It’s a well-known saying that ‘leaders get the teams they deserve’. Perhaps we need to turn this around, and ask whether boards get the organisational culture they deserve?
The newly published National Housing Federation Code of Governance 2020 places a welcome fresh emphasis on the central role board leadership plays in ensuring an organisation’s culture and behaviours are aligned with its mission and values. Importantly, the new code also calls upon board members to lead by example, and to spend time each year assessing how effective this role modelling has been.
On the face of it, this does not seem to be a particularly new or onerous requirement. Of course boards should do this. However, in practice, how easy a task is it to lead by example? Most boards only meet a few times a year (often now remotely). Their interaction with employees is probably limited – many staff, if asked, would struggle to articulate the role of the board let alone know the names or behaviours of its members, or see them as role models.
In adopting the new Code of Governance, housing associations are required to identify and record evidence that they comply with its requirements, or to give a reasoned explanation as to why not. This has given me some food for thought. How can we go about demonstrating to stakeholders the cultural impact of our boards? This is something that we’ll be exploring with our boards at emh group, including:
Boards might not be able, in a practical sense, to have a day-to-day influence on the culture of organisations they lead. But they can create a vitally important cultural influence on the organisation by how they behave, what they value, and the questions they ask.
I’d love to learn what your boards are doing to set an example and promote a healthy culture. Let’s get a conversation going!