The Role of Cross-Cultural Communication Competence

Topics: Leadership, Cross-cultural communication, Culture Pages: 17 (5093 words) Published: November 14, 2010

Dr. Alexi Matveev
College of Staten Island
New York, NY, USA

Dr. Elena Lvina
Concordia University
Montreal, Quebec, Canada


New theoretical frameworks are needed to better understand effective transformational leadership in different cultural contexts. In this article we illustrate the relationship between transformational leadership and the cross-cultural communication competence frame. We show how national culture orientations and cross-cultural communication competence affect the full range leadership framework and transformational leadership dimensions. Attributes of effective leadership and the choice of communication strategies vary for different cultural contexts; however, the charismatic or value-based leadership dimension contributes the most to universally perceived effective leadership styles. We draw attention to the importance of transformational leadership research utilizing the cross-cultural communication competence construct.


Transformational leaders rely heavily on their rhetorical skills in order to articulate a vision and create meaning for their followers. While the leader's message is important, the process by which it is communicated appears to be just as significant. The communication style is a critical distinguishing factor in whether the leader’s message will be remembered and endorsed. Flauto (1994) determined that every leadership dimension (charisma, individual consideration, intellectual stimulation) was positively correlated with the communication competence construct. Implicit in this assumption is the belief that leader’s communication competence is a prerequisite for effective leadership (Barge, 1994). Stigall (2005) found that individuals who are perceived as emergent leaders have significantly greater self-reported and other-reported communication competence. This suggests that effective transformational leadership is at least partially dependent on the leader’s ability to competently construct messages and engage in communication. We propose that national culture differences impose constraints on the leader’s communication style and influence the leader’s choice of effective communication strategies. We believe that understanding the theoretical basis for the relationship between the national culture dimensions and transformational leadership is necessary to generate clear predictions about the role of communication competence in effective transformational leadership across cultures. This article attempts to summarize transformational leadership approaches and communication strategies that are typically used in various cultural contexts.

Transformational Leadership

Organizational leadership research has evolved from the trait, behavioral, and contingency approaches to neocharismatic theories of leadership (House & Aditya, 1997). Three most widely recognized neocharismatic theories are the theory of charismatic leadership (House, 1977), the strategic theory of charismatic leadership (Conger & Kanungo, 1987), and the full range theory of leadership (Bass, 1985). The full range theory of leadership identifies two styles of leadership: transformational and transactional. Transactional leaders are seen as ones who use either contingent rewards as positive reinforcement when the standards reached or management-by-exception as punishment or negative feedback after problems occur. Transformational leaders, in turn, are able to influence their followers to transcend self-interest and release their full potential for performance toward the goals of their organization (Bass, 1985).

Transformational leadership is accomplished through idealized influence or charisma, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (Avolio, 1999; Bass, 1998). Idealized influence “refers to charismatic...
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