Cultural determinants of Japan and United States

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3rd May 2017 Management Reference this

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The purpose of this report is to explore the cultural determinants of both Japan and United States. The report elucidates the differences between the two countries in terms of leadership styles as influenced by their respective different cultures. The reason in selecting Japan as one of the research countries is because of its deep rooted strong cultural beliefs and group centered style in a business perspective. It is well known to the world that Japan is a closed economy but at the same time, extremely competitive. On the other hand, United States make a good contrast in terms of its open culture and individualistic style of doing business. Despite the differences, both are amongst the most competitive and successful nations in the world. The compromising Japanese and confrontational Americans do make this research journey an exciting and interesting one.

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Different cultures exist in the world and their impact on leadership styles in their respective countries is significant. As defined by Luthans and Doh (2009, p96), “Culture is the acquired knowledge that people use to interpret experience and generate social behaviour.” And culture is gained through transmissions between individuals in forms of symbols, rituals, languages, stories told and etc. It will be interesting to find out that the countries’ cultures do in fact influence their leadership styles to quite a great extent.

In this report, two entirely different cultures; Japan and United States will be explored in depth to provide a better understanding of their background. The seven determinants of culture in these two countries will be individually discussed as well. Leadership styles in these two countries will also be examined to establish a relationship with their respective cultures. In the later part of the report, an analysis on the cultural and leadership differences between Japan and United States will give the readers a clear outline of the contrasts which exist currently.

2. Overview of Theories

2.1 Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions

Geert Hofstede developed five dimensions of national culture. He had specifically examined the role of national culture in work related values and information system design (Hofstede, 1980). National culture can be defined as a collection of relatively uniform and enduring values, beliefs, customs, practices and traditions that are shared by a country’s members, learned by new members and transmitted from one to the next (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001).

According to Hofstede (1984), culture is a kind of mental programming that lies between human nature on one side and personality on the other. Through the completion of his study in 1980, it was found that the differences between cultures can be understood by the following four distinctive dimensions:

Power Distance

Individualism Vs Collectivism

Uncertainty Avoidance

Masculinity Vs Femininity

Power Distance

It is the extent to which people expect and accept unequal power distribution. These people are usually the ones with less power and control. Countries can be referred to as either having ‘High power distance’ or ‘Low power distance’. The former has a tall and centralised structure, instructions and orders (from superiors) are obeyed without queries or rather, heedlessly. The latter, on the other hand, has a flat and decentralised structure. Superiors give lots of respect and trust to subordinates.

Individualism vs. Collectivism

In an individualistic culture, people look after themselves and are more self-centred. The ties between people are not strong as each person is focused on their own goals. This type of culture is mostly found in western countries.

In a collectivist culture, great emphasis is placed on groups. It is more of a “We” culture instead of “I”. This type of culture can be described as harmonious and there is almost zero confrontation in times of conflict. As opposed to the individualistic culture, collectivist is more common in Asian countries.

Uncertainty Avoidance

It is the preference of a society for unambiguous and risk free situations. In a high uncertainty avoidance country, there are more regulations and policies to adhere to and they tend to reduce risk to the minimum. Whereas in a low uncertainty avoidance country, people are tend to push boundaries and are more daring to take risks.

Masculinity vs. Femininity

In simple terms, when a society’s most important social values are associated with money and success, it is said to be highly masculine. It is highly stressful to be working in such environments. Feminine societies, in contrast, believe in quality of life and helping others over anything else.

2.2 Leadership in the International Context

Leadership is the process of influencing people to direct their efforts toward achievement of organization goals. A good leader takes ownership over projects, while simultaneously empowering everyone in his or her team to contribute according to their key strengths. They are accountable for any mistakes made, but ensure each is a learning experience for everyone, and capable of drawing their own intuitive conclusions on the progress or outcome of a project, or foresee any roadblocks which may arise. Initiative is another key leadership trait. Successful leaders jump to their feet and run the extra mile to exceed expectations.

They are two comparative areas provide a foundation for understanding leadership in the international:

1) the philosophical grounding of how leaders view their subordinates and

2) leadership approaches as reflected through use of autocratic-participative

characteristics and behaviours of leaders.

