Leadership: Does Culture Matter? Comparative Practices between Argentina and United States of America

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The topic of leadership in the global marketplace has received a high degree of attention among scholars and practitioners over the past few years. Leadership of organizations and employees has definitely become more important as managing across borders and the advent of the virtual team has become increasingly prevalent. Paper explores impact of culture on leadership practices in two countries from culturally and economically different regions: Argentina and the United States of America. It uses the visionary approach to leadership developed by Kouzes and Posner (1987) which identified five leadership practices (actions or behaviors) employed by effective leaders: Challenging the Process, Inspiring a Shared Vision, Enabling Others to Act, Modeling the Way, and Encouraging the Heart. Using the Kouzes and Posner LPI-Self (Leadership Practices Inventory, 1993) instrument for data collection, the authors compared the results between MBA respondents in the two countries. The results of the study indicate that a number of significant differences do exist among respondents in the two cultures, with Argentine respondents consistently scoring higher than United States counterparts. The information may be of value in understanding perceptions concerning leadership patterns between the two countries and useful in managing human resources in the respective countries.

INTRODUCTION

One of the most significant business trends of the new millennium is the emergence of the stateless corporation and increasing interdependencies among the world's economies. Until recently leaders were able to operate in the relative isolation of domestic markets but today leaders are constantly exposed to different cultures with different lifestyles. This has resulted in the recognition of different management and leadership practices and a growing need to understand the importance of cross-cultural leadership.

The understanding of comparative leadership practices among cultures is paramount to successfully managing global business activities. An era of high change characterized by outsourcing, restructuring, technological advances, and economic, social and political transitions require managers who are cognizant of the differing perceptions that exist across countries concerning leadership. Certainly an understanding of leadership and differences in leadership practices among cultures leads to increased efficiency and effectiveness in organizational performance.

The focus of much leadership research has been on the determinants of leadership effectiveness (Yukl, 1998). Among these approaches are the trait approach (Stogdill, 1948, 1974; Bryman, 1992), the style approach (Blake & Mouton, 1964; Kotter, 1982), the situational approach (Hersey & Blanchard, 1977, 1982, 1988; Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 1958), the contingency approach (Fiedler, 1964, 1967), the path-goal approach (Evans 1970; House, 1971), the leadermember exchange approach (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995), and transformational leadership approach (Bass, 1985; Tichy & DeVanna, 1990). In recent years neocharismatic theories like visionary leadership theory (Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Sashkin, 1988; Kouzes & Posner, 1993) have also gained acceptance with both scholars and practitioners. In addition, of course, the concept of leadership in groups and teams has become a rapidly growing area of leadership interest. There is also mounting evidence that cultures vary on the extent they employ and value certain leadership behaviors (Den Hartog, House, Hanges, Ruiz-Quintanilla, & Dorfman, 1999; Hofstede, 2001; Peterson & Hunt, 1997). House & Iditya (1997) have noted that these theories are all of a common genre and have several common characteristics.

This study is cross-cultural in nature, not merely because of the interest in international comparison per se, but because it is believed that such comparison is essential to a better understanding of comparative leadership practices between the United States and Argentina. …