We’ve heard it all before; a company’s culture is the sum of its employees thus represents the soul of an organisation. In the realm of recruitment, we often analyse an applicant in terms of their perceived cultural fit with the rest of the organisation. Our perception of our culture is dictating to our job applicants an expectation. That they must fit our style, our ideas, our customs and our behaviours. That’s fine if you never want anything to change. But, when recruiting a for a leadership role, do you expect your ideal candidate to fit-in or do you expect them to advance your organisation to another level?

I guess what I am challenging you to consider is whether or not your company culture should dictate your approach to recruitment, and should this occur at all levels of the organisation? Senior management has the power to shape and influence culture. However in determining the type of culture they want, they need to define the strategy and ascertain if the structure is going to support that culture. Needless to say, one must understand their culture and that all elements must work in unison.

I’m going to throw a curve ball at you now and ask you to consider your perception of masculine and feminine leadership styles and how you believe they impact your company’s culture. There is no doubt that we generally associate masculinity and femininity to men and women respectively, and we all have ingrained perceptions of how a man leads versus how a woman leads. I ask, has your own gender based perceptions influenced your decision when deciding who the next general manager of your company is, assuming you are left to choose between a man and a woman? Or did cultural fit dominate your decision?

Society’s perceptions are often influenced by minorities seeking equality. And woman have certainly advocated for an even playing field within an organisation’s hierarchy, and quite successfully. The change has emerged over many, many years and it is now fair to state that our perception of a quality leader is now more gender neutral than previous. Is this because in general company cultures have influenced how women develop as leaders? There is no doubt that more and more women are demonstrating some very masculine leadership styles. Yet if you have a feminine style and are working in a masculine culture, you may be deemed as an ineffective leader as you have incongruity with your role. You may be seen as an ineffective leader because perception says that you do not fit. Hmm, how far have we really come?

Differences in leadership styles are not necessarily positive or negative. It is advantageous however to be aware of your own management style and how it is perceived by others, both internally and external to the organisation. If you have the ability to read your environment, you can lead a diverse workforce. This knowledge too can help you define the type of working environments you will excel within…have we come full swing back the significance of cultural fit? Or have I simply digressed?

In the scenario where all things are reasonably equal, should cultural fit trump competence? Would you really turn away a potentially amazing leader for your company if the candidate was highly competent but culturally weak? How important is cultural fit to the success of your organisation? Candidate A is clearly more competent, but the values and vision of candidate B are far more aligned with the company….where does one strike a balance?

The relationship between gender diversity, culture and performance is an interesting debate that no doubt raising some very thought provoking questions. And is a discussion (or fervent proposals of opinions) that could no doubt stretch on for hours, if not days! While we have only scratched the surface of this great debate, bottom line, the focus for recruiters should be on identifying leaders with the experience and capability of positively impacting and contributing to an organisation, whether that be their values, growth and sustainability, or evolution. What are the principles upon which you select employees?

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