Measure (Independent Variable) Performance Measure (Dependent Variable) Key Findings
Mustchin and Martínez Lucio (2020) 40 British labour union State leadership style Ability to adapt to change State leadership imposes constraints in how much organisations can transition from one state to another
Blackman et al.(2020) 70 Australian labour sector State leadership Equal pay and undervaluation State leadership has been slow to overcome some of the gender performance gap which needs to be minimised
Gooberman, Hauptmeier and Heery (2019) 98 UK Labour sector Incentive to associate Level of association among union workers State influence impacts collective bargaining agreements among employers
Jansen (2020) 76 Netherlands labour union Social and political determinants of leadership Changes in employee management Social and political determinants of leadership explain change management processes
Falkenberg et al.(2020) 3484 UK Labour market Gender and socioeconomic change Organisational productivity Women are unlikely to embrace change because of socioeconomic factors that predispose them to conflict
Pavlopoulos and Chkalova (2019) 19,000 Netherlands labour movement Type of work assigned Employment security Type of work assigned has an impact on employment security
Van Dijk et al.(2020) 9 Dutch labour sector Opportunities and rewards offered by management Workplace performance The opportunities and rewards created by management impacts organisational change

To understand the inisghts highlighted in table 3 above, it is critical to mention the findings of a significant body of literature that has highlighted the changing nature of the business environment as an instigator of most leadership changes witnessed in the 21st century. For example, the works of Schweiger, Müller and Güttel (2020) argue that current attempts to abandon the self-centred style of leadership in the modern workplace is futile because it divorces the effectiveness of a leader from their essence – the belief in oneself. This argument is presented to oppose current trends of adopting processual perspectives of leadership, which present the concept as an ongoing cycle of social interaction between managers and employees. In line with this view, Schweiger, Müller and Güttel (2020) further go ahead to comment on the difficulty in accepting a distributed form of leadership in a business environment that still glorifies the image of self-made leaders.

The literature on leadership suggests that it is an important tool of organisational control because it provides the inspiration employees need to implement change management. However, to understand the effect that leadership has on organisational culture, the tool has to be employed relative to its effects on key performance indicators outlined in known models and theories. For example, some studies point out that business process reengineering (BPR) is one of the ways that managers could use to reimagine their operational plans. In line with this observation, the BPR tool has been used to develop implementation models and theories for organisational change (Pejić Bach et al., 2019).

Although the link between leadership and BPR is anecdotal, the BPR model has been further touted as a conduit for leaders to reimagine organisational processes through the reformulation of internal processes, structures and systems. This type of leadership approach is akin to a bottom-up leadership style where employees are encouraged to reimagine a business’s processes, systems and procedures by rethinking the guidelines that lead to the assembly and disassembly of organisational structures. The unique aspect of implementation associated with this model is its affinity to encourage leaders to think about organisational systems afresh and communicate the same vision to employees. Although this technique has been hailed as an effective approach in changing organisational systems, it is still associated with meticulous planning, which may lead to intense resource use (Steele and Day, 2020). Additionally, a lot of time is required to make complete changes to organisational systems.

Subject to the insights on leadership and governance described above, there is no debate regarding the extent that the concept plays in influencing employee motivation because motivation is often reported in organisations within limits. For example, it has been established that effective leadership is established when the self-interests of an employee are attached to the accomplishment of organisational goals. However, this statement outlines a simplistic view of changing employee behaviour because human being are complex creatures. When management fails to recognise different sets of skills, aptitudes and contributions that different cadres or groups of employees bring to an organisation, they are likely to report subpar performance. In this setting, employees would be working in an automated manner, which is a degradation of their full potential. At worst, management may experience a surge in the number of “rebellious” employees who may sabotage the activities of their colleagues. This type of consequence of poor employee recognition results in high attrition rates.

Based on the above statement, it is ironic that the traditional version of effective leadership in an organisational setup is premised on a military-like structure of command where employees are supposed to follow the orders of people at the top. However, there is a growing body of evidence showing the ineffectiveness of this approach in improving human resource performance (Hoof and Boell, 2019; Snaebjornsson et al., 2015; Schweiger, Müller and Güttel, 2020). For example, studies have suggested that the problem with the military approach to leadership is its assumption that people can be easily replaced, as would be done in a military setting when soldiers die. In an organisational setting, employees are not equal, in the sense that some may have more skills or experience than others may do. Therefore, there is going to be a layered type of leadership structure that cannot separate itself from the top management model of control because of the power they wield. The excesses of this model of governance have forced many managers to rethink their approach of leadership in favour of a more employee-centred style of motivation.

