The cross-cultural literature emphasizes the strong connection between culture and leadership behaviors. There are important reasons to investigate the impact of national culture on leadership styles in today’s world. The old view that the leadership is identical all over the world is now being displaced with the standpoint that the leadership behaviours, attitudes and values differ because of the different national cultures (Boyacigiller and Adler, 1991; Hofstede, 1980).
Many researchers assert that the style and effectiveness of the leaders vary vastly as a result of the cultural forces in which leaders work. While some scientists maintain the thesis that universal leadership behaviour exists (Bass and Avolio, 1993; Dorfman and Ronen, 1991), other asserts that unique cultural characteristics such as language, religion and values determine different leadership styles in different societies (Hofstede, 1993, Ronen and Shenkar, 1985, Triandis, 1993). In the same time some scholars give evidence for the validity of both of the two theories (Dorfman, 1997, Bass, 1990).
National culture The purpose of this paper is to show whether the leadership style is determined by the national culture in some aspect. To show this relation firstly we have to clarify the meaning of these terms – leadership style and national culture. One of the most prominent researchers in the field of culture is Geert Hofstede. According to him “culture is the collective programming of the mind, which distinguishes the members of one human group from another” (Hofstede, 2004). Another researcher in this field is Robert House.
He describes culture for his GLOBE research project as follow: “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, 2002). It is clear that the notion “culture” is very flexible term but the core of the meanings of all different definitions is however the same. All possible definitions which are at the root of the term culture basically share one and the same.
The term culture can be described as a group of people which share similar traditions, values and beliefs. In this paper also the term national culture is described as culture of a definite nation. It should however be noticed that culture is not always confine within borders of one country. Even in the borders of a specific country cultures may vary. Obviously culture is a very extensive term but all the different definitions of culture can be summarized in some way and culture can be described as shared set of values.
A good way to make a careful study of this topic is to use Hofstede’s model of “national culture”. According to Hofstede, the nationalities can be classified by five prominent dimensions: 1) individualism-collectivism, 2) uncertainty avoidance, 3) power distance and 4) masculinity, long-term orientation. These five dimensions are confirmed by gathered data from many different sources (Hofstede, 2001). The analysis made by Sondergaard showed that the dimensions of Hofstede are largely corroborated (Sondergaard, 1994).
Hofstede’s concept of power distance shows how the different types of leadership behaviours are preferred within a particular culture. High power distance may lead to very autocratic, controlling type of leadership, while a low power distance may give a rise to a more democratic approach. Hofstede found that in countries with low power distance, employees preferred consultative manager. Whereas in countries with high power distance, individuals preferred autocratic, persuasive or majority-voted democratic leader. The second Hofstede’s cultural dimension is so called uncertainty avoidance.
It shows to what extend a particular culture is tolerant toward ambiguity and uncertainty. Low uncertainty avoidance may lead to a more laissez-faire leadership, while high uncertainty avoidance may lead to a more bureaucratic and controlling leadership. The individualism-collectivism dimension propound that high individualism may lead to a more competitive type of leadership, whereas high collectivism may lead to a more consultative behaviour. The masculinity dimension suggests that high masculinity means-a country experiences a higher degree of gender differentiation.
In such cultures, males tend to dominate a significant portion of the society and power structure. A low masculinity score indicates that the society has a lower level of differentiation and inequity between genders. In these cultures, females are treated equally to males in all aspects of the society. Long term-orientation: This fifth dimension is added by Hofstede later on. It measures the degree to which people are long-term oriented. This can be interpreted in this way: whether people think more for today and the present or they are living toward the future.
Hofstede’s cultural research can be viewed as one of the leading cultural researches in the world and his dimensions are used all over the world today. Another researcher who gives his contribution for better explanation of the national cultures around the world is Shalom Schwartz. He made his research in 1990. At first the study is composed of 20 countries but it has been enlarged through the years. Schwartz’s research is conducted among schoolteachers and university students. Schwartz measure culture using the following three bipolar dimensions.
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