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Papers >> Business & Economics >> Business Leadership

Leadership has meaning only in an organizational context, and only in the sense of on managing within a system of inequalities. Superior-subordinate relationships help to define leadership behavior, and the culture in any particular society influences the nature of these relationships. Two leadership roles are common to all societies, however. The first is the Charismatic role, or the capability to provide vision and inspiration. This emphasized by transformational leadership concepts. The second is the instrumental role, or the capability to design effective organizational processes, control activities, and meet organizational objectives. This describes the functional expectations of someone is a leadership role. However, each society determines the relative importance of each role and therefore what makes a good leader.

Cross-cultural research has identified a pattern of characteristics common to effective leaders in these two roles, but these commonalities do not constitute shared traits. They include:

· Conscientiousness Dependability, achievement orientation, and perseverance within the scope of one’s responsibilities

· Extroversion Open, accessible attitude, as opposed to remaining insulated from group activities

· Dominance Appropriate use of authority in a system of inequalities

· Self-confidence Comfort in one’s own skills and abilities for managing


Recent research has also suggested that regardless of cultural contingencies, effective leaders tend to display intelligence, energy, emotional stability, and openness to experience. In the international context, this last characteristic encourages cultural sensitivity without ethnocentric imposition.


Each society assigns unique meanings for most of these characteristics, and consequently their importance varies in all societies. For example, Mainland Chinese people agree with those in the United States that perseverance is an essential attribute of a conscientious manager, but the two societies do not interpret achievement in the same way; unlike Americans the Chinese ascribe little value to individual success. Other terms, such a dominance, carry value-loaded and controversial meanings, but the root meaning of accepting the mantle of leadership is worldwide.

In confronting such shared attitudes, researchers have focused on how leadership roles vary across cultures and how these characteristics of leadership behavior are interpreted abroad. As this section reviews example, bear in mind that cross-cultural research is seldom meant to epitomize one cultural pattern of leadership as superior that can help international managers to function effectively in foreign societies.


European Leadership Behavior

Countries in Europe have made significant progress toward consolidating the European Union (EU), but many unresolved issues remain. Not least among the EU problems is the difficulty of managing multicultural organizations within the region. Although EU unification of commercial regulations and labor laws has dominated government and company agendas, the actual activities of leading companies in this complicated environment have received little attention. The obvious question is whether a common European leadership approach will emerge from the economic union or whether leadership practices will remain culturally bound to each nation. One group of observers expects that as Europe’s nations converge economically, a hybrid form of leadership will replace individual cultural practices. An opposed group asserts that cultural values are so ingrained that any effort to consolidate management practices will meet strong resistance. They firmly believe that leadership behavior will remain differentiated in each nation. From a U.S. perspective, it is easy to speak of “European methods” as some common stream of consciousness, but research in Europe leaves no doubt that leadership behavior varies substantially among the individual countries. A recent study as Ashridge Management College in the United Kingdom surveyed senior managers in 14 European countries to compare leadership behavior and concluded:

Such is the cultural diversity of Europe, that at this moment there is no single model or theory of leadership which is capable of taking into account the complete range of national values… Leadership as a concept is either not as it is the United States, or, it occurs but within different paradigmatic boundaries. Clearly, it is not as “romanticized” in Europe as in American cultural life.

The Ashridge study found vast differences in perspectives among European countries. At one end of the spectrum, managers from France nearly unanimously defined leadership and management as the same thing. Those from Belgium concurred, but with as somewhat less unified voice.
Respondents from these countries viewed managers as leaders leaders by the rights and responsibilities inherent in their positions. Managers, they suggested, hold their positions because they are capable of leading; although some fail and some outperform other, leadership qualities generally emerge in individuals as they assume management responsibilities.

At the other end of the spectrum, managers from Denmark and Finland described leadership as a reflection of trust and confidence afforded by subordinates to those in stewardship roles. A manager earns the right to lead as subordinates recognize his or her capabilities to energize and organization. German respondents emphasized the foundations of leadership roles in technical expertise, not positional power or relations skills. To them, leadership is the intelligent use of knowledge and experience to guide organizational activities. Spanish and Portuguese managers, however, described leaders adopt protective attitudes toward their charges, yet they remain steadfast in their authority. Leaders, they say, must be moral people involved emotionally with their followers to build relationships. They must also be trustworthy so that they can direct their people toward effective completion of the right tasks.

Another important study conducted during the 1960s, now rather dated, surveyed 3,641 managers across 14 counties on a variety of leadership criteria. The researchers found that nearly all respondents endorsed concepts of participation and shared governance, but in practice their behavior spanned a wide range: highly authoritarian attitudes in France, less authoritarian but work-centered preferences in Germany, benevolent but dictatorial tendencies in Italy and Spain, consultative postures (but not significantly participative ones) in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and highly participative practices in Scandinavian countries. The side ration of other, but U.S. managers still were seen to rely heavily on individual initiative. The researchers found that autocratic systems prevailed in Argentina, Chile, and India, but subordinates expected “inspirational” guidance, creating a paternalistic profile similar to that of Latin Europe.



The Cranfield leadership categories provide descriptive labels for managerial behavior commonly associated with countries in Europe. In the Leadership Consensus style typical of Sweden (and to a lesser degree in Finland), employees and managers valued teamwork and open dialogue. The study’s Nordic participants emphasized a high regard for efficiency and organizational stability, expecting organization members to adhere to procedures without sacrificing participation to achieve deficiency. The study also revealed that although this profile fit approximately 50 percent of the companies studied in Sweden and Finland, the stereotype tends to obscure the lack of universal consensus on team process. Some firms featured quite hierarchical leadership styles (more often in Finland than in Sweden), and some managers favored directive or consultative approaches with relatively little participation. This variation was explained in part by industry characteristics as well as the influence of multinational alliances with Anglo or German and Austrian behavior.

In these countries, respectively, 84 percent and 79 percent of the respondents agreed that decisions should remain in the hands of managers within hierarchical system of controls.
However, these respondents identified leaders as those who had earned their positions and rights to leadership through functional and technical expertise, not longevity, birth right, or social status. Consequently, the profile of a leader in these cultures emphasizes authority to command from a position of demonstrated capability, bringing the organization together to achieve well-defined goals.

The category Leading from the Front described cultural values of individual initiative, charisma, and self-motivated behavior. The researchers had some difficulty explaining respondents` tendencies to favor dominance in their positions, noting that the concept of dominance itself had different meanings in Anglo and Latin countries. Nearly 74 percent of the Spanish respondents, for example, fit the criteria for this category, including dominance defined as a hierarchical rigor legitimized by benevolent paternalism. In contrast, 73 percent of the British managers also reflected these characteristics, but for them dominance carried a connotation of accountability for decisions within a range of acceptance by subordinates based on instrumental role responsibilities.

The final category of Managing from a Distance was unique to France. Approximately 83 percent of the French mangers endorsed concepts of high power distance( separation by rank and status), command environments with little regard for subordinate participation. They also preferred ambiguity that would allow managers to pursue their own agendas with minimal constraints imposed by organizational rules, procedures, and control systems.

The result of these European studies forewarn of potential collisions between managers from different cultures who might find themselves working together in consolidated European organization.

Management Styles: A European View Model of Leadership Behavior Location of EmphasisLeadership by Consensus Nordic culturesEmphasis on participation and team affort Open dialogueSelf-discipline in activitiesConsensual decision making Leadership toward a Common Goal Germanic culturesEmphasis on authority in disciplined systems Reliance on functional expertise Clear roles and responsibilities Identify with controlsLeading from the Front Latin culturesEmphasis on charisma in leaders Reliance on manager’s abilitiesAvoidance of rules and proceduresBenevolent dominanceManaging from a Distance French culturesEmphasis on authority, rank, and status differentialsPursuit of personal agendasLittle vertical communicationAmbiguity in relationships and roles



A Russian Profile

Leaders in the Russian federation face the difficult task of introducing sweeping economic, political, and social changes without provoking mass movements calling for restoration of the previous soviet ideology. At the core of the change process is nearly 75 years of deeply rooted socialist doctrine and a rigid sociopolitical hierarchy exerting monopoly control over resources and the means of production. Until recently, only a select body of the Supreme Soviet or its appointees had authority to make substantive decisions. Today, however, Russia is attempting to denationalize its economy. The transformation is accompanied by a mandate to reposition companies as market-driven enterprises. Consequently, managers are gaining expanded responsibility for organizational performance. Managers are, in fact, expected to provide the impetus for transformation, an undertaking that requires a pervasive change in managerial values.

The Russian people have experienced neither the freedom of individual endeavor nor responsibility for independent decision making. Instead, they have become accustomed to suppressing their personal interests in favor of commitments to the collective welfare of the state. Unlike many Eastern European countries where some can recall precommunist practices, the Russian federation is making a unilateral effort to introduce an entirely new socioeconomic system based on private enterprise development. Unfortunately, this transformation must begin from an extraordinary network of monopolized industries under state control. Until recently, Russian managers had no experience in the priorities of competitive enterprises and no need to concern themselves with employee motivation of welfare. The state provide the decision-making framework, dictated reward structures and punishments, and allocated resources. The system provided employees with protected entitlements, and management practices reflected political priorities.

On the positive side, Russian managers are generally well educated in scientific or engineering fields, and most have compiled intense organizational experience in their respective industries. A system of technical education in Russia has created a broad base of skills among most workers and craftspeople, and the country’s military technocracy has generated highly capable specialist. Consequently, Russian industry can rely on sound human resource base and on an extensive educational system that will support future development. However, the process of managing private enterprises and the psyche of responsible leadership remain mysteries to most Russian managers.

The Russian people carry to deal of social and psychological baggage into the 21st century. Managers are still expected to take firm stands and lead from positions of authority, yet citizens now expect to voice opinions about decisions related to work and politics. They do not, however, look kindly at participative behavior or even consultative approaches. The few studies conducted on collectivism and participative management methods showed a difference between having a voice in decisions and taking responsibility for those decisions. U.S. companies in Russia, including Mc Donald’s, U.S. West, Pizza Hut, Apple, Ford, and Digital Equipment, have found that they must imitate change slowly and accept archaic management behavior. Meanwhile, European and Asian companies such as Fiat, Imerial Chemical Industries, Lucky-Gold star, and Hitachi have had less difficulty, since they bring to their Russian alliances histories of relatively structured management and noticeable power distance.


The Japanese Approach

U.S. scholars have paid attention to Japanese management systems and contrasts in leadership styles for several decades. This interest has increased along with the exceptional success of Japanese industry and highly visible advantages gained by those companies in quality production.
The Japanese system is widely known for its lifetime employment guarantee, a seniority system that rewards loyalty and commitment to organizational harmony. In fact, Japanese management success has rested on three pillars: developing employee loyalty, improving productivity, and pursuing continuous quality improvement. Within this broad outline, several characteristics of Japanese companies emerge. First, employees, once hired, rarely leave for jobs at other companies even though they always have that choice. Second, because of Japan’s insular character, it has retained a homogeneous population that maintains cultural and linguistic integrity; in effect, it is a closed social system of relationships among companies, groups, and political interests. Third, Japan developed a so-called bottom-up decision-making environment that relies on active participation by all employees. The name of this management approach, ringi-sei (or ringi), literally means “reverential inquiry”

Japan’s approach to leadership is difficult to understand apart from its industrial history, beginning with the Meiji Restoration in 1868. At that time, growth depended heavily on the strength and private fortunes of feudal families. These social institutions amounted to military clans with strong internal networks of political and merchant relationships. As they began to establish Japan’s industrial base, they created family-dominated holding companies that began competing with on another in commerce much as they had in war. Known as zaibatsu, these conglomerates competed by establishing huge trading companies to reach beyond Japan for technology and industry resources on which to build their domestic business empires. By World War I, nearly 80 zaibatsu controlled enterprises that represented more than 75 percent of Japan’s total GNP. The top five included Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Fusanosuke, Sumitomo, and Suzuki. The largest was the Suzuki zaibatsu, whose trading volume euqualed nearly 10 percent of the country’s to GNP.

The Japanese a decision-making process can be cumbersome, but it certainly empowers the group without encouraging confrontation tactics. In addition, when a group achieves its objectives, the entire group is recognized and rewarded. No individual member is singled out for his or her contribution. This participation reward system pervades Japanese organizations, and it often extends to include multiple or functional specialists from outside the group. Nevertheless, it retains hierarchical rigor through systems for controlling the downward flow of rewards, support, and legitimization of initiatives.

The Japanese approach to leadership also involves expectations that managers bring expertise to their organizations that assist subordinates in solving problems. Managers are expected to apply their experience and intellectual capabilities to help work groups fulfill their potential. In addition, they must act as inspirational leaders and role models who can instill vision and moral purpose in work groups. These expectations are not substantially different from characteristics described for transformational leaders in Western cultures, and through effective development and selection of managers, organizations communicate these role expectations to everyone. A foreign expatriate would have tremendous difficulty fulfilling these composite role expectations in Japan, however. At the same time, a Japanese manager and employees that are uncommon elsewhere.
The Japanese system of leadership cannot be transported to another cultures unless the foreign employees willingly accept participative methods and groups processes and understand workers` expectations for leadership.

These tendencies may change, however, as globalization expands the involvement of Japanese managers in foreign operations and a growing number of foreign enterprises do business in Japan. As a consequence, observers, believe that Japan is on the brink of major changes in its management systems. They emphasize that traditions of insular relationships and company solidarity worked extremely well in a rapidly expanding economy, but today’s slower growth requires the country’s businesses to adjust to international management practices to retain their competitive strength. Consequently, industry leaders are beginning to realize the need to abandon practices that depend on homogenous companies and culture-bound commitments to the organization. A growing group of observers expects that Japanese companies will relinquish centralized control of overseas posts, and that firms will scale down large headquarters staff. Some companies have begun to adapt U.S. management techniques that reward individuals on merit; some also accept the idea of employee mobility and hire outside talent. In effect, some evidence indicates reconciliation of Western management practices, but change is likely to be slow, and it is unlikely to affect enterprises in Japan as much as Japanese firms` activities in foreign countries.



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