The article is based on report on research conducted, which shows the study of comparing perceptions of the importance of 18 traits for effective low-level leaders and high-level leaders. Participants were 84 full-time white-collar employees from Australia and 244 full-time white-collar employees from China. Multivariate analysis of variance revealed cultural differences in terms of which traits are regarded as important for effective leadership. China’s recent entry nto World Trade Organization (WTO) has already resulted in an increase in trade agreements between China and many developed nations (e.g. Australia, US). The increase in trade between China and developed nations will inevitably lead to increased interactions between personnel from China and the developed nations. These personnel, especially expatriate managers, need to be aware of cultural differences and similarities in leadership prototypes in offer to perform effectively.
Leadership is a major component of the social fabric of many organization (Lord et al., 1986), and prototypical perceptions of effective leadership represent an important topic of investigation for research (Hackman and Lawler, 1971; Hunt, 1991; Petterson, 1985). Perceptions of leadership are what followers act on and, therefore such perceptions can impact the outcomes of the leadership process (Bennett, 1977; Gerstner and Day, 1994). Leader acceptance and effectiveness may depend on leader attributes and behaviors being congruent with the endorsed implicit leadership theories of followers (Cronshaw and Lord, 1987; House et al., 1999). Furthermore, certain characteristics of a culture may render specific leadership characteristics and styles acceptable and effective (House et al., 2004). For example, a leader who adopts an autocratic style may be more accepted and effective in a high power distance culture (e.g. China) than in a low power distance culture (e.g. Australia)
Although studies have examined cultural differences in leadership traits, there are important issues that remain to be addressed, especially with regard to comparisons between China and Australia. The largest study thus far, project GLOBE, involved data from approximately 17,000 managers from 951 organizations in 62 countries around the world. According to the research, cognitive prototypes appear to be a central component of implicit leadership theories (Lord et al., 1982) and provide an abstract standard, or expectation, against which actual leaders can be compared. Cognitive prototypes thus influence perceptions of leadership as well as reactions to leadership, because interpretations of and reactions to leadership depend on the type of prototype that is evoked (Lord et al., 1984).
According to Lord and Maher’s (1991) ‘recognition model’, an important determinant of being perceived as an effective leader is the congruence between the follower’s pre-existing notions of the ideal characteristics of an effective leader and his or her perceptions of the leader’s actual characteristics. The better the match between ideal and actual characteristics, the more likely it is that the leader will receive credit for favorable work outcomes and therefore attain the social power vital for effective leadership (Cronshaw and Lord, 1987; Hollander and Julian, 1969; Shaw, 1990). Although there is evidence that some leadership traits and practices are endorsed universally, there is also evidence that the enactment of these traits varies across cultures (Den Hartog et al., 1999; House et al., 2004). For instance, although leaders in Australia and New Zealand are expected to be egalitarian, Australian leaders are expected to be more socially oriented and less task-oriented than their New Zealand counterparts.
Furthermore, people pursue goals because goal attainment implies that they possess those qualities that are...