Improving organisational culture: your role matters

Innovation; News
Leading People in Early Childhood Settings

“If we know who to be, then what to do falls into place.” (Organization Theory: Modern, Symbolic, and Postmodern Perspectives, Hatch and Cunliffe, 2006, pg76)

Anthony Semann, Director, Semann & Slattery is the lead facilitator for Bastow's Leading People in Early Childhood Settings course. Anthony’s article outlines the role of a leader in improving organisational culture.  

It is widely accepted that leadership has an impact, and that measuring the outcomes of leadership has dominated much of the leadership literature for the past 50 years. If we accept that leadership is a set of behaviours that have social influence on people, organisations and society, then we must, as leaders, step away from the act of leading and examine a range of questions, including: How does my leadership impact on the culture of the organisation I am leading in?

Organisational culture is the collective behaviour of humans who are part of an organisation and the meanings that the people attach to their actions. This culture includes values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs and habits. Organisational culture affects the way people and groups interact with each other, with clients and with stakeholders.

Leadership impacts on organisational culture and leaders must pay particular attention to how their behaviours influence the behaviours and actions of others.  An ability to reflect deeply on one’s leadership and to ask meaningful questions as part of this process is essential. As sociologist Nikolas Rose suggests, this reflection is the ability to question the “unquestionable … to stand against the current of received wisdom” and to introduce “a kind of awkwardness into the fabric of one’s experience” (1998).

Within early childhood settings, and other educational settings, critical reflection may open up opportunities for the radical reinvention of leadership and consequently the culture of an organisation. This journey might begin through powerful questions such as:

  • How has my leadership contributed to the culture of the organisation?

  • As a leader, what legacies will I leave and which of these will support a positive culture or require further attention?


Organisational culture is always under construction and evolving. Leaders in early childhood settings must set a vision for their organisation and through their leadership establish a culture that they believe will support the realisation of this vision. One of the most powerful methods associated with this practice is to question oneself prior to looking towards others.

Applications are now open for Leading People in Early Childhood Settings, please view the Bastow website for more information: www.bastow.vic.edu.au/courses/leading-people-in-early-childhood-settings