Leadership And Culture As Universal Phenomenon Cultural Studies Essay


Leadership appears to be a universal phenomenon. There has been no society found where it is completely absent or where cultural norms have completely substituted for it. A variety of definitions for leadership accommodates the diversity of appearances that leadership may take among and within cultures and organizations. (Bass, 1990, 90)provides an excellent summary of the variety of perspectives on leadership:

This plethora of leadership definitions suggests that within the scholarship about leadership there are many disparate understandings of what leadership is. Efforts continue to establish theories that incorporate different definitions and related theoretical approaches to leadership, but with limited success (Goethals & Sorenson, 2006, 85). Thus, we begin our search for leadership within other cultures with an awareness of the complex understanding of leadership within the culture of those conducting the search.

Furthermore, cultures are not static; they are dynamic and continually evolving. This evolution varies from culture to culture and from time to time within the same culture. The associated beliefs, values, and other elements of culture at a single point in time may not necessarily be the same at a later time in the same culture; hence the immensely complicated task of examining leadership across different cultures.

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Some studies of intercultural relationships look for factors that help people get along (Adler, 2008, 56) or for cultural factors that promote differences and conflict. (Bordas, 2007, 167)Discussions of leadership and culture also use units of analysis in their work-for example, group or organizational culture (Bourdieu, 1991, 56) or cultural differences among groups within the same geographic boundaries. (Collins, 1998, 45) for example, outlines cultural dimensions of racial and ethnic groups in the United States to suggest differences-and improvements-in the understanding and practice of leadership.

(Deal, & Kennedy, 2000, 89) pointed out different units of analysis in the study of leadership and culture: within and among countries, organizations, and groups. Moreover, he underscored the importance of understanding cultural differences between countries. Studies have borne out Bass's attention to cultural analysis at the national level: The interdependence of global economic, social, and political arrangements requires citizens of one nation to collaborate with citizens of another. Since Bass's comments, further study has shown that the success of the work of one nation's citizens in another culture is dependent upon understanding cultural differences, including the variations among attitudes toward and the practice of leadership.

Yet there are rewards for this effort to understand a changing phenomenon from different and conflicting perspectives. Bass posed intriguing questions for the effort to determine the cultural components of leadership: How much can we generalize about leadership from one culture to another? Are some elements of leadership universal while others are culturally relative? The internationalization of business and the global village prompt these questions, for managers educated and experienced in one country and culture must know what decision-making practices and leadership styles are best suited for another country and culture.

Naturally, these questions and needs pervade political and civic leadership concerns as well. Civil society is global as well as local and national. Nongovernmental organizations and international government agencies are multinational organizations as much as some corporations are. International understanding and cooperation as well as misunderstanding and war may depend, in part, on how well we understand our similarities and differences.

Nancy Adler surveys scholarly definitions and reasserts the synthesis that Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn derived from 164 definitions of culture. In some ways, anthropologists, such as Margaret Mead, pioneered the cross-cultural, comparative study of leadership as authority. As Bass pointed out,

Mead's … anthropological comparisons clearly showed that what it takes to be a leader varies across primitive cultures…. The aggressive, efficient, ambitious Manus leader in Oceania would have been rejected by the Dakota Indians, who valued mutual welfare, conforming to the group, generosity, and hospitality. (Bass, 1990, p. 85)

Knowing the cultural expectations that group members have themselves, and person in authority provides one avenue of understanding the leadership. While the scholarship of leadership and authority within a particular culture continues, other research looks for patterns among national cultures or common patterns that may be used to analyze, compare, and differentiate national cultures. Associating countries by cultural affinities permits the creation of clusters, thus reducing the number of units to analyze.

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The clusters permit a summary that displays cross-cultural similarities and differences and allows for a preliminary sketch of leadership patterns found among a group of nations. History, geography, language, religion, the stage of technological development, and related factors contribute to the formation of these clusters. In addition, countries are clustered according to factors such as leadership style preferences, autocratic or democratic, interpersonal values-conformity, recognition, and benevolence-and the like (Bass, 1990, p. 84).

