Academic journal article Academy of Strategic Management Journal

Leadership across Cultures: A Comparative Study

Academic journal article Academy of Strategic Management Journal

Leadership across Cultures: A Comparative Study

Article excerpt


Successful leadership behavior of today's more culturally diverse workforce is one of the most important challenges organizations face. Technology has driven this demographically mixed workforce toward consensus to harness the diverse talents of groups on the road to improving productivity. The need for world class leaders to address cultural and generational behaviors while operating in a more autonomously responsible world calls for fresh leadership behavior and action. This paper is a comparative analysis of specific cultural grouping, ethnicity, age and worker classification, exposed to 18 energizing leadership behaviours. Hypotheses of significant ranking differences are assessed across the cultural groups. A convenience sample of 600 non-traditional graduate students from various countries and backgrounds ranked the importance of 18 energizing leadership behaviours. A survey instrument was employed to collect data testing three hypotheses concerning significant group differences. It was determined that worker classification, alone, yields no significant ranking differences, however evidence was found that ranking by ethnicity and age group do show significant differences across the 18 energizing leadership behaviours.


Leadership has taken on a significantly new dimension with today's diverse global workforce. Warren Bennis (1989) predicted: "Given the nature and constancy of change and the transnational challenges facing American business leadership, the key to making the right choices will come from understanding and embodying the leadership qualities necessary to succeed in the volatile and mercurial global economy." Research suggests that both similarities and differences exist in leadership behaviors and styles across cultures.

In their classic study, Haire, Ghiselli, and Porter (1966) researched managerial attitudes regarding different leadership styles in 14 countries. National groupings alone explained 28 % of the variance in managerial attitudes. In later research, Heller and Wilpert (1981) revealed that the degree of worker participation applied by managers was different across a sample of eight countries. A study conducted by Luthans and colleagues (1993) showed that participative management techniques were actually ineffective when practiced in a Russian factory.

A leader's personal values along with those of the followers influence the leader, and these values can differ by culture (Ali & Wahabit, 1995). A study of similar U.S.-owned manufacturing plants located in five different countries (Italy, Mexico, Spain, United States, and Britain) revealed that the overall leadership approaches of the host-country nationals reflected the expectations of the local culture and workforce (Pavett & Morris, 1995). Preziosi and colleagues (1996, 2004) recognized the importance of identifying energizing behaviors for leaders working in diverse populations.

Considerable evidence supports that leaders differ across cultures in their views of rules and procedures, deference to authority, levels of dependence and independence, use of objectivity versus intuition, willingness to compromise, and other interpersonal tactics. Even transformational and transactional tactics used by leaders may vary in their levels of success in differing cultures (Jung & Avolio, 1999; Walumbwa, 2005).

A major international research project, Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE), over time has developed an empirically based theory to describe, understand, and predict the impact of cultural variables on leadership, organizational processes, and the effectiveness of the leader and the processes (House, et. al., 2004). In the process, 170 country-based co-investigators gathered data from 18,000 managers in 62 countries. A major goal of the GLOBE project was to develop societal and organizational measures of culture and leader attributes that were appropriate to use across cultures. …

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