Douglas McGregor, an American social psychologist, proposed his famous X-Y theory in his 1960 book ‘The Human Side Of Enterprise’. The specific philosophical assumptions of Theory X leaders are humans inherently dislike working and will try to avoid it if they can. Because people dislike work they have to be coerced or controlled by management and threatened so they work hard enough. Average employees want to be directed and don’t like responsibility. Average humans are clear and unambiguous and need security at work. Theory X leaders conducive to large scale efficient operations and apply to mass manufacturing – Production Workers. This classify as Authoritarian, a hard management style.

The specific philosophical assumptions of Theory Y leaders described people view work as being as natural as play and rest. Humans expend the same amount of physical and mental effort in their work as in their private lives. Provided people are motivated, they will be self-directing to the aims of the organization. Control and punishment are not the only mechanisms to make people work. Job satisfaction is the key to engaging employees and ensuring their commitment. People learn to accept and seek responsibility. Average humans, under the proper conditions, will not only accept but even naturally seek responsibility. People are imaginative and creative. Their ingenuity should be used to solve problems at work. This apply to professional services workers for participative complex problem solving. This classify as Participative, a soft management style.

McGregor sees Theory Y as the preferable model and management method, however he felt Theory Y was difficult to use in large-scale operations.

In 1981, William Ouchi came up with a variant that combined American and Japanese management practices together to form Theory Z, Theory Z essentially advocates a combination of all that’s best about theory Y and modern Japanese management, which places a large amount of freedom and trust with workers, and assumes that workers have a strong loyalty and interest in team-working and the organisation.

Authoritarian Leadership (Autocratic) leaders provide clear expectations for what are need to be done, when it should be done, and how it should be done. There is also a clear division between the leaders and the followers. Some of the appropriate conditions are to be use when you have all the information to solve the problem, you are short on time, and your employees are well motivated.

Participative Leadership (Democratic) leaders offer guidance to group members, but they also participate in the group and allow input from other group members. Participative leaders encourage group members to participate, but retain the final say over the decision-making process. Group members feel engaged in the process and are more motivated and creative.

Delegative (Laissez-Faire) leaders offer little or no guidance to group members and leave decision-making up to group members. While this style can be effective in situations where group members are highly qualified in an area of expertise, it often leads to poorly defined roles and a lack of motivation.

3. Overview of Japan

Japan is an industrialised, and one of the most efficient countries in Asia, in terms of its economy and trades. Due to the limitation of natural resources, Japan has turned to international trades for its constant supplies. The people of Japan are well educated and worldly known as extremely well mannered. Japan has strived to achieve and maintain very high health standards surpassing many other countries in the world, with its life expectancy rate exceeding that of the United States. (US Department of State, 2010)

3.1 Determinants of Japanese Culture

The ancient Japanese culture has cast a massive impression on many people over centuries for being one of the most homogeneous countries in the world. Traditional, indirect, seniority based, collectivist, are some of the various terms associated with the Japanese. Their national culture is so strongly rooted that till this day, it is one of the very few countries in the world which ‘operates’ in a total different and unique way with traditional customs and feudal values, and still clinging firm to them. It surely has left many people wondering and pondering, having in mind that globalisation and internationalisation is so common these days. The below are some determinants of the Japanese culture which is worth to understand.

Existing Feudal Values

Founded in 600 B.C and having its roots in Buddhism and Confucianism, the Japanese believes in tall hierarchical structures with strong importance placed on seniority, respect, loyalty and family. One of the feudal values is the unequal treatment of women. Women are regarded as low status in the highly masculine society of Japan. However, there are researches which shows that there has been some change to that, women are slowly paving their way up and even successful in their careers. (Bucknall, 2005)

Interesting to know from Bucknall’s (2005, p16) study is that the Japanese culture has a “strong central core” which sees things as being either right or totally wrong, nothing in between. To the Japanese, losing is unacceptable and disgraceful because losing is just ‘totally wrong’. Hence, since the ancient Japan, they have regarded themselves as being a highly superior cast of people who just cannot lose to anyone, to ‘Conquer’ is what they aim to achieve. (Recall World War II)

Another ancient value of the Japanese is that the seniors (in terms of age), are treated with reverence. The young people could only patiently wait for their turns for promotions. No way could they rise fast in an organisation even though they are out-performing or outstanding.

