4 Ways to Harness Your Leadership Brand and Transform Your Workplace Culture

4 Ways to Harness Your Leadership Brand and Transform Your Workplace Culture thumbnail

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Many employees find the workplace a frustrating, bureaucratic environment. One in three black employees, one of four Asian employees and more than one-in-seven Latinx employees feel out of place at work due to their race or ethnicity, according to research. Healthy workplace culture is not something that can be created overnight. It won’t happen by magic. It is created over time by the policies, procedures and practices that leaders establish, the interactions they have with employees, as well as the decisions they make. Leaders are responsible for setting the tone for the workplace culture. If leaders don’t show up in their roles differently, workplace culture will not be transformed into a welcoming, people-centered environment where all employees feel connected.

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Recently Coqual (formerly the Center for Talent Innovation), and many scholars published research about belonging. They created a quantifiable definition for what it means to feel at home at work. The key variables are:

  • Welcomed
  • Known
  • Seen
  • Supported
  • Included
  • Connected
  • Proud of the organization’s values and purpose

This is an incredibly useful way to unpack belongings. It gives senior leaders and middle managers a framework for leading a culture of belonging that transforms employees’ performance, makes their job more enjoyable, and creates a better work environment.

Related: Workplace Culture Doesn’t Matter. Until It Does.

Senior leaders must take on the responsibility of creating and enhancing workplace belonging. I believe they must create a leadership brand and make belonging a central part of that brand. Importantly, the performance and hire of leaders must now be measured by their ability and willingness to foster a culture of belonging where all members feel valued, included, and inspired to do their best work. This article will discuss four ways leaders can harness their leadership brand to create a culture of belonging, increase their impact, and meet the demands of today’s workforce.

1. Define your leadership brand

Your leadership brand is your personal brand in the social world of leadership. Your leadership brand communicates your strengths and expertise, reflects who you are as an individual, and communicates the core values that you hold dear. Your leadership brand is crucial to creating a culture of belonging. It determines how you relate with colleagues and employees to do the job and the type of work environment you create. Take stock of your personality and human abilities to determine your leadership brand. Are you empathetic, kind, supportive, and compassionate? Are you a good listener? Empathy, kindness, and listening skills are essential for building positive workplace relationships and navigating issues related to employee well-being.

Defining your leadership brand requires a deep understanding of your values. These are the principles and beliefs that will guide your actions and decisions. How can you show these values in your leadership and policies? Your employees cannot see into your soul, but they can recognize your values by what they see in you and your actions every day. It is important to communicate your values clearly and actively. You should also aim to show what you believe and what your actions support.

2. Become a people-centered leader

Be clear about the type of leader you want to be and what you would like to be. In my experience working with senior leaders for over 20 years, leaders tend to represent two polarities on a continuum: mission centric versus people-centered leaders. Leaders who are mission-focused put the mission first. These leaders are focused on the organization’s goals, the projects that must be completed and the objectives that must all be achieved. They are also laser-focused on the earnings report and budget. These leaders tend to see employees through the lense of performance targets, deadlines and results. The overall mission can be distorted by this, and the employees’ personalities may be overlooked. Employees are reduced to being a machine with a single-dimensional identity, that of a laborer.

People-centered leaders recognize that employees are the core of an organization and that it is impossible to achieve the mission without motivated, hardworking employees who feel a strong sense job happiness. They understand that the mission is important, but employees must be supported in their work and feel valued, appreciated, acknowledged, and included. These leaders understand that employees’ well-being is a key component of their leadership brand. This is reflected in their policies and practices at work and in how they treat employees. People-centered leaders are people-oriented and care about belonging. They make belonging part of their leadership brand.

Related: How to Design a Company Culture That Will Attract Better Employees

3. Cultivate and care about belonging

To be an effective, trusted, and impactful leader, you must have a sense of belonging. Your ethos is the foundation on which you lead as a leader. It gives you the authority and inspires others. Leaders must nurture a culture of belonging. They must make the concept a central part of their brand and make it a priority in all they do. Leaders must first see what belonging means. Leaders should imagine the images of belonging that are posited. Employees must feel valued, supported, included, connected, and known. It is possible to think of them as representatives of different employee networks that they manage at work and encourage colleagues to actuate each one.

For example, think about what aspect of your leadership brand (your core values and human skills) would be an asset to any of these networks. Next, identify the areas that each member of your team could add most value to and then lean into it. How can you make someone feel welcome, whether they are a new employee or an existing employee? To create a culture that is inclusive and supports all employees, especially those who are most marginalized, it’s important to foster a sense of belonging. Employees value support and many companies miss the chance to improve their workplace culture and offer new ways for employees to improve their performance.

Being supportive here also means making employees feel valued and known. How can you use your human skills to make someone feel valued? Leaders can do this by taking the time to get to know each member of their team. Ask them questions about their passions, human skills, and expertise. Next, assign them work that reflects their unique value and where they can excel. Many of my clients have shared their feelings of how demoralizing it is to receive assignments that do not reflect their unique qualities and value.

Leaders might prioritize inclusion discussions and act on them to show that they care about belonging. How can leaders create a culture in which all employees feel included, regardless of their background or position? Shawn Daniel, a strategic leadership and work management consultant, says that leaders should strive to create diverse teams. You should surround yourself with people who are not like you, who have different opinions, who may have different backgrounds, and who may take different approaches. Someone who isn’t always handpicked for the executive; someone who might challenge status quo and the leader should find consolation in them doing so. Leaders must prevent situations in which only the dominant voices are heard to cultivate a sense belonging.

Related: Shaping a Healthy Workplace Culture

Leaders must agree to employee-led appraisals and performance reviews that take into account workplace culture. Leaders who are successful must motivate and coach their teams to achieve company goals, mentor and coach them, and demonstrate strong communication skills. Leaders must be held accountable for the culture of their workplace. They must be accountable for the results of their leadership actions and the environment they create. Clear criteria must be used to evaluate the competencies of senior leaders. This includes making sure that employees feel valued, included, known, seen, connected and proud of the organization’s values and purpose.

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