One early synthesis of cross-cultural leadership studies found eight clusters roughly corresponding to geographic proximity-Arab, Near Eastern, Far Eastern, Latin (Spanish) America, Latin Europe, Nordic, and Germanic. The eighth cluster, Anglo, was far more geographically dispersed but tied together by a common language and colonial background. Nations in this cluster included Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Four countries seemed to fall outside any cluster. Brazil was too Portuguese, indigenous, and African to be part of Latin (Spanish) America. India was too Eastern and Anglo to belong to either cluster. Japan differed greatly from other Far Eastern cluster countries because of its early adoption of Western technologies.

In addition, Israel was too European and Anglo to fit in with Arab cluster countries (Ronen & Shenkar, cited in Bass, 1990, p. 764). Subsequent work also uses clustering, with some variations in the assignment of countries.

Culture and cultural dimensions

Culture is an umbrella word that encompasses a whole set of implicit widely shared beliefs, traditions, values and c special ions that charade rues a particular group of people. It identifies the uniqueness of the social unit, its values and beliefs. Like nations, ethnic groups, organizations, industries and occupational groups have cultures too. Thus we can speak of the culture of African Americans, Hispanics. Physicians, lawyers, engineers, etc.

The elements of culture such as language, tradition, family structure, society norms, gender role and time orientation impact on consumers' behavior, argues that individuals behavior is influenced more by their culture than an other factors culture defines the character of a society and may change over periods of time. Thus culture change has significant implications on cross-cultural marketing and makes it imperative to adjust marketing strategies over time. Alternative models arc available to measure national cultural differences. Arguably, the most widely utilized dimensions of culture arc the five presented by Hofstede (2001) and his colleagues from their instrument called the Values Survey Module (VSM). Briefly, they are:

Individualism - the degree to which cultures encourage individual concerns as opposed to collectivist concerns

Masculinity - the extent to which gender roles arc clearly distinct. I.e. in masculine societies men are suppose to be assertive, tough and focused on material success. while in feminine societies social gender roles overlap

Uncertainty avoidance - the extend to which the members of a culture feel threatened h uncertain or unknown situations

Confucian dynamism - long- versus short-term orientation in life, and

Power-distance - the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a society expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.

Cross Culture Marketing

Cross-cultural marketing can he applied to global as well as domestic-ethnic markets. Its application necessitates the use of knowledge and information for the purpose of customizing products/services and Strategies according to national and ethnic cultural characteristics.

Cross-cultural marketing should not be thought synonymous with international marketing or globalization. International marketing may take one of two different approaches to market a product or service, standardization or adaptation. If the product or service is thought to 1w universally or globally applicable (i.e. culture free), the marketing manager will take the standardization' approach. Otherwise, the product or service must be modified for each market with considerations of the host country's cultural influences, thus, adaptation. McDonald's 100 per cent pure vegetarian dishes served in India are an example of such an adaptation approach.

Cross-cultural marketing Utilizes the product/service adaptation approach for cross-national borders markets, domestic-ethnic markets, or both.

Globalization has been linked to the view that the world is a single market of consumers with a single global culture. Thus according to this school of thought the marketing mix can be standardized for the global market. Corporations such as Coca Cola. McDonalds and IBM may have created a 'global culture of their own' (i.e. corporate culture of a global company), but this is not to imply that the world may soon become a single market with a homogeneous culture. Modernization does not automatically change, for example, collectivistic into individualistic values. The westernization in Japan is a good example of this.

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The Japanese have shown signs of westernizing - i.e. becoming individualistic - because young people in Japan arc becoming more self-centred in their personal consumption behaviours, although their relationships to their families and employers are still traditional - i.e. collectivistic and hierarchic. World cultures may converge but they still retain their uniqueness.

International marketing implies marketing across the globe and cross-national borders. It does not intend to cover marketing efforts domestically within multicultural nations such as Britain and the USA. Multicultural marketing within the borders of a nation, the domestic-ethnic marketing, is aimed at various ethnic groups in the home country.

Ethnic minority groups have rapidly grown larger in size and gradually integrated into societies of their host countries. In the USA and other multi-ethnic countries many hospitality and tourism companies have tapped the exponentially increasing purchasing power of ethnic minorities. For example. Choice Hotels has 40 per cent of their hotels franchised to ethnic groups in (lie USA and Best Western has 28 per cent of their properties. worldwide, owned or franchised by Asian Americans. It is no secret that hotel properties that arc owned, franchised, or managed b ethnic minorities are culturally acceptable to ethnic minority customers.

