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Dissertation On Vodafone In China Management Essay

While the phenomenon of leadership is widely considered to be universal across cultures, the way in which it is operated is usually viewed as culturally specific. Conflicting viewpoints exist in the leadership literature concerning the transferability of specific leadership styles across cultures. This cross-cultural study utilized the full range of transformational leadership framework developed by Bass model of culture to assess the leadership style the author revised scales from the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) by Bass. The analyses provided evidence for conceptual and measurement equivalence for all three leadership styles employed in the study-transactional, transformational, and Laissez-faire leadership. The MLQ determined leadership style by assessing seven different scales, including four transformational (Idealized Influence, Inspirational Motivation, Intellectual Stimulation, and Individualized Consideration), two transactional (Contingent reward, and Management-by-Exception), and one non-transactional behavior (Laissez-Faire).

Table of Contents


Vodafone is the largest international mobile operators, which headquarters in Britain and operates 27 subsidiaries and affiliates in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, America and Asia-pacific region. So far its user accounts for 25% of total global mobile users. Although Vodafone registered in England, only about 1% of users from Britain, subsidiaries of outside contribute 87% to business income for group ( Vodafone’s market value achieves 720 billion pounds. Vodafone was registered in 1991 and only after ten years development it has obtained a very significant place in the world mobile telecom industry.

Literature Review

Problem statement

China is an emerging market for multinational companies to expand their business. However, for the different causes happened in the practice, lots of international companies have to deal with the management problems of localization (Harvey, 2010). One of such issues is the leadership style differences, which brings to the conflict between expatriate managers and Chinese employees. Some of these issues might be too subtle for managers to notice. Nevertheless, the ignorance of the conflict of leadership problems may lead to the corporate internal problems in the daily administration. The most adverse impacts for these conflicts would result in the loss for the companies.

Vodafone is a leading global mobile operator that seeking business opportunities in China (Ray, 2008). Although the business development for Vodafone in China is limited to the cooperation with Chinese companies nowadays, this company might plan for its future expansion with localization strategy in the furture. To prevent the conflicts might happen for Vodafone’s business development, Vodafone should consider the difference between its own leadership styles and the Chinese’s. Therefore, it is necessary to clarify the research questions, aims, and objectives as follows:

There are three major research questions of the study:

1. What is the leadership style for Vodafone Company? The leadership style for this world class organization should be formed for years. To start researching on the differences between the existed company and its potential market, this answer of this question has to be collected as the first step.

2. What is the favorite leadership style for Chinese employees in this industry? The number of mobile operators in China is limited for three companies, including China Mobile, China Unicom, as well as China Telecom. For the different cultures of these companies, the leadership styles might be different. And to figure out which is the most effective one has its contribution on helping Vodafone to arrange its localization strategy in the future.

3. What are the differences of Vodafone’s leadership and Chinese’ favorite one? After being aware of both of the leaderships, it is necessary to compare and contrast these two different styles in order to avoid the conflicts might happen in the future. What is more, with the analysis of the differences, the role of leadership in the multinational companies would be discussed as one of the contributions for further studies.

Research Aim & Objective

The primary aim of this research is to discovering the differences of leadership style among Vodafone and other Chinese mobile operators, in order to investigating on the role of leadership in the international companies and their localization strategies. For fulfilling this researching aim, there are four major objective discussed as follows:

1. The first objective for this research is on being aware of Vodafone’s leadership style. Identifying the leadership style of Vodafone has its implication of underpinning of difference discussion.

2. The following one is for investigating the most effective leadership style for Chinese mobile operators. For developing business in China, understanding the most effective leadership style has its implication of managing human resource with conveniences.

3. The third objective is to analyze the characteristics of these two leadership styles with comparison and contrast for discussing the differences.

4. The last but not least one is for discovering the effects on Vodafone changing its leadership style for localization and then investigating the role of leadership and its importance.

Critical Literature Review

1. Transactional Leadership

This leadership style focuses on the social interactions or transactions between leaders and followers (Yukl, 1994). Transactional leaders conduct their business by identifying the needs of their followers and bestowing rewards satisfying these needs for certain appropriate performances. Transactional leaders motivate their subordinates through observing their performances and reacting to errors and failures (Ayman, 1993). They lay their focus on routine and competence values. According to Bass, this leadership style contains three different theoretical components (Bass, 1985):

Contingent reward-the leaders clarify what is expected from followers and what they will receive if they meet expected levels of performance.

Active management-by-exceptions-leaders focus on monitoring task execution for any problems that might arise and correcting those problems to maintain current performance levels.

Passive management-by-exceptions-leaders tend to react only after problems have become serious to take corrective action, and often avoid making any decisions at all.

2. Transformational Leadership

Rather than believing that they must act in accordance with their followers' expectations, transformational leaders work to change or transform their followers' needs and redirect their thinking (Bass, 1985). Leaders create a vision of what the corporate culture can be and communicate it to their subordinates, stimulating them to develop their abilities while accepting feedback and suggestions. Leaders challenge and inspire followers with a sense of purpose and excitement with what can be accomplished.

