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2.12: Culture and Leadership

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    What is the importance of understanding cultural value dimensions in businesses? Like other cultural systems, organizational culture controls the behavior, values, assumptions, and beliefs of organizational members. It is a combination of organizational members’ own beliefs and the values, beliefs, and assumptions of the organization. It is the role of the organizational leader, as a change agent, to help create a positive organizational culture that meets the demands of a competitive environment, board and shareholder expectations, and employee career satisfaction.

    Since the mid-1990s, the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE)House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, & Gupta (Eds.) (2004). research of 62 societies has served as a significant study for understanding how cultural value dimensions are expressed in different cultures—whether societal or organizational. Knowledge and awareness of cultural values can enable leaders and managers to effectively manage and work through intercultural conflict and interactions. Over 17,000 managers from 951 organizations in 62 societies participated in focus groups, questionnaires, and interviews for this study.

    Cultural Value Dimensions

    The GLOBE study found that nine core dimensions of cultures exist in different societies. The first six dimensions in the chart below originated from the cultural value dimensions Geert Hofstede proposed in the 1980s. Table 2.4 "Cultural Dimensions as Researched in the GLOBE Study" lists other dimensions, as well as their definitions, as described in the GLOBE study.House & Javidan (2004), pp. 11–13.

    Based on the responses generated by the study and using other research, the GLOBE researchers grouped societies into regional clusters. The clusters were a way of creating meaning around societal views of culture and leadership. Each cluster had characteristics specific to their region, language, religion, history, and shared cultural understanding. Table 2.5 "GLOBE Clusters of Societies" and Table 2.6 "Clusters of Societies and their Cultural Value Dimensions" lists each cluster and the countries that were grouped into the clusters.

    Leadership Behaviors and Culture

    The findings of the GLOBE study served to help organizations and societies understand what made an effective or ineffective leader. Many leadership behaviors are similar across societies, pointing out that no matter the cultural difference or society in which a leader is from, there are specific leadership behaviors that are viewed as effective. The GLOBE project was significant in indicating how cultures perceive effective and ineffective leadership, which is helpful to leaders in facilitating intercultural interactions.

    The study revealed six global leadership behaviors, which were used in the study to understand how the clusters perceived leadership. These six are charismatic/value-based, team-oriented, participative, humane-oriented, autonomous, and self-protective. Using their understanding of leadership behaviors and perceptions of leadership from each cluster group, the researchers were able to identify a leadership profile for each cluster. Table 2.7 "GLOBE Study of Key Leadership Behaviors" and Table 2.8 "Leadership Behavior Profiles for Clusters" list the six leadership behaviors and their characteristics as well as the leadership profile for each cluster.

    Table 2.4 Cultural Dimensions as Researched in the GLOBE Study

    Globe Dimension One Extreme Other Extreme
    Uncertainty avoidance Need for established social norms, rituals, and practices Comfortable with ambiguity and predictability
    Power distance Egalitarian and nonhierarchal Hierarchy, authority, disparity in status and wealth
    Institutional collectivism Collective actions and sharing of resources encouraged Individual actions and goals are encouraged
    In-group collectivism Expressions of pride, loyalty, and cohesion Noncohesiveness, loyal to oneself and one’s needs
    Gender egalitarianism Nurture, care, relationships, sharing Ambition, assertiveness, control
    Assertiveness Assertive, confrontational, and aggressive in social relationships Timid, submissive, and tender in social relationships
    Future orientation Planning, investing, and delays of individual or collective gratification Spontaneity, enjoying the present
    Performance orientation Encourages and rewards group performance and excellence No rewards and encouragement for goals; more relaxed in terms of achievement
    Humane orientation Encourages and rewards individuals for being fair, altruistic, friendly, generous, caring Concerns for self, not sensitive, not encouraging of social supports and community values

    Adapted from House et al. (2002) The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    The study also highlighted the perceptions of cultures related to universally desirable and undesirable attributes in leaders. The desirable attributes were viewed as characteristics that were valued and that facilitated the leadership processes. Undesirable attributes were viewed as obstacles and challenges to effective leadership. Table 2.9 "List of Desirable and Undesirable Leadership Attributes from the GLOBE Research" illustrates the positive and negative attributes of effective leadership.

