Culture and Leadership

Globalization is the increased interdependence (economic, social, technical, and political) between nations. People are becoming more interconnected. There is more international trade, cultural exchange, and use of worldwide telecommunication systems. In the last 10 years, our schools, organizations, and communities have become far more global than in the past. Increased globalization has created many challenges, including the need to design effective multinational organizations, to identify and select appropriate leaders for these entities, and to manage organizations with culturally diverse employees (House & Javelin, 2004).

Globalization has created a need to understand how cultural differences affect leadership performance. 301 page 302 302 LEADERSHIP Globalization has also created the need for leaders to become competent in cross-cultural awareness and practice. Adler and Bartholomew (1992) contend that global leaders need to develop five cross-cultural competencies. First, leaders need to understand business, political, and cultural environments worldwide. Second, they need to learn the perspectives, tastes, trends, and technologies of many other cultures. Third, they need to be able to work simultaneously with people from many cultures.

Fourth, leaders must be able to adapt to living and communicating in other cultures. Fifth, they need to learn to relate to people from other cultures from a position of equality rather than cultural superiority (p. 53). Additionally, Ting-Toomey (1999) believes that global leaders need to be skilled in creating transactional visions. They need to develop communication competencies that will enable them to articulate and implement their vision in a diverse workplace. In sum, today’s leaders need to acquire a challenging set of competencies if they intend to be effective in present-day global societies.

This chapter is devoted to a discussion of how culture influences the leadership process. The chapter begins by defining culture and describing two concepts related to our understanding of culture. Next, we describe dimensions of culture, clusters of world cultures, and the characteristics of these clusters. We then learn how leadership varies across cultures and which specific leadership attributes cultures universally endorse as desirable and undesirable. Finally, we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of this body of research. CULTURE DEFINED Anthropologists, sociologists, and many others have debated the meaning of the rod culture.

Because it is an abstract term, it is hard to define, and different people often define it in dissimilar ways. For our purposes, culture is defined as the learned beliefs, values, rules, norms, symbols, and traditions that are common to a group of people. It is these shared qualities of a group that make them unique. Culture is dynamic and transmitted to others. In short, culture is the way of life, customs, and script of a group of people (Students & Ting- Toomey, 1988). Related to culture are the terms multicultural and diversity. Multicultural implies an approach or system that takes more than one culture onto account.

It refers to the existence of multiple cultures such as African, American, Asian, European, and Middle Eastern. Multicultural can also page 303 303 refer to a set of subcultures defined by race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and age. Diversity refers to the existence of different cultures or ethnicities within a group or organization. Throughout this chapter we will be addressing issues related to leadership and multiculturalism. RELATED CONCEPTS Before beginning our discussion of the various facets of culture, this section describes two concepts that are closely related to culture and leadership: ethnocentrism and prejudice.

Both of these tendencies can have an impact on how leaders influence others. Ethnocentrism As the word suggests, ethnocentrism is the tendency for individuals to place their own group (ethnic, racial, or cultural) at the center of their observations of others and the world. People tend to give priority and value to their own beliefs, attitudes, and values, over and above those of other groups. Ethnocentrism is the perception that one’s own culture is better or more natural than the culture of others. It may include the failure to recognize the unique perspectives of others.

Ethnocentrism is a universal tendency, and each of us is ethnocentric to some degree. Ethnocentrism is like a perceptual window through which people from one culture make subjective or critical evaluations of people from another culture (Porter & Samovar, 1997). For example, some people think that the democratic principles of the United States are superior to the political beliefs of other cultures, and they often fail to understand the complexities of these cultures. Ethnocentrism accounts for our tendency to think our own cultural values and ways of doing things are right and natural (Students Kim, 1997).

Ethnocentrism can be a major obstacle to effective leadership because it prevents people from fully understanding or respecting the world of others. For example, if one person’s culture values individual achievement, it may be difficult for that person to understand another person whose culture emphasizes collectivity (i. E. , people working together as a whole). Similarly, if one person believes strongly in respecting authority, he or she may find it difficult to understand a person who challenges authority or 9/1 5/2006 Page 304 does not easily defer to authority figures.

