Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Leader-Effectiveness across Cultural Boundaries: An Organizational Culture Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Leader-Effectiveness across Cultural Boundaries: An Organizational Culture Perspective

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

With the ample evidence on the importance of organizational culture on the effectiveness of organizations, and as companies, markets, and competition are becoming increasingly diverse, one realizes that understanding the concept of diversity and how it relates to national culture and organizational culture has become an important precondition to organizational effectiveness (Owen and Lambert, 1998; Gibson, Ivancevich, Donnelly and Konopaske, 2003). Capitalizing on diversity while overcoming cross-cultural barriers in order to utilize the powerful pool of talents and skills that come with diversity has become a "valued competence of today's leaders within organizations" (Gibson et al, 2003, p. 49). As opposed to working within the confines of organizational culture, leaders are concerned with "redesigning [organizational culture] to maximize performance" (Owen and Lambert, 1998, p. 358). Leaders should learn about the unfamiliar cultures from which employees come and about the rewards that motivate them the most. They should handle language barriers, training, cultural awareness, and career development programs that are consistent with the values of employees. House tells us that "what is expected of leadership, what leaders may or not may do, and the status and influence bestowed upon them vary considerably as a result of the cultural forces in the countries or regions in which the leaders function." (Zagorsek, Jaklic, & Stough, 2004, p.20). However when considering cultural diversity within an organization, is it reasonable to assume that a leader would be able to adjust his/her style in response to individual cultural differences (i.e. diversity) in the workforce in order to be effective?

Definitions of diversity abound, and the concept is sometimes confused with equal employment opportunity or affirmative action. Moreover, the concept itself is rather broad as it encompasses the "vast array of physical and cultural differences that constitute the spectrum of human differences" including ethnicity, age, gender, physical attributes, race, and sexual orientation as core dimensions that influence people's behaviours and attitudes throughout their lifetime (Gibson et al, 2003, p. 47). Other aspects of diversity that can be changed include educational background, marital status, and religious beliefs among others (Gibson et al, 2003). However, of particular importance for the discussion on overcoming cross-cultural differences is cultural diversity or cultural variation reflected in the differences in the sets of values, attitudes, beliefs, and norms shared by subordinates coming from a certain country or nation. Such differences have direct implications for effective leader behaviours and styles of leadership (Pierce and Newstrom, 2006). These implications are very important because dynamic and globalized markets necessitate a "broadened pool of experience and knowledge found in an effectively managed diverse workforce" (Pless and Maak, 2004, p. 130).

In this paper, it is demonstrated that leaders need not adopt a dynamic or constantly changing style as suggested by some of the earlier research (Pierce and Newstrom, 2006). It is proposed that leaders should create a strong organizational culture that has values and norms that supersede national culture values and norms in order to minimize the adverse effects of cultural diversity. By following certain techniques, leaders should be able to "undo" the individual's previously held goals and orientations and create new ones that are close to how the organizational culture should look like (Gibson et al, 2003). Furthermore, to compliment this proposition a model of how leaders is presented to create such a culture. In other words, this paper attempts to answer the following questions:

1. What role Organizational Culture plays in overcoming the obstacles created by differences in national cultures? …

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