Business Operations

Leadership components of a high performance culture


There is no one-size-fits-all culture for organizations. Each develops its own unique culture. But there are components of high performance cultures that are industry specific. The following six components are provided to support the leader in the creation, operation and growth of the social enterprise.

You, the leader, must create an environment where both business and nonprofit values, experience, ways of thinking and definitions of success can equally coexist. This happens in an environment where both views are valued. Whether you are the leader or senior manager you must be comfortable in both sectors and not set up competitive situations between the business staff and the program staff. Manage with patience. Encourage diversity. Balance the tension between the sectors and watch closely so that it does not reach a breaking point. Carefully monitoring the tension can be a time consuming daily management task. Make conscientious decisions between conflicting demands that over time balance both the social and business objectives.

Create a vision

Create a vision for the social enterprise that embraces both cultures. A strong vision will support hard decisions you will inevitably have to make. The vision will reinforce the dual objectives of the organization for all the stakeholders. A social enterprise culture can be foreign to many people and needs constant communication over and over again to strengthen its position.

Find synergy

Find the synergy that exists between the two sectors. Leverage transferable skills and best practices. If both the business and program staff in the organization are communicating and sharing knowledge it only serves to strengthen each component. Operating a business takes skills that can be beneficial to the nonprofit sector and operating a nonprofit takes expertise that can enhance businesses

Build a learning culture

Build a learning culture that promotes innovative solutions to the recurring dilemmas in the organization. Develop a culture that encourages and rewards employees to learn to think and act in new ways. Support the process of change one must go through to give up old and comfortable ways of operating. Encourage learning at all levels in the organization. The range of possibilities open to organizations operating social enterprises can only be realized by organizations that have environments for ongoing learning.

Build an adaptive culture

An adaptive culture entails risk-taking, trusting, and a proactive approach to organizational as well as individual life. A culture that can embrace change and actually make the process enjoyable will sustain a social enterprise. As a leader, developing an adaptive culture comes about through the resolution of the day -to-day dilemmas created by the two cultures. If you resolve them in an “adaptive” manner, over time the culture will begin to take on this characteristic. Similarly, if the dilemmas are solved in a competitive, stressful and blaming way the culture will also take on these characteristics.


The efficacy of managing a social enterprise is balance and equilibrium. This involves not combining, merging, blending, or integrating, but rather reaching a state of equilibrium where both the business and the nonprofit social service cultures harmoniously exist within the social enterprise culture. The responsibility lies with leadership and management to create a culture that promotes balance. Balance can mean that sometimes business profitability takes center stage over the social goals, and all members of the organization support the decision. Staff supports the decision because when a culture exists that embraces balance, members trust that in the end both competing needs will get equivalent attention.


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