Leadership Styles in Differing Corporate Cultures

captain-planet_www-txt2pic-comLeadership and management work in concert to shape the path and then drive the organization along that path. This is just as true for innovation environments yet with the added dimension of fitting in with the corporate culture of their organization. Innovation environments are comprised of technical leadership and those relevant stakeholders in the company that enable commercialization of novel goods and/or services.

In one viewpoint, innovation environments need to adapt to the culture of the corporate host. Put this way, the technical leadership of the research department and relevant stakeholders must understand the needs of the greater organization. What type of research organization fits best into a particular type of corporate culture? To answer this, it is best to define the corporate culture that “hosts” the research organization.

Organizational studies by Talent Strategy Partners show that there are four basic types of corporate cultures each with their own idiosyncracies: clan, adhocracy, hierarchy, and market. The clan culture is typified by an accessible management, role models who inspire creativity, and are compassionate and supportive. Many family-owned companies fit this mold, as well as those companies in the business of staffing, non-profit social work, healthcare, and retail. The adhocracy culture is highly entrepreneurial, forward thinking, fast-paced, and risk tolerant. Head shops, skunk works within large mature companies, software, interactive marketing firms typically possess an adhocracy culture.

The hierarchical culture values critical thinking, consistency of standards, regulations, and processes, is decisive, and has business acumen. This culture is often found within mature organizations who have long-established their market presence in their industry sector, and typically include governmental organizations, banks, chemical companies, educational institutions, and of course research organizations.

The market culture is viewed as accountable, business savvy, focused on customer service, strategic, excel at managing available resources, and tend to be pragmatic and educated risk takers. Companies in the pharmaceutical, telecommunication, financial services, and real estate industrials have market cultures.

Because of their academic archetype, many research organizations are traditionally hierarchical cultures, even including several members being Teflon mavericks largely because of their past successes. The research executive maps out the research plan trying to optimize deliverables tuned to the corporate strategic plan and customer needs. Aligning research plans with corporate plans can be simplified and streamlined if it is consistent with the marketing plan. Otherwise, it is often a daunting task, especially if marketing, sales, or manufacturing has it own mind about things.

Does the innovation environment need to mirror the culture? It certainly needs to be compatible. This is most easily accomplished with the innovation environment being the same as the corporate culture (e.g., a hierarchical research department hosted by a hierarchical corporate culture. Bear in mind that it is not only the technical leadership, but also the relevant stakeholders in the company that need to embrace and support the innovation culture.

Alignment is the key. But what about the fit of innovation environments that differ from their corporate culture? Looking at these definitions, ostensibly, an adhocracy innovation culture could more easily fit into a market culture than the hierarchical and clan cultures. Yet it is up to the technical leadership to align with stakeholders to ensure a good fit.

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