Burns defines transformational leadership as follows: "a transformational leader looks for potential motives in followers, seeks to satisfy higher needs, and engages the full person of the follower... Leaders develop a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into leaders." Thus, transformational leadership can be viewed as relational and reciprocal (Bass, 1985).

3. Laissez-Faire Leadership

Transactional and transformational leadership styles are contrasted with laissez-faire leadership. Laissez-faire leaders abdicate their responsibility and avoid making decisions (Bass, 1990). Subordinates working under this kind of supervisor basically are left to their own devices to execute their job responsibilities (Bass&Seltzer, 1990). Although laissez-faire leadership is observed infrequently, managers still exhibit it in varying amounts (Bass, 1990). Prior research has found that laissez-faire leadership has an adverse effect on work-related outcomes of employees.

4. Effects of Different Leaderships

Bass & Seltzer (1990) argue that transformational leadership contributes more for the companies than the transactional leadership on employees’ effectiveness and satisfactions. It is addressed that transformational leadership with idealized influence and inspirational motivation is the best combination in the practice (Bryman, 1992).

Bass & Seltzer (1990) also discussed that transactional leadership has positive impacts for the organizations. However, most of the studies indicate that only the contingent reward leaders would brings to such kind of contributions (Avolio, 1999).

Overall, each of the leadership styles has their pros and cons in the practice. With the appropriate applications, these leaderships would bring to the positive effects for organizational performances. However, the conflict of the different styles might also lead to huge problems as the results. Vodafone can choose one or some of these leadership styles for integrating its original style with Chinese characteristics. The impacts of these leadership plays an important role theoretically.


Research Hypotheses

For the research questions discussed, there are three major hypotheses presented as below:

Hypothesis 1: As a British company, Vodafone has the Laissez-Faire leadership, which is the major leadership style in its daily administration.

Hypothesis 2: Some of the Chinese employees prefer transactional leadership, especially passive management-by-exceptions-leaders. This leadership style is commonly existed in the Chinese bureaucratic organizations.

Hypothesis 3: The avoidance of conflicts of leadership style is vital important for Vodafone in its localization strategy in China.

Research Philosophy

Saunders al etc (2009) discussed that pragmatism is one of the research philosophy arguing the application of epistemology, ontology, and axiology is depended on the research question itself. Considering this research is aimed at studying on the most effective leadership style for Chinese employee in Vodafone, epistemology is the preferable philosophy for this research. There are several reasons for choosing pragmatism with epistemology way: The first one is that the data collected and interpreted in this research would be subjective meanings of interviewees and respondents. Second, leadership style theories are helpful on interpreting these data, which is the acceptable knowledge for the research questions. And the third one is that this analysis is going to interpret the data with different perspectives.

Research Approach

Veal (2005) discussed that the research process for deductive approach is started from hypotheses discussing, which is followed by data collection, and ended with data analysis. The reason of applying deductive approach for this research is that the literatures discussing this topic focused on the existed companies but not the international companies’ future development. These literatures are helpful for understanding theories. However, for predicting the future development, hypotheses as predicted results are necessarily discussed in the beginning. Comparing inductive approach which collecting and analyzing data first and then explaining the phenomena, deductive approach is more appropriate on future development analysis. With this approach, this study will review the literature and design the research questions and then use the appropriate research techniques for data collection.

Research Process

Cooper and Schindler (2003: 60-61) discussed that there is no necessity of accomplishing every single step of the whole research process. In this research, there are three major steps as research planning, data gathering, as well as analysis, presentation and reporting. The whole research process is as follows:

Figure 1: Schedule of Research



Week 1

Research Question Definition

Week 2

Research Proposal Writing

Week 3-5

Literature Review

Week 6

Data Collection Preparation

-Interviewing questions design

Week 7

Data Collection Preparation

-Questionnaire design and Sampling design

Week 8-10

Data Collection and Preparation

Week 11-12

Data Analysis and Interpretation

Week 13-15

Research report writing

Figure 2: Research Process

Research Strategy/Design

Research strategy applied in this study is the empirical analysis. The reason for this strategy is that it is a practical business research with implication of recommending future development strategies for Vodafone. Only concentrating on the theoretical analysis is lacking of demonstrations on suggesting flexible resorts for the real company, especially the leadership style analysis, which is influenced by the organizational cultures.

Data Collection

Data Collection applied in this research include two major ones as qualitative research, and quantitative research, which is called as the triangulation (Duffy 1987: 131). The major qualitative research methods are the focus group interviewing and observation whilst the primary quantitative research method would be the questionnaire-based survey. These are the primary research methods exerted in the research process. And the secondary research will also applied as qualitative research for better understanding the impacts with literatures.

