One of the strange mysteries of parenthood is seeing your image reflected in your children. I see my wife and I in each of our four children. We both have certain characteristics that our children seem to have inherited. Without getting into which child displays which characteristic, let me just summarize to say, that good or bad they are like their parents. They like the same kind of movies, tell the same kind of jokes, and like the same kind of cereal. Parents have a huge influence over the character and personality development of their children (even if they don’t recognize it and even if it is not always good).
In a very similar way organizations, over time, begin to reflect the characteristics of its’ leadership. If the leader is slow and calculated in decision-making, then the organization will reflect this way of making decisions or other characteristics like laissez-faire management, cooperative style, “fireball” in personality, visionary, etc. will be reflected in those that follow their leader. Certain people will be attracted to a way of doing things, and others will be displaced as they prefer to go elsewhere (because of a dislike of the characteristics of the leader). So, over time, the organization begins to take on the shape of its leader (good or bad).
In a paper presented to academia.com Peggy Heid discusses the correlation of the leader’s characteristics to the organization. She says,
“The research of Denison Consulting (2010) found that in cases where the leader had served a reasonable amount of time, there was indeed a direct correlation between the leader’s strengths and an organization’s culture. A study by Giberson, Dickson, and Resick (2005) lends support to the idea that the organization is a reflection of its top leadership. They found evidence of both personality and values becoming homogenous within the organization over time.”
Can an organization choose its’ own personality?
According to the study mentioned above, over time the organization will begin to display the leader’s personality (aggressive, introversive, extroversive, financially conservative, risk taker, deliberate, academic, non-academic, trusting, slow to trust, etc.)
In the Bible, 1& 2 Timothy and Titus are books dedicated to the idea that it is essential for a church to choose men whom are solid in doctrine and character. Why can’t anyone serve as pastor or deacon? Because of the influence they will have and the bend they will take the church. The author and speaker John Maxwell said “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” In the secular and sacred organizations become like their leaders. So, yes, an organization can choose its’ personality by hiring a leader that reflects the character and personality traits it desires to posses.
Can you choose the theology and doctrinal beliefs of the organization?
Timothy is told by Paul to watch out for false teachers, these bad leaders would lead the congregation away into trouble. Paul says to young Timothy,
“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.” (1 Timothy 1:1-4). Therefore, the key leaders must be known for and reflect integrity in the Christian faith because, yes, they can influence the doctrinal beliefs of the organization. However, if a church desires to stray from the truth of Scripture and go down the road of making god into their own image then they can be sure there will be someone willing to serve as their leader and preach whatever untruth they want for a paycheck.
Another biblical example of organizations reflecting leadership is from the book of Judges. There is a cycle of sin throughout the book. The cycle begins with the Israelites following and worshipping the one true God. But over time the leader dies and the people begin to worship idols. They are then taken off into captivity or slavery. Then God’s people cry out and a judge (leader) is given who lead them into victory over their enemy. Then peace and freedom return to the land once more. Then eventually the judge (leader) dies, and the cycle repeats itself again, and again, and again. These examples show us that a leader is needed to guide. If it is within the church environment, he must also have godly character.
Maurice Ellis in discussing leaders in the field of education and how they should display courage said, “Leaders are paid to set direction, not wait for direction to emerge.” Leaders are needed to set the course for an organization. The organization has to recognize that when they appoint that leader then they must do so with wisdom and an open heart — because they will change (for the good or bad) over time based upon the leaders’ character and personality. If you happen to be the leader, then recognize your strength or weakness of character will effect the organization. If you have a hidden character flaw deal with it now, because it will eventually find its way to the masses.
Does the age of the organization affect the change by the leader?
Depending upon age of the institution, this process may be slow or extremely quick. If we use a church as an example of an institution then we would discover that church plants (which are very young in age) tend to quickly or even immediately take on the characteristics of the leader. If you were to look at an established church, who may be a hundred years old, then the church is much slower to take on the characteristics of the leader due to institutional memory and tradition.
For more on the topic of influence and the leader click here.
For more on institutional memory click here.
http://www.academia.edu/3660162/Implications_of_the_Senior_Leaders_Characteristics_on_Organizational_Performance – written by Peggy Heid
 John Maxwell. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (Nashville, Tennessee; Thomas Nelson), 2007