The Cascading Influence Of A Leader

Last week we published an article addressing the question: ‘Does an organisation reflect the character of the leader?’ Most people’s first response to this all important question is a resounding yes. But is it that simple? What factors should be considered? This principle was discussed with the guests on the Leadership Platform Show and received a warm response from the experienced leaders present. Participating in the conversation were Professor Theo Veldsman, from the University of Johannesburg and foremost student of leadership, Advocate Dali Mpofu, Chairman of the Johannesburg Legal Council and Chair of the EFF. They were joined by hosts of the show, Adriaan Groenewald, Rich Simmonds and Louis Groenewald.

The consensus of opinion of the experienced guests and hosts on the show was that organisations do indeed reflect the character of its leader(s).

Organisations tend to reflect the negative as well as positive attributes or lack of attributes of the leader. Obviously a thousand other factors impact on the culture of an organisation, family or even country, but the influence of its leader/s is certainly a major factor in the development of a ‘can do’ or a ‘can’t do’ attitude.

We are all leaders

What we portray about leadership in this article applies to all of us, whether we are head of our country or a parent, whether we run a large organisation or are ‘just a cog’ somewhere down the line. Positive influence emanates from all of us, as does negative and dormant leadership as well.

Advocate Dali Mpofu reacted to the question by way of example, mentioning a leader’s influence as a result of the habit of being late for meetings or arrival at work. We agree with this statement. The leader’s conduct impacts on the culture of the organisation especially if the leader (at all levels) insists that his or her reports are punctual and reliable.

He also added: “There is no way in my experience that you as a leader do not have an impact on the character of the organization, in some way. Organisations have personality, and its attributes come from its people, but very specifically from the leader.”

Simmonds added: “Where we see leaders act without integrity, you normally find the rest of the organization follows.”

Professor Veldsman agreed and endorsed what the other panel members said, then added: “The leader is about the future and holds the aspirations, hopes, and fears of the stakeholders whom he/she wants to turn into followers. And in that sense the leader is already a point of reference, because the people trust their future to him/her.” Veldsman stated that research confirms this.

Leader credibility

Credibility is very important. A leader embodies values.

Veldsman stated that the body language of the leader is able to infuse hope, courage and perseverance in the organisation (or the opposite obviously). He mentioned that Nelson Mandela’s influence as a leader was not so much about the content of his expressions but about his body language. The professor’s expression ‘body language’ to us means that what we are and what our values are, is reflected in more than just our words. People are sensitive to what we do – not just to what we say. “I can’t hear what you say because what you do thunders in my ears.” (Edison)

A winning culture

Advocate Dali Mpofu stated that if a leader reflects a winning culture then this will take hold at all levels in the organisation. From experience and years of research at Leadership Platform we find this statement to be true. Our findings indicate that a winning culture does not mean a culture of avoiding resistance and problems, but rather the opposite. An enduring winning culture is unafraid of confronting negative perceptions and problems. The confidence of leaders grows in proportion to their trust in the processes they master to address barriers to potential.

As a final thought in our leadership discussion on the question: “Does an organisation reflect the character of the leader?”, Professor Veldsman spoke about the principle that a leader is nothing without the organisation. He says that weaker leaders tend to build a support group around them that agree with him, while a good leader has leaders around him or her that are courageous and unafraid to engage top leadership.

You are invited to follow the world class leadership conversations on the Leadership Platform Show on

Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.




Louis has been fanatically endeavoring to uncover universal leadership principles and models for longer than most of us have been alive. He is an author, leadership expert, father, grandfather, and the Co-Founder of Leadership Platform.

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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