Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Leader Ethics

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Leader Ethics

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The answer to what makes an effective leader has long been the "holy grail" of business research. By and large, theorists have abandoned trait and behavior approaches in favor of situational leadership theories. Popular press gurus, however, continue to focus on a "leader ethic" (traits and behavior) as the foundation to effective leadership. Further, gurus such as Bass (transformational leadership), Goleman (emotional intelligence) and Covey (seven habits) believe that this fundamental ethic is universal to mankind. As such, this research uses Stephen Covey's seven habits of effectiveness and the characteristics of emotional intelligence and transformational leadership to explore how leaders from various cultures (e.g., U.S., Russia, Germany, and China) rank the popular traits and behaviors that make up a "leader ethic." The rankings are compared across gender, age groups, supervisory levels, and professions. Cultural differences of opinion are examined in terms of Hofstede's cultural dimensions (e.g., uncertainty avoidance, masculinity, individualism, power distance and time) for possible insights to variances in "leader ethic." The findings endorse the universality of Covey's "Seven Habits" and have clear implication for understanding and training cross-cultural leadership.

INTRODUCTION

The answer to what makes an effective leader has long been the "holy grail" of business researchers. Part of the problem is that the term "leadership" means different things to different people. Most, however, agree that leadership involves influencing followers to accomplish organizational goals. Originally, this influencing power was thought to spring from the leader's extraordinary abilities such as tireless energy, penetrating intuition, uncanny foresight and irresistible persuasive skill. Eventually this thought was abandoned because empirical researchers noted that the possession of these traits did not necessarily guarantee the successful accomplishment of organizational goals. Subsequently, researchers began to believe that it was the leader's behavior that made all the difference (e.g., focus on task, focus on employees or some combination thereof). Now, however, theorists believe that effectiveness is dependent upon providing the right leadership style for a given situation. In other words, the situational factors (e.g., leader's authority, subordinates' capabilities, task, etc.) determine what kinds of leader traits, skills, and behaviors are relevant. As such, theorists believe that the education of leaders should focus on analyzing the situation and taking proper action.

The popular press gurus, however, suggest a slightly different focus on leadership training, i.e. they believe that leadership should be built from the inside-out. In other words, focus on building a "leadership ethic" that contains certain traits and behaviors as prerequisites to effective leadership. Given this foundation, leaders will have the power to influence the workers to accomplish organizational goals. For example, Goleman (2002) suggests that leaders must possess a high emotional intelligence (the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively) to be successful. Similarly, Covey (1989) believes there are fundamental principles that govern human effectiveness and that these principles start with achieving independence and proceed to mastering interdependence. Bass (1985) posits that a leader's power to influence comes from within, i.e. charisma. Each of these three gurus believes that a "leadership ethic" is universal to mankind. Unfortunately, there has been little research in the U.S. on these popular notions and no research across cultures on these characteristics. This research explores how leaders from various cultures (e.g., U.S., Russia, Germany, and China) rank several of the popular traits and behaviors that make up the "leader ethic." The rankings are compared across gender, age groups, supervisory levels, and professions. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.