I train and coach leaders with a wide variety of leadership styles and it's striking how much their workplaces reflect them and how frequently they have no idea that it's happening. The underlying theme many leaders fail to see is that their organization functions the way it does because of who they are as people. If the leader is afraid, then the organization will be afraid. If the leader is ruthless, employees will tend to behave that way. If the leader lacks empathy, you'll see people throughout the company treating each other based on that characteristic. If a leader identifies with a certain type of personality type, the company will hire accordingly. Organizations closely mirror their leaders because it is they who create the culture. Nothing happens without explicit or tacit approval of leadership; whether they take responsibility for it or not.
Perhaps you've heard or read stories of leaders who have driven their companies into the ground by failing to see what was going on around them or behaving unethically because they don't know any other way of doing things. Maybe you've worked for a company that is mildly or completely toxic but refuses to try a new approach because it's making money. These types of companies aren't some strange fabrication, they exist all around us and they reflect the culture created by the people at the top.
One of the major reasons we create confused workplaces is because leaders lack self-awareness, the ability to see and understand their own behavior and how it affects others. Self-awareness requires that the person be able to pull out of his or her head and understand other perspectives and experiences. Many leaders function solely on their own worldview and their organizations are an extension of their beliefs, values, thoughts and actions.
The key to being a proactive, enlightened leader is to understand that the workplace is a reflection of you. If something is veering off course it's because of the way you see yourself and the world. If something is going well then it's because of you as well. Inspiring leaders focus on both aspects, not just the ones that support their view of themselves and the workplace. They look at the things that aren't going well and take full responsibility for their role in creating those situations.
The process of becoming more self-aware doesn't have to be painful but it does require deliberate effort. For leaders, it begins with being mentally healthy and balanced individuals before running an organization. This means working on your own personal issues before looking at others. The healthier the leader, the healthier the organization and the fewer aberrant behaviors you'll encounter. What will you do to make sure you're the healthiest you can be and that your workplace reflects it?