The findings of this literature review are important to practicing managers, policy makers, and management education experts. Particularly, the evidence generated from this review may help investors to provide a realistic estimate of the kind of impact they should expect from implementing change in an organization, because culture also plays a significant role in determining the outcome of such processes. Therefore, by providing information on how leadership helps to shape organisational culture, managers can have a more reliable basis for developing realistic projections about future corporate goals and ways to achieve them. Similarly, shareholders can have a better understanding of the kind of change they should expect to see in an organisation after changing leaders. This type of information may be useful in informing investor decisions in an organisation or industry whose performance is predicated on the effectiveness of its leaders. The body of evidence presented in this review may also be useful to shareholders and investors engaged in multiple sectors of the economy because it is applicable to all industries. Indeed, investors will be empowered with better information about internal management and leadership processes that would shape their expectations regarding the kind of changes they should expect from firms when leadership changes.

Lastly, the information presented in this review may provide a reliable background for undertaking primary research on understanding the extent that leadership shapes organisational culture. This benefit of analysis comes from the theoretical support that the findings of this study will provide to managers who may want to realise transformational change through the implementation of successful leadership strategies. Based on these insights, the broader hypotheses that emerges from this literature review is that leadership plays a significant role in shaping organizational culture.

Analysis and Critical Discussion

The literature review process included an analysis of 65 academic materials, 30 of which were empirical. All the materials sampled in the review focused on either leadership or organizational culture. The documents were mostly peer-reviewed journals and books published within the last five years (2015-2020). This inclusion strategy was adopted because current information was sought for the analysis according to the recommendations of Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2012) regarding the need to use dated research sources. The materials reviewed were obtained from reputable academic databases, including, Emerald, VITAL, Jstor and Sage Publications. Key terms and phrases used to conduct the search included “leadership” “organisational culture” and “change management.”

The data provided in section 4.0 above shows that pieces of academic materials sampled in this report described the relationship between leadership and culture by segmenting the two concepts into different groups. On one hand, a section of studies focused on leadership, while on another hand, a different group of literatures discussed culture. Therefore, the two concepts are rarely studied together to understand how they influence organisational systems and performance. However, they have been presented as the two major themes underpinning this study. Organisational change is highlighted as the third theme because it outlines the intersection through which leadership and culture meet.

In this discussion, leadership has been used to determine an organisation’s change capacity by reimagining a firm’s systems, processes and procedures. For example, a study by Yasir et al. (2016) was designed to understand the effects of different types of leadership styles, including laisser-faire, transformational and transactional, on the capacity of organisations to oversee change management and seek new partners in business. In line with this observation, it was established that the transformational leadership style had a positive impact on employee trustworthiness (Yasir et al., 2016). However, the same relationship was not observed when reviewing the transactional leadership style because it had an insignificant relationship with employee trust (Yasir et al., 2016). Lastly, it was also established that the laissez-faire leadership style had a negative correlation with employee trust and an organisation’s change capacity. These results suggests that leadership styles not only have a significant impact on employee trust but also on an organisation’s capacity to change (Yasir et al., 2016). This statement draws a link between the themes identified in the literature review section.

In a related study authored by Khan et al. (2020b), the effects of different leadership styles was also investigated and its dimensions analysed relative to their effectiveness in promoting job satisfaction as the main metric of cultural performance. The authors suggested that the transformational leadership style had a significant influence on job satisfaction (Khan et al., 2020b). This view was developed using culture as a moderating variable and it was found to have an insignificant relationship with transformational leadership and job satisfaction (Khan et al., 2020b). It was also established that a leader’s personal traits had an impact on job satisfaction (Khan et al., 2020b). In this regard, the role of personalities has been mentioned as a key driving force in leadership development.

Comparatively, culture is presented as a complex term because it encompasses people’s aspirations, values, norms and beliefs that inspire their behaviours and, by extension, their performance. The literature on culture affirms the same fact because it suggests that the difficulty experienced in reshaping employee behaviours stems from people’s interlocking values and norms that make it difficult to adapt to new information needed to effect change (Sparre, 2020; Bharadwaj, Chauhan and Raman, 2015).

