Leading Across the Divide: Cultural Perspectives and Leadership Preferences
Globalization has changed the way we do business. In a matter of hours, we can travel to a completely different continent. In a matter of minutes, we can learn about political developments in another country. And in a matter of seconds, we can be connected “face-to-face” with someone all the way across the world.
While globalization has undoubtedly improved many aspects of our society, it hasn’t come without its own challenges—especially when it comes to cross-cultural leadership. As our world becomes more interconnected, leaders will need to adjust and learn to tailor their leadership behaviors to differing cultural contexts. In Part 2 of our Leading Across the Divide blog series, we’ll summarize a framework for navigating cross-cultural leadership and discuss how specific leadership behaviors from The Leader Habit can be applied in various cultural contexts.
HOFSTEDE’S CULTURAL DIMENSIONS:
One of the most influential frameworks for thinking about cultural differences is Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions. While Hofstede’s model has been criticized for being too generalized, it does offer valuable insights regarding how leaders can consider cultural differences and adapt their leadership approach accordingly. Though two more dimensions have since been added to the model, we will focus on examining Hofstede’s original four core dimensions.
Cultural Dimension #1: Power distance
Power distance can be thought of as the way in which power is distributed in an organization and the extent to which people tolerate it being distributed unequally. High power distance countries, such as Japan, tend to operate in hierarchies, and they are more likely to accept a higher imbalance of power between bosses and subordinates. Low power distance countries, such as Australia, are less likely to support hierarchies and are more likely to value interdependence and equality in working relationships. In low power distance cultures, leaders will have to work harder to Sell the Vision, while in high power distance cultures, leaders might have to focus more on Delegating Well.
Cultural Dimension #2: Individualism vs Collectivism
Individualism and collectivism refer to how people see themselves in relation to others. Countries that rank high in individualism, such as the United States, Canada, and Germany, are likely to view the individual as playing a central role. In contrast, collectivist countries, like China, Korea, and Israel, are likely to view the group as playing a central role. Leaders will likely have to work harder to Influence Others and Build Team Spirit with individualist cultures than they will with collectivist ones.
Cultural Dimension #3: Uncertainty Avoidance
Uncertainty avoidance refers to a culture’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. Cultures that have a high uncertainty avoidance, such as Mexico, Russia, and Korea are likely to rely on formalized policies and procedures and show strong resistance to change, while low uncertainty avoidance cultures, like the UK, India, and Singapore rely less on structure, rules, and expertise. Leaders in high uncertainty avoidance cultures will have to work harder to Empower Others and Overcome Individual Resistance, whereas leaders in low uncertainty cultures will likely need to emphasize Managing Risks and Priorities.
Cultural Dimension #4: People-Orientation vs Task-Orientation
This dimension is straight-forward. Task-oriented cultures emphasize the tasks and processes at hand, whereas people-oriented cultures prioritize the individuals that operate within them. Leaders in task-oriented cultures will likely need to Plan and Organize Work, in order to outline clear processes and tasks to be achieved. In people-oriented cultures, leaders will need to excel in Showing Caring to focus more on the people involved.
LEADING ACROSS THE DIVIDE:
Globalization continues to make our world more interconnected and complex, making cross-cultural leadership an increasingly difficult challenge for many leaders. However, by applying leadership behaviors from The Leader Habitto Hofstede’s Cultural Framework, leaders can learn how to tailor their behaviors and priorities to shifting cultural contexts and lead across the cultural divide. Interested in learning how to lead across other divides? Take a look at our previous post on Leading Across the Generational Divide or check back next week learn about how to lead across diverse organizational structures.
 Hofstede, G. (2011). Dimensionalizing cultures: The Hofstede model in context. Online readings in psychology and culture, 2(1), 2307-0919.
 Cornelius N. Grove (2005). Worldwide Differences in Business Values and Practices: Overview of GLOBE Research Findings. http://www.grovewell.com/pub-GLOBE-dimensions.html‹ Previous PostNext Post ›