The more ethnocentric we are, the less open or tolerant we are of other people’s cultural traditions or practices. A skilled leader cannot avoid issues related to ethnocentrism. While recognizing his or her own ethnocentrism, a leader also needs to understand and to a degree tolerate the ethnocentrism of others. In reality, it is a balancing act for leaders. On one hand, they need to promote and be confident in their own ways of doing things, but at the same time they need to be sensitive to the legitimacy of the ways of other cultures.

Skilled leaders are able to negotiate the fine line between trying o overcome ethnocentrism and knowing when to remain grounded in their own cultural values. Prejudice Closely related to ethnocentrism is prejudice. Prejudice is a largely fixed attitude, belief, or emotion held by an individual about another individual or group that is based on faulty or unsubstantiated data. It refers to judgments about others based on previous decisions or experiences. Prejudice involves inflexible generalizations that are resistant to change or evidence to the contrary (Pentecost & Petersen, 1993).

Prejudice often is thought of in the context of race (e. G. European American versus African American), but it also applies in areas such as sexism, ageism, homophobia, and other independent prejudices. Although prejudice can be positive (e. G. , thinking highly of another culture without sufficient evidence), it is usually negative. As with ethnocentrism, we all hold prejudices to some degree. Sometimes our prejudices allow us to keep our partially fixed attitudes undisturbed and constant. In addition, prejudice can reduce our anxiety because it gives us a familiar way to structure our observations of others.

One of the main problems with prejudice is that it is self- oriented rather than other-oriented. It helps us to achieve balance for ourselves at the expense of others. Moreover, attitudes of prejudice inhibit understanding by creating a screen that filters and limits our ability to see multiple aspects and qualities of other people. Prejudice often shows itself in crude or demeaning comments that people make about others. Both ethnocentrism and prejudice interfere with our ability to understand and appreciate the human experience of others.

In addition to fighting their own prejudice, leaders also face the challenge of dealing with the prejudice of followers. These prejudices can be toward the leader or the leader’s culture. Furthermore, it is not uncommon Page 305 305 for the leader to face followers who represent culturally different groups, and these groups have their own prejudices toward each other. A skilled leader needs to find ways to negotiate with followers from various cultural backgrounds. DIMENSIONS OF CULTURE Culture has been the focus of many studies across a variety of disciplines.

In the past 30 years, a substantial number of studies have focused specifically on ways to identify and classify the various dimensions of culture. Determining the basic mentions or characteristics of different cultures is the first step in being able to understand the relationships between them. Several well-known studies have addressed the question of how to characterize cultures. For example, Hall (1976) reported that a primary characteristic of cultures is the degree to which they are focused on the individual (individualistic cultures) or on the group (collectivist cultures).

Taking a different approach, Trampers (1994) surveyed more than 1 5,000 people in 47 different countries and determined that organizational cultures could be classified effectively into two dimensions: egalitarian versus aerographical and person versus task orientation. The egalitarian-hierarchical dimension refers to the degree to which cultures exhibit shared power as opposed to hierarchical power. Person-task orientation refers to the extent to which cultures emphasize human interaction as opposed to focusing on tasks to accomplish.

Of all the research on dimensions of culture, perhaps the most referenced is the research of Hefted (1980, 2001). Based on an analysis of questionnaires obtained from more than 100,000 respondents in more than 50 countries, Hefted identified five major dimensions on which cultures differ: rower distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism-collectivism, masculinity- femininity, and long-term-short-term orientation. Hypotheses work has been the benchmark for much of the research on world cultures. In the specific area of culture and leadership, the studies by House et al. 2004) offer the strongest body of findings to date, published in the 800-page Culture, Leadership, and Organizations: The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies. These studies are called the GLOBE studies, named for the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness research program. The GLOBE studies have generated a very large umber of findings on the relationship between culture and leadership. Page 306 306 The GLOBE research program, which was initiated by Robert House in 1991, is an ongoing program that has involved more than 160 investigators.