Broadly, the materials reviewed in this paper were analysed in a narrative review format whereby the emphasis was on appraising the published articles to the extent that they addressed the research topic. Schwartzman (1993), Hammersley and Atkinson (1983) recommend the use of this literature review approach as an appropriate technique for carrying out studies that have an ethnographic focus. This approach of data analysis is consistent with the techniques advanced by Flick (1992), Miles, Huberman and Saldana (2014) in qualitative reasoning. Additionally, Creswell (2015), Cooper and Schindler (2014) say this approach of data collection is appropriate for exploratory research investigations, such as the present study, which seeks to establish the extent that leadership shapes organisational culture.

There were sufficient academic materials, including books, peer-reviewed journals, organisational reports, government publications and credible online sources that provided enough data to investigate the research issue. Most of the materials sampled either independently explained the role of leadership in boosting organisational performance or explored the role of culture in improving employee productivity and, by extension, that of an organisation. The results of the investigation were highlighted in the literature review section through a distinction of articles that exclusively investigated leadership or organisational culture. In this study, these two centres of information were linked to provide a broader understanding of the extent that organisations use leadership as a tool to shape their cultures for better performance.

Based on the pieces of evidence highlighted in this document, a change in people’s culture is only part of a broader system of organisational operations safeguarded by the effectiveness of its leadership. Since a cultural change is arguably a transformational event, it inherently becomes largely responsible for the change in people’s attitudes and behaviours through its influences on operational plans (MacKillop, 2018). The interplay between leadership and culture also manifests through the creation of strategic plans that would be useful in managing situations where an organisation needs to adapt to forces in its external and internal environments. In this type of setting, companies may experience increased competition from rivals or an upswing in competitor activities stemming from heightened business activities.

Based on the above insights, the extent that leadership affects organisational culture can largely be explained by evaluating several key examples of how leaders in specific industries create major structural changes to their organisational cultures by edging their personalities and visions into a firm’s operational systems. For example, Apple’s company culture is largely a product of its founder, Steve Job’s leadership style. As the founder of the company, he was able to reimagine the technology space and create new systems and procedures that would make sure the company continues to maintain high levels of excellence in product development. This is why the late founder is credited for introducing an innovative culture at Apple, which has seen the company change the history of different subsectors of the technology industry, including the distribution of music (through iTunes), tablet development (iPad), and personal computing among others. At the core of this transformation is a strong leadership style that permeated throughout different levels of the organisation.

Unlike the company’s current Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tom Cook, Steve Jobs was known to be a passionate and abrasive leader who demanded perfection from his employees. These attributes saw the company develop some of the most innovative products in the industry and helped Apple to carve a name for itself as an industry disruptor. These achievements stem from the founder’s leadership style, which later morphed into the overall organisation’s culture. Through a symbiotic relationship of leadership and culture, Apple managed to develop some of the most innovative products under Steve Job’s leadership. For example, the launch of the iPhone, iMac, iPod, and iPad were all done under Steve Job’s leadership. These products still form a key part of the company’s core business today and account for most of its revenue. To this end, the impactful nature of Steve Jobs leadership style on the company’s growth demonstrates that personalities can have a significant impact on all aspects of cultural control present in an organisation.

Indeed, even when Jobs was dismissed from the company, its directors later realised that they had made a mistake by firing him and later recalled him because he had a vision for the company that no other person did. Therefore, his leadership blueprint outlines the nature of the company’s culture today. Such types of leadership effects is akin to the creation of a “personality cult” in an organisation, where its processes follow the leader’s vision with little or no opposition. Apple is not the only company that has demonstrated a strong link between leadership and culture; Tesla Motors, which was founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk, also shares the same characteristics because its company culture is largely a reflection of its founder’s principles of management and vision. To this end, leadership plays a critical role in shaping organisational culture.


This report has highlighted the important role of leaders in influencing culture as a tool for boosting organisational performance. In this context of discussion, leadership is presented as a motivational tool that should guide employee actions towards the fulfilment of workplace goals. Particularly, this investigation has been informed by the need to understand the interplay between leadership and culture in an increasingly uncertain business environment characterised by multiculturalism and rapid technological changes. More than 30 empirical studies have been examined in this report and it has been established that leadership plays a critical role in shaping organisational culture because leaders can shape the guiding vision of an organisation, which, in turn, influences the pursuit of defined goals. These discussions have been summarized into three key themes that related to leadership, culture and organisational change. The latter concept was adopted as an overriding framework for analysing the relationship between leadership and culture.