Focus group interviewing, as is discussed by Cooper and Schindler (2003: 142-143), is a major in depth survey for collecting the information. The form of focus group interviewing is a panel of people meet together to exchange the ideas on the specific topic. This technique has its strengths on receiving the concrete information on feeling of the interviewees. With the limited time and resource, focus group is an effective way for maximum information collection. However, there are two major issues to be noticed. One of them is that the interviewees would hide their real notions in the process. Lots of reasons would lead to this problem and the researcher may fail to collect the real information through such kind of interviewing. Another problem is that the interviewees might provide incorrect information because of the memory and other causes. This kind of mistakes is happened frequently which cannot be avoid in the real world. The open questions asked for interviewees are attached in the appendix.

Furthermore, for avoiding the adverse impacts of these two research methods, observation of the interviewers would also be applied. Observation is discussed to be a passive and subjective research method. However, it can help improve the quality of interview for interpreting the behaviors of the interviewees as being more aware of their real considerations.

It is discussed by Cooper and Schindler (2003: 312-313) that questionnaire-based survey is a return form of large scale surveys. The advantages of questionnaire include the access of diverse people group, the low cost of studying, the responds would be self-motivated for researching, minimizing the research resources, easily application with data analysis and presentation. However, the weaknesses of this method are also obvious: First, the response rate might be low because no direct contact between interviewees and researchers. Second, Long and complicated questionnaires are adverse for data collection. It would make the respondents feeling boring. Third, the data collected may not be real since the data would be made up by different reasons. The sample of questionnaire for respondents is attached in the appendix. Concerning the time limit and the trouble caused by a long list of questionnaires, author hereof chose 21 questions from MLQ, where each describes certain behavior. In addition, the author designed another 3 questions to measure empowering behaviors of leaders, thus making altogether 24 statements. On every one of those questions, the subjects have to choose between four different response alternatives: not at all; once in a while; sometimes; fairly often; frequently, if not always. With these alternatives, the subordinates can assess how often their leaders show the described behavior. Thus, seven different leadership style scales exist in the questionnaire: four transformational, two transactional and laissez-faire.

Data Source

The primary data contains two sources which are focus group interview, and questionnaire. Both of them will be taken places in UK and China. The data source in UK is for receiving information on focus group interviewing and observation, which is to perceive the message of leadership styles in Vodafone Company. In China, the data will be received in those three major mobile operators in Shanghai branches. All of the primary research techniques as focus group interviewing, observation, as well as questionnaires will be applied in this step.

Secondary data is based on the journals, context books, as well as online resources, which are discussing the major British and Chinese leadership styles.

Data Analysis

The data analysis will be conducted with the help of Excel software for statistical analysis. It is for analyzing what are the proportions of Chinese employees preferred the leadership styles.

Research limitation

Attention will now be focused on the methodological limitations of the present study. It is important that the respondent rate for this survey should not too low, because if the number of samples was too small, it would not possess enough data information to conduct factor analysis and other statistical analysis for this study (Fiedler, 1995).

In addition, the research was designed using existing and established measurement instrument (MLQ) to assess leadership style. The MLQ was developed in the United States of America. Therefore, the scope and primary orientation of this tool is American, and it does not include all the aspects of leadership that may be important in other cultures. Leadership and culture may possibly have highly situational and temporal aspects not captured here. The benefits of using existing theoretical frameworks comes at a price that consists in the likely omission of important local facets of culture and leadership that were present but not captured by the research.

At last, in this essay, the author emphasizes the cultural aspects underpinning these differences in leadership styles. Actually, leadership styles are also determined by many other factors in addition to cultural values both for the Chinese and English Vodafone managers. Briefly speaking, cultural values are the factors that orient the leadership style. It is the combined force of cultural values and other factors such as sex, age, personality, organizational climate and the specific contexts that finally decide which style is to be employed by each individual cultural member. Therefore, synthetic and all-around perception is needed in assessing leadership styles.

Ethical Issues

The ethical issue that should be addressed is that this study is concerned with opinions of the subordinates on their managers' behaviors under transformational framework. It did not investigate whether leadership behavior stemmed from leaders themselves, or arose from the specific context in which the leader-follower relationship takes place (House at el, 1997). Without due consideration of these factors, caution must be taken in generalizing the results of the study. Therefore, the fact can change overtime. Anyone that uses the result of this study should be aware of the social and cultural change over period of time. This means that in the future if other researchers conduct this topic again the result may differ from this study.


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Avolio, J., Bass, M. (1999). Re-examining the components of transformational and transactional leadership using the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire. Journey of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 72, 441-462

Bass, M. (1990). Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research and Managerial Applications, 3rd edition. New York: Free Press

Bass, M. (1985). Leadership and Performance beyond Expectations, New York: The Free Press

Bass, M., Seltzer, J. (1990). Transformational leadership: Beyond Initiation and Consideration. Journal of Management, 16: 693-703

Bryman, A. (1992). Charisma and Leadership in Organizations. London: Sage

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