Magazine article Management Today

How to Lead in Another Language

Magazine article Management Today

How to Lead in Another Language

Article excerpt

Before trying to build a cross-national team you need to take note of different leadership styles - attitudes to authority can have a profound effect on motivation. Richard D Lewis

Experience abroad readily reveals how widely leadership styles in business vary from country to country - a factor which builders of cross-national teams often ignore to their cost. In some cultures, for example, leaders will demonstrate technical competence place facts before sentiment, and focus their own attention and that of their staff on immediate achievement and results. Others are much more extrovert, relying on their eloquence and ability to persuade and use human force to inspire. Either way, no two cultures view leadership in the same light.

In Germany there is a clear chain of command in each department, and information and instructions are passed down from the top. This does not mean, however, that German management is exclusively autocratic: while the vertical structure in each department is clear, considerable value is placed on consensus. Equally, the German striving for perfection in systems and procedures carries with it the implication that the manager who vigorously applies and monitors these is showing faith in a framework that has proved successful for all.

Accordingly, German managers motivate staff by showing solidarity with them in following procedures. They work long hours themselves, obey the rules and, though expecting immediate obedience, insist on fair play. For their part, German employees welcome close instruction: they know where they stand and what they are expected to do. They enjoy being told twice, three, or even four times.

French management style is more autocratic, though this is not always evident at first glance. In France the boss often seems to have a more roving role than his focused German counterpart, using `tu' to subordinates and often patting them on the back.

The role and status of the leader in France is revealed by a glance at French history. Napoleon and Petain, for example, are remembered for their heroics rather than their failures. Ultimate success is less important than the thrill of the chase and the ability to quicken the national pulse.

Hence, unlike elsewhere, there is a high tolerance in French companies of management blunders. …

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