Culture and Leadership
As the title suggests, this chapter is about culture and leadership. Like the previous chapter, this one is multifaceted and focuses on a collection of related ideas rather than a single unified theory. Because there are no established theories of cultural leadership, our discussion in this chapter will focus on research that describes culture, its dimensions, and the effects of culture on the leadership process. Since World War II, globalization has been advancing throughout the world. Globalization is the increased interdependence (economic, social, technical, and political) between nations. People are becoming more interconnected. There is more international trade, cultural exchange, and use of worldwide telecommunication systems. In the last 10 years, our schools, organizations, and communities have become far more global than in the past. Increased globalization has created many challenges, including the need to design effective multinational organizations, to identify and select appropriate leaders for these entities, and to manage organizations with culturally diverse employees (House & Javidan, 2004). Globalization has created a need to understand how cultural differences affect leadership performance.
Globalization has also created the need for leaders to become competent in cross-cultural awareness and practice. Adler and Bartholomew (1992) contend that global leaders need to develop five cross-cultural competencies. First, leaders need to understand business, political, and cultural environments worldwide. Second, they need to learn the perspectives, tastes, trends, and technologies of many other cultures. Third, they need to be able to work simultaneously with people from many cultures. Fourth, leaders must be able to adapt to living and communicating in other cultures. Fifth, they need to learn to relate to people from other cultures from a position of equality rather than cultural superiority (p. 53). Additionally, Ting-Toomey (1999) believes that global leaders need to be skilled in creating transcultural visions. They need to develop communication competencies that will enable them to articulate and implement their vision in a diverse workplace. In sum, today’s leaders need to acquire a challenging set of competencies if they intend to be effective in present-day global societies. This chapter is devoted to a discussion of how culture influences the leadership process. The chapter begins by defining culture and describing two concepts related to our understanding of culture. Next, we describe dimensions of culture, clusters of world cultures, and the characteristics of these clusters. We then learn how leadership varies across cultures and which specific leadership attributes cultures universally endorse as desirable and undesirable. Finally, we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of this body of research.
Anthropologists, sociologists, and many others have debated the meaning of the word culture. Because it is an abstract term, it is hard to define, and different people often define it in dissimilar ways. For our purposes, culture is defined as the learned beliefs, values, rules, norms, symbols, and traditions that are common to a group of people. It is these shared qualities of a group that make them unique. Culture is dynamic and transmitted to others. In short, culture is the way of life, customs, and script of a group of people (Gudykunst & Ting-Toomey, 1988). Related to culture are the terms multicultural and diversity. Multicultural implies an approach or system that takes more than one culture into account. It refers to the existence of multiple cultures such as African, American, Asian, European, and Middle Eastern. Multicultural can also