2.12 Culture and Leadership

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)An international group of researchers and social scientists who study multicultural value dimensions, especially how those dimensions are expressed in different cultures. 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

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)

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

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

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

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
Builds confidence
Team builder