    Table 2.5 GLOBE Clusters of Societies

    Cluster Countries
    Anglo Canada, United States, Australia, Ireland, England, South Africa (White sample), New Zealand
    Confucian Asia Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, South Korea, Japan
    Eastern Europe Greece, Hungary, Albania, Slovenia, Poland, Russia, Georgia, Kazakhstan
    Germanic Europe Austria, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany-East, Germany-West
    Latin America Ecuador, El Salvador, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Guatemala, Argentina, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Mexico
    Latin Europe Israel, Italy, Switzerland (French-speaking), Spain, Portugal, France
    Middle East Turkey, Kuwait, Egypt, Morocco, Qatar
    Nordic Europe Denmark, Finland, Sweden
    Southern Asia Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Thailand, Iran
    Sub-Saharan Africa Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, Nigeria, South Africa (Black sample)

    Adapted from House et al. (2002) The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

    Table 2.6 Clusters of Societies and their Cultural Value Dimensions

    Cultural Dimension High-Score Cluster Low-Score Cluster
    Uncertainty avoidance Germanic Europe Eastern Europe, Latin America
    Nordic Europe Middle East
    Power/hierarchy No Clusters Nordic Europe
    Institutional collectivism Nordic Europe Germanic Europe, Latin America
    Confucian Asia Latin Europe
    In-Group collectivism Confucian Asian, Eastern Europe Anglo, Germanic Europe
    Latin America, Middle East Southern Asia Nordic Europe
    Gender Eastern Europe Middle East
    Nordic Europe

    Adapted from House et al. (2002) The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

    Table 2.7 GLOBE Study of Key Leadership Behaviors

    Dimension Behaviors
    Charismatic/value-based leadership Inspires others, motivates, expect high performance; visionary, self-sacrificing, trustworthy, decisive
    Team-oriented leadership Team-building, common purpose, collaborative, integrative, diplomatic, not malevolent
    Participative leadership Participative and not autocratic; inclusive of others
    Humane-oriented leadership Supportive, considerate, compassionate and generous; modesty and sensitivity
    Autonomous leadership Independent and individualistic; autonomous and unique
    Self-protective leadership Ensures the safety and security of the leader and the group; self-centered, status conscious, face-saving, conflict-inducing

    Adapted from House et al. (2002) The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

    Business leaders have tremendous power to change the organizational culture by utilizing several methods that address the underlying assumptions, beliefs, and values of its members; however, this is not an easy task. Culture, as explained, is oftentimes manifest in unconscious behaviors, values, and assumptions that develop over time and change as new employees enter an organization. The significance of the GLOBE study is that it helps leaders to understand the role of culture in leadership. By understanding one’s culture, as well as that of others, it brings you to awareness of different perceptions of leadership and how cultures come to understand leaders. Recognizing the elements in leadership and culture enables you to leverage the differences that cultures create and to use that to create positive intercultural growth.

    Table 2.8 Leadership Behavior Profiles for Clusters

    Cluster 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
    Eastern Europe Autonomous Self-protective Charismatic Team Oriented Humane Participative
    Latin America Charismatic Team Self-protective Participative Humane Autonomous
    Latin Europe Charismatic Team Participative Self-protective Humane Autonomous
    Confucian Asia Self-protective Team Humane Charismatic Autonomous Participative
    Nordic Europe Charismatic Participative Team Autonomous Humane Self-protective
    Anglo Charismatic Participative Humane Team Autonomous Self-protective
    Sub-Sahara Africa Humane Charismatic Team Participative Self-protective Autonomous
    Southern Asia Self-protective Charismatic Humane Team Autonomous Participative
    Germanic Europe Autonomous Charismatic Participative Humane Team Self-protective
    Middle East Self-protective Humane Autonomous Charismatic Team Participative

    Adapted from House et al. (2002) The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

    Table 2.9 List of Desirable and Undesirable Leadership Attributes from the GLOBE Research

    Desirable Leadership Attributes Undesirable Leadership Attributes
    Trustworthy Loner
    Just Asocial
    Honest Noncooperative
    Foresight Irritable
    Plans ahead Nonexplicit
    Encouraging Egocentric
    Positive Ruthless
    Dynamic Dictatorial
    Motivational
    Builds confidence
    Intelligent
    Dependable
    Team builder
    Communicator

    Adapted from House et al. (2002) The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage