Cultural and Leadership Similarities and Variations in the Southern Part of the European Union

By Nikandrou, Irene; Apospori, Eleni et al. | Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

Cultural and Leadership Similarities and Variations in the Southern Part of the European Union


Nikandrou, Irene, Apospori, Eleni, Papalexandris, Nancy, Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies


This paper examines the similarities and differences in cultural (societal and organizational) and leadership aspects in the southern part of the European Union. The study is based on data from the GLOBE project for five countries (Greece, Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal). Even though there are quite a few studies clustering European countries either along the North-South axis or the North/West--South/East axis, we still need to better understand cultural and leadership similarities and differences among countries that for various reasons, such as sociopolitical, economic, cultural, historical, geographical and so forth, may form a unit for purposes of comparative study. The findings of the present study suggest that there are more similarities than differences among these five countries that may support the thesis for considering them as the southern band of EU countries.

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Increasing internationalization, and the "global market" have forced us to explore more closely the differences and similarities in the way people are managed. Organizations operate across international boundaries and more managers are transferred internationally, emphasizing the importance of comparative knowledge and raising the question of cultural influences. The cultural diversity of employees found in worldwide multinational organizations presents a substantial challenge with respect to the design of multinational organizations and their leadership.

Understanding leadership requires understanding the cultural context in which it takes place. Therefore, the need to better understand cultural influences on leadership and organizational practices has never been greater and is essential for the effective management of people in different cultures, with different customs.

This paper examines the relationship in societal and organizational cultures and leadership attributes in the Southern part of the European Union (EU). The study of leadership and culture in the European Union is an interesting one, since both convergent and divergent approaches can be found. Indeed, the European Union provides the framework within which different solutions at the national and/or organizational level can be found. Thus, forces from the market, technology and institutional context promote convergence, while, cultural forces contribute to more divergent tendencies. The selection of a particular unit of analysis in a study is important for the conclusions to be drawn. If a study uses clusters of countries with cultural affinities to examine how nationality and culture affect leadership may end up to different conclusions in comparison with others studies that may have used individual countries within the same cluster or countries from different clusters for the same purpose.

The study is based on the Southern European sub-sample of the GLOBE. We have selected to compare Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Greece and investigate similarities and differences in cultural (societal and organizational) and leadership aspects.

THE GLOBE CONCEPTUAL MODEL

The Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness research project is a multi-phase, multi-method research on cross-cultural study of the inter-relationships between organizational leadership, societal and organizational culture.

Culture affects values, beliefs, meanings and influences leadership processes (Ayman et al, 1995; Hunt et al, 1990). Both culture-specific and culture-universal positions--"emic" and "etic" approaches, accordingly--have been employed to examine the impact of culture on leadership processes (Bass & Avolio, 1993; Hofstede, 1980, 1993; Triandis, 1993).

In the GLOBE project:

Culture is defined as "shared motives, values, beliefs, identities and interpretations or meanings of significant events that result from common experiences of members of collectives and are transmitted across age generations" (House et al. …

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