Cross Cultural Leadership

Cultural Differences in Leadership

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Cultural differences determine certain leadership traits and portions of our personality. It is easy to discredit the importance of cross-cultural differences and their influences on various leadership styles. Different cultures are known for certain traits. For instance, the Australian culture is known for it egalitarianism. Chinese culture is known as an authority oriented culture (Sharpe, 2007). These differences in culture result in the development of different leadership styles and traits. The following will explore the issue of cultural differences and will support the thesis that leaders from authoritarian countries have a greater power distance from their employees than do those in egalitarian cultures.

Sharpe (2007) found that the Australian culture and the Chinese culture dictated certain traits in regards to desirable leadership traits. Both the Australian and Chinese participants felt that these leadership traits were more important on the lower levels than on the upper levels of the organization. Australians felt that being friendly and humorous were important for managers on the lower level. The Chinese felt that being modest was important for leaders. Sharp’ study demonstrates that culture can play an important role in the development of leadership styles.

DeGrosky (2011) found that there is not single best way of leading an organization. This was an answer to the popular premise that good leadership had similar traits, regardless of the situation. This study found that good leadership was dependent upon the situation and context of the need for leadership. In a global business environment, the type of leadership needed depends on the religion, geography, economy, and other factors that influence the traits that are needed in order for leadership to be successful. DeGrosky found that all leadership scenarios are distinct and that one must be careful in their application of various leadership styles in certain countries. Work related values and people’s expectations influenced what represented the most effective leadership style.

Globalization and Leadership

The world is connected in a manner that was never imagined in the past. We now have a 24/7 work environment where services and goods are exchanged across many miles. This global work environment makes it difficult for human resources personnel to hire quality people who will be able to pull international teams together. In order to do this, they need to have the right personality for the job. The article suggests differences in what is considered to be a high performer. Success is measured differently among various cultures as well (Lewis, 2006).

It is essential that everyone understand how culture affects leadership and its connection to the global work environment. Globalization has picked up the pace since World War Ii. The effect of World War II brought the world together as decision makers to form a consensus of what they agreed upon and what they did not (Northouse, 2006). Leaders from different cluster country groups have different profiles that are accepted as cultural norms. Leaders are expected to strive to fit into these different norms to be considered a good leader. These differences affected their financial management style, personnel relationships, team development, and other aspects of how they manage their .

Cultural differences and dimensions were categorized by Hofstede (2001). He found that various culture. He later extended his theories to embody the effects and consequences that these various dimensions would have on an organization. Deng & Gibson, (2008) contend that simply understanding cultural differences is not enough to accomplish effective cross-cultural leadership. They suggested that just as good emotional intelligence is essential for leaders, so is cultural intelligence. Cross cultural leadership is an important factor in the ability to effectively manage cross cultural teams. The study used an interview strategy to explore Chinese Managers of Australian firms operating in China. This cultural pair is used in a number of studies, as they represent different ends of the cultural spectrum.

An examination of the literature on cross-cultural leadership and differences in leadership based on cultural profiles found that much of the research at this point, explored and examined the topic without attempting to apply it to the business world. The study by Deng & Gibson (2008) was one of the first to attempt to use the information in a way that could be applied to the business setting. This represents the next phase in an exploration of the topic. It is now recognized that differences exist in leadership that are culturally based. This information needs to be applied in a way that is useful to the cross-cultural manager as they manager their teams. A gap exists in the literature that represents the next step in research on cross-cultural leadership.

One of the areas most affected by cultural differences is in communication. Communication. How we communicate goes beyond the words that we speak. According to Markel (2009) this issue is further complicated when communication in today’s workplace takes the form of emails and conference calls. In the United States, communication emphasized directness, explicitness, and verbal expressiveness. By contrast, in Asia, the communication style involves a high level of context and understanding. Asian communication is indirect, implicitless, and uses a high degree of nonverbal expressions (Marketl, 2009). These differences in communication can create endless tensions in the workplace that can be a sources of misunderstanding.

Communication is a negotiation between the speaker and the listener. They must negotiate an understanding of the meaning of the words and nonverbal language that they use (Markel, 2009). This negotiation process is easier for two people from the same cultural background, as they have a basic set of ground rules to reference. However, when the two speakers are from different cultures, they will approach the situation using a different set of ground rules. This can play havoc with their ability to negotiate meaning. Understanding the elements of subjective cultural meanings is an important part of managing cross cultural communication in teams.

Application to Global Business Management

Cross cultural differences can be a source of misunderstanding and conflict in the business world. As the world moves in the direction of higher integration, these differences and misunderstandings will serve as bumps in the road to globalization. Almost everyone must do business with someone of a different culture on a regular basis. This cultural interaction is not only for businesses. The outsourcing of call centers to India makes cultural interaction common on a personal level for many people today. As we try work together despite our differences and to find common ground, cultural differences and misunderstandings represent one of our greatest obstacles.

It is apparent that simply recognizing and categorizing these cultural differences is not enough, Deng & Gibson touched on the area of using cultural differences in a consulting manner to develop a system for helping to manage differences in cultural leadership. This represents the next stop in managing diverse cross-cultural teams in a way that reduced conflict and misunderstandings in leadership style. Methods need to be developed that allow this information to be applied to the cross-cultural team and its leadership.

This area will be important for many areas of the business. Not only will managers and employees benefit from the knowledge gained through exploration of practical application of the topic, but human resources will also benefit as well. Selecting leadership in a cross-cultural setting can be a difficult task. The right person must be able to understand the various cultures that they will encounter on a basis that goes beyond a surface understanding of them. This problem leads to the need for metrics that measure the ability of a person to understand and manage cultural differences in the .

Communication is a key source of misunderstanding and conflict in the workplace. The development of training programs that would help cross cultural leaders to understand the various communication styles and how they effect business communication would go a long way in developing effective cross cultural teams and effective communication strategies. If two people from different cultures could learn the rules of the other and have a better understanding of the potential sources of miscommunication, they could learn to overcome these differences.

The cross cultural team and lead to greater innovation among businesses, but it can also be a key source of conflict as well. The literature examined indicated that researchers have an understanding of the basis for cultural differences and a categorization strategy that can explain these differences. The next step in the research process is to be able to understand these differences in a way that will lead to better cross cultural leadership and more effective communication strategies. This will be the key to global expansion of businesses in the future.


DeGrosky, M. (2011). Lost in Translation. Wildfire. Retrieved March 4,.2011 from

Deng, L. & Gibson, P. (2008). A Qualitative Evaluation on the Role of Cultural Intelligence in . The International Journal of Leadership Studies. 3 (2): 181-197.

Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Lewis, R. (2006). Cultural Differences in a Shrinking World: Leadership Implications. Personnel Decisions. January 2006. Retrieved March 4, 2011 from

Markel, P. (2009). Cultural Differences Impact Workplace Communication. Alliance Training and Consulting. Retrieve March 4, 2011 from

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