Cross-cultural differences between ethnic minority groups and the host nations' majorities affect marketing strategies. Cross-cultural marketing research on ethnic minority groups has been growing during the last several decades. For example, studied Hispanic and non-Hispanic consumer shopping behavior.

Knowledge of cultural differences and similarities is important in the development of international and ethnic marketing strategies. In recent cars, cross-cultural marketing has received attention from both business sectors and academia. Researchers have developed and applied cultural models (e.g. Hofstede. 2001) for cross-cultural consumer behavior studies.

Cross cultural consumer behavior in Hospitality and Tourism

Until recently the role of national cultural characteristics in determining tourist behavior had not been given much attention in hospitality and tourism research. However, the examination of cultural differences is especially relevant to tourism consumer behavior. Several studies conducted from the UK. Israel, Korea and the Netherlands, assessed the explanatory value of nationality in regard to tourist behavior.

These studies showed that nationality influences tourist behavior and that there was a significant perceived difference between the tourist behaviors of the affected nationalities. Other researchers have also noted from their own structured observations, marked differences between the behavior of Japanese. American, Western European and Arab tourists.

whether their associates represent legitimate interests, since their accountability is often questioned.

Most national tourism organizations stress their operation on marketing and promotional matters, while neglecting the provision of strategic vision for the destination. They also fail to take measures to optimize the multiplier effects that may emerge if proper and interconnected networks integrating the entire economy are set up.

The operation of most regional and local tourism organizations in countries such as Spain, Portugal, France. etc., is based on administrative territories' rather than product -based territories'. Tourism organizations arc created in accordance with existing administrative borders set up for other purposes (e.g. town planning. environment. education, health. etc.).

However, it is becoming clear that tourism clusters often do not coincide with borders established for other administrative purposes, which means that collaboration between counties, regions, or even between countries is required. Rethinking the way in which tourist territories' are established is critical.

It is unquestionable that tourism planning has much to benefit it if it is designed and managed alongside other forms of planning. Tourism involves core business activities addressing tourist needs. However, infrastructure should also be used for improving the living standards of the local population and for stimulating regional development. The benefits of designing policies able to meet the demands of both tourists and residents are enormous, from an economic point of view (more users and thus more income is generated and therefore the multiplier effect is maximized), from a social perspective (forms of dual development and antagonism towards tourism ma be avoided) and also from a development point of view (investment is concentrated at spots and scale economics can be achieved).

While it is important to plan, especially regional, tourism planning alongside other forms of regional planning (town. health. environment, etc.). It must be said that at local level greater flexibility should he introduced, in order to allow businesses and organizations to organize themselves within economic, social and physical viable and sustainable clusters. While forms of strategic planning ought to be considered at regional level alongside regional planning, greater levels of freedom should he allowed at local level, because actors must organize themselves in viable clusters that depend very much on their own wishes and on their investment capacities.

There is evidence that this tendency is already emerging and gaining popularity worldwide. The Tourism Satellite Accounts developed by the WTO provide a great step forward in this area because, contrary to the fragmented demand-side definitions that have dominated tourism planning theory and practice over the last decades, they bring focus and clarification to what tourism businesses and activities are all about. The new supply-side definitions highlight that the core of the tourism activity comprehends seven main economic activities:


Food and beverage


Intermediaries, tour operators, travel agencies and tourist guides

Rent a car

Cultural service and

Leisure and recreation activities.

Hofstede and the Dimensions of National Cultures

Another scholar, Geert Hofstede, who took on the challenge of cross-cultural comparative study, argued that the comparison of leadership in different nations requires a theoretical framework. Hofstede insists that any comparison across nations of the values and attitudes related to leadership is in some way a comparison of apples to oranges. It is a fruitless effort, Hofstede remarks (extending the metaphor further), without the proper "fruitology. Hofstede initially developed his five dimensions of national cultures during a large research project into differences across managers in IBM's subsidiaries in 64 countries. Subsequent studies of students in 23 countries, elites in 19 countries, commercial airline pilots in 23 countries, up-market consumers in 15 countries, and civil service managers in 14 countries eventually refined these five dimensions. Eventually, Hofstede indexed many nations of the world on each of these dimensions.