The primary purpose of the project is to increase our understanding of cross-cultural interactions and the impact of culture on leadership effectiveness. GLOBE researchers have used quantitative methods to study the responses of 17,000 managers in more than 950 organizations representing 62 different cultures throughout the world. GLOBE researchers have collected data in a variety of says including questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, and content analysis of printed media. The findings of the GLOBE studies will be provided in more detail throughout this chapter.

As a part of their study of culture and leadership, GLOBE researchers developed their own classification of cultural dimensions. Based on their own research and the work of others (e. G. , Hefted, 1980, 2001 ; Chuckhole & stocked, 1961 ; McClellan, 1961; Triads, 1995), GLOBE researchers identified nine cultural dimensions: uncertainty avoidance, power distance, institutional collectivism, in-group collectivism, gender egalitarianism, assertiveness, future orientation, performance orientation, and humane orientation.

In the following section, each of the dimensions is described. Uncertainty Avoidance This dimension refers to the extent to which a society, organization, or group relies on established social norms, rituals, and procedures to avoid uncertainty. Uncertainty avoidance is concerned with the way cultures use rules, structures, and laws to make things predictable and less uncertain. Power Distance This dimension refers to the degree to which members of a group expect and agree that power should be shared unequally.

Power distance is concerned with he way cultures are stratified, thus creating levels between people based on power, authority, prestige, status, wealth, and material possessions. Institutional Collectivism This dimension describes the degree to which an organization or society encourages institutional or societal collective action. Institutional Page 307 307 collectivism is concerned with whether cultures identify with broader societal interests rather than individual goals and accomplishments.

In-Group Collectivism This dimension refers to the degree to which people express pride, loyalty, and cohesiveness in their organizations or families. In-group collectivism is concerned with the extent to which people are devoted to their organizations or families. Gender Egalitarianism This dimension measures the degree to which an organization or society minimizes gender role differences and promotes gender equality. Gender egalitarianism is concerned with how much societies De-emphasize members’ biological sex in determining the roles that members play in their homes, organizations, and communities.

Assertiveness This dimension refers to the degree to which people in a culture are determined, assertive, confrontational, and aggressive in their social relationships. Assertiveness is concerned with how much a culture or society encourages people to be forceful, aggressive, and tough, as opposed to timid, submissive, and tender in social relationships. Future Orientation This concept refers to the extent to which people engage in butterfingered behaviors such as planning, investing in the future, and delaying gratification.

Future orientation emphasizes that people in a culture prepare for the future as opposed to enjoying the present and being spontaneous. Performance Orientation This dimension describes the extent to which an organization or society encourages and rewards group members for improved performance and Page 308 308 excellence. Performance orientation is concerned with whether people in a culture are rewarded for setting challenging goals and meeting them. Humane Orientation The ninth dimension refers to the degree to which a culture encourages and rewards people for being fair, altruistic, generous, caring, and kind to others.

Humane orientation is concerned with how much a society or organization emphasizes sensitivity to others, social support, and community values. GLOBE researchers used these nine cultural dimensions to analyze the attributes of the 2 different countries in the study. These cultural dimensions formed the basis for studying how the countries varied in their approach to leadership. CLUSTERS OF WORLD CULTURES GLOBE researchers divided the data from the 62 countries they studied into regional clusters. These clusters provided a convenient way to analyze the similarities and differences between cultural groups (clusters) and to make meaningful generalizations about culture and leadership. To create regional clusters, GLOBE researchers used prior research (e. G. , Rene & Sheehan, 1985), common language, geography, religion, and historical accounts. Based on these actors, they grouped countries into 10 distinct clusters: Anglo, Latin Europe, Nordic Europe, Germanic Europe, Eastern Europe, Latin America, Middle East, Sub-Sahara Africa, Southern Asia, and Confucian Asia (Figure 13. ). These 10 regional clusters were the groupings that were used in all of the GLOBE studies. To test whether the clusters, or groups of countries, were valid, researchers did a statistical analysis of questionnaire data collected from individuals in each of the clusters. Their results indicated that the scores of respondents within a cluster correlated with one another but were unrelated to the scores of respondents n different clusters. From these findings they concluded that each cluster was unique.