Although the evidence provided in this study is indicative, it should be understood that the concept of leadership is more dominant in cross-cultural studies than previously thought because the latter concept is a relatively new research phenomenon that has grown in prominence because of globalization and the spread of multiculturalism in different businesses around the world. The need to use this analytical framework to interpret the findings of this report is perhaps reflective of its widespread application across different arenas of business and corporate performance. Conversely, culture is specific to organisations or countries, thereby making it a less universally studied framework of operational reasoning. The findings of this study are useful to policymakers and managers who are interested in boosting corporate performance through cultural changes. On the basis of the lengthy time it takes to realise cultural change, the evidence provided in this report is similarly useful to managers that want to build a long-term vision of their organisations by using leadership to shape culture as a competitive tool.

Legal Statement

This study was informed by the need for policy makers and managers to understand the extent that leadership shapes organisational culture. The latter concept of cultural performance has been adopted as the central focus of the investigation because it is the “unseen” moderating force influencing organisational performance. This view has been adopted from the literature review findings, which reveal that culture is a tool of competitive advantage in various economic sectors. Therefore, managers who are able to tweak aspects of their cultural performance may likely reap the benefits of such a process through boosted performance. One way to do so is through the correct assimilation of leadership styles to the correct organisational context.

Broadly, the intersection between culture and leadership has been the central focus of this investigation to the extent that both concepts play a critical role in determining the effectiveness of change management processes that eventually lead to improved performances. The volume of studies that have explored the concept of leadership are higher than those that have investigated the concept of culture. In this regard, culture is a more understudied concept, subject to its role in boosting organisational performance. This imbalance in research studies means that more research investigations were focused on explaining the role of leadership as opposed to culture in improving organisational performance.

On this basis, leadership has emerged as the most dominant concept moderating the discussion relating to its relationship with culture. While different leadership contexts and styles have been explored to understand how they influence corporate performance, the cardinal principle that emerges from this review, and which largely plays a role in determining the extent that leadership shapes cultural performance, is the importance of treating others, as someone would want to be treated. This philosophy is not exclusive to this investigation because it also largely reflects the common belief in human resources and business practice around the world about employer-employee relationships. This principle of application is a significant improvement from earlier adopted coercive styles of leadership that rely on coercive means to improve productivity. Therefore, it is has a basic limited application within the business context. This statement defines the basic lever for which leadership influences organisational culture.

Overall, the research process used to carry out this review was informative and educative to the extent that I learned vital information relating to corporate organisational systems and workplace processes that support them. Particularly, the investigation I carried out on leadership and culture was insightful because it highlighted important details relating to team performance and leadership in the workplace setting. While most of the information obtained from the review was anecdotal, it is important to understand their relevance to current micro and macroeconomic factors affecting the business environment, such as technology and changing consumer expectations.

These factors were critical to the investigation because they provided relevance and meaning to the research findings; at least to the extent that they provided a new frontier of corporate management predicated on collaborative leadership and supportive cultural performance. Nonetheless, the evidence gathered in this report should be interpreted and used cautiously because it is indicative of the extent that leadership can shape organisational culture for improved corporate performance. Particularly, emphasis should be made to only use aspects of managerial experience that are relevant to an institutional, industry or organisational context in review. This statement demonstrates that the volume of information available regarding leadership and organisational culture is vast and may not be specifically used to improve performance across all industries or organisations.

Conducting this research also showed me that there are vast volumes of information relating to leadership and cultural performance that could have impeded the feasibility of applying the findings across specific industries or organisational contexts. In future studies, emphasis should be on narrowing down the research investigation into an industry or sector. This strategy would help to capture detailed aspects of cultural performance that are specific to one industry and that are affected by leadership. This statement comes from the volume of research available in current databases, which suggests that some organisations or economic sectors are more dependent on effective leadership than others are. For example, service-oriented industries thriving on thin profit margins may be more susceptible to failures of leadership than firms that are operating in the manufacturing sector. Therefore, future research should take into account the varying social, economic and political aspects of leadership that impact performance in different industries.

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