Argument of Culture Dimension

The study of culture provides fascinating insights into the common elements as well as the variety of human experiences. The extensive research in this area provides rich data that invite one to make applications and generalizations. Several concerns suggest caution in doing so, however.

First, although one can generalize about a culture within certain geographic boundaries, we know there are different cultures within those boundaries as well. (Erez, 1994, 559)

as we pointed out earlier, talks about African American, Native American, and Latino cultures just within the United States. One might also look for variations within each of these three cultures and then, within those subcultures, discover even further distinctions. These cross-cultural studies thus illustrate the variety of cultures within a nation's boundaries. Eastern Europe, because of the number of ethnic groups within one nation's boundaries, provides a particularly salient example of why caution is needed when making generalizations. The problem is exacerbated when one moves from the national level to the clustered cultural level of analysis to find common cultural dimensions.

The second caution relates to the principle of ecological fallacy. This principle suggests that it would be an error to attribute to an individual member of a group the characteristics of the group. As a rule of thumb, the extremes within a group generally vary more than the average between groups. Thus, the tallest and shortest men and women would have a greater difference in heights than the difference between the average man and average woman. One cannot know beforehand that a specific, individual Latin American leader will avoid uncertainty less often than a specific, individual Canadian leader, whatever the profiles of their respective cultures might suggest.

The opposite also applies-one cannot make valid and accurate inferences about a whole group based on only one or two members. The sampling procedures and statistical analyses of the scholarship discussed here are intended to prevent these false or hasty generalizations. Nonetheless, discussions of culture and individuals invite the risk of stereotyping individuals because of their group and a group because of a few individuals. Culture might best be kept as a background factor used to understand a particular situation but not kept as prominent as to bias the perception of that situation.

Another concern stems from bias within the research. The respondents to Hofstede's and GLOBE's surveys were overwhelmingly managers in for-profit businesses. This research exemplifies the problem of applying generalizations from a particular group to people in other contexts-in this case, to those in politics and civic society. Within the latter contexts, as the chapters in this collection on globalization and post colonialism suggest, there may be very different views of leadership styles than in for-profit enterprises.

Another risk related to bias deals with identifying norms from one culture and applying them to another, and then distinguishing better versus worse practices. Some comparison inevitably results in cross-cultural studies. For example, in distinguishing high uncertainty avoidance as opposed to low uncertainty avoidance leadership styles, one inevitably compares the characteristics of one with another. Having given the characteristics of the first, one might then use terms such as "less" or "more." Low uncertainty avoidance leadership styles are "more informal" than high ones,

for example. Other comparisons may imply a preference and thus a deficit in one style. For example, low uncertainty avoidance leadership styles are "less concerned with orderliness and the maintenance of records," do not document the conclusions drawn in meetings, and "tend to be less calculating when taking risks" (House et al., 2004, p. 6). These measures, calibrated by the high avoidance of uncertainty dimension, describe the difference from a norm rather than the purposes those behaviors may serve. For example, it is not mentioned that to be less calculating when taking risks may reflect a greater willingness to accept the chance that conditions will change in ways beyond our ability to calculate.

Finally, and as every graduate student learns, correlation does not imply causation. Two events correlated at statistically significant levels may not have a cause and effect relationship. Ice cream sales may be correlated with drowning deaths, but they do not cause them; rather, both occur when the weather is warmer. Thus, correlating cultural dimensions with economic and human conditions does not imply that those dimensions cause the conditions. There may be many intervening variables that account for variation in both measures and for their direct and inverse relationships (see, for example, Chapter 26, "Social and Economic Development").


Efforts to construct dimensions of leadership, measure them within different nations, and then compare those measures nation by nation and by cultural clusters of nations offer a treasure of findings and new questions about the national distinctions of leadership concepts and practices. They provide a starting point to search for universally desired attributes of leadership amid cultural differences. On a much more practical level, these efforts provide a place to begin to understand the cultural variations of leadership and the cultural contexts that may influence individual leaders from different countries. That understanding, qualified by the cautions we have offered, may provide a necessary foundation for collaboration to achieve mutual objectives.