Religion

According to Lee and Trim (2008), the Japanese adopted Buddhism and then merged it with Shintoism. It led to the ability of the rulers of Japan to develop government ceremonies in accordance with Shinto rituals. (Osumi, 1992) Buddhism teachings emphasise on doing the right actions and making right decisions. It also involves three elements; mental culture, wisdom and morality. (Lee and Trim, 1999)

Besides the above, the Japanese have also been deeply influenced by Confucian thought. (Mei, 1967) Confucianism focuses on 4 main elements; benevolence, wisdom, righteousness and decorum.

It is important for foreigners to note that religion in Japan has played a crucial part in shaping their national identity. Buddhism and Shintoism intertwined, evolving their central government system. Hence, understanding religions of Japan would be highly recommended and should not be regarded lightly.

Social Structure

A study by Levy, (1992) showed that there are six social classes which can be distinguished in modern Japan. They are namely;

The Imperial Family

Consists of the Emperor and his relatives (“Sacred objects” mentioned by Levy, 1992, p3), unlike the King and royal family in England, the Japanese Emperor holds a symbolic position in Japan’s social system and extremely significant.

Nobility

Consists of descendents of the Kuge, Samurais, Dukes and counts. (Nobilities in ancient Japan). Highly respected group in Japan.

Upper Middle Class

Consists of people who are not necessarily descendents of any nobility, but have high status in modern Japan. i.e Directors of large corporations, high ranking civil servants, etc.

Lower Middle Class

They are the normal working class people in modern Japan. Most of the people fall under this category.

Industrial Proletariat

They are the blue collared workers.

Peasants

The rest of the population with lower than average income.

Political Philosophy

There are seven political parties in Japan, namely Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the People’s New Party (PNP), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the New Clean Government Party (Komeito), the Japan Communist Party (JCP), and Your Party (YP). Japan is a “constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government” (US Department of State, 2010).

Economy

Japan is the second largest free-market economy in the world following United States. (US Department of State, 2010) It has a highly competitive and efficient economy with few natural resources. The wages in Japan are the highest in the world (EconomyWatch, 2010), but fact that the living conditions/standards are extremely high has to be considered as well.

Language

Almost all Japanese people converse and use Japanese as a business language. Even though they know English, they would be too shy to speak in that. Silence would be the answers in the case of dealing with foreigners. It may seem strange to many foreigners, but this is the typical behaviour of many Japanese people. Very restricted use of English (despite being an international language) would be seen in most business meetings, limited to simply “Good mornings” and “Good Byes”. They do not show willingness to converse to foreigners in another language other than Japanese, perhaps due to their extreme shyness.

Education

As mentioned earlier, Japanese are a group of homogeneous people. As such, their education system is highly uniformed. Hence, it can be perceived that almost all Japanese share the same ideas and beliefs. In Japan, all children are taught the same things in school, freedom to customise the curriculum is near impossible as the Ministry of Education in Japan closely supervises the education system.

The Japanese government places significant importance in the education system. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan introduced five policies in January 2002 to improve the quality of education system. One of which is to increase the number of teaching personnel so as to achieve smaller teaching groups for more focus on each student.

3.2 Leadership style and relationship to Culture in Japan

Japanese leadership style is unique and differs from the convention X-Y theory proposed by Douglas McGregor. In 1981, William Ouchi came up with a variant theory Z which is essentially a combination of Theory Y and Japanese management.

Buddhism has been around since Japan feudal era, practices by samurais and bushi (warrior) as Zen Buddhism. When the samurai class unified the country under the leadership of shogun Tokugawa Leyasu in the Edo period (1600-1868), the sects encouraged values of hard work and patience according to their Buddhism teachings.

Today, Buddhism is the most popular religion in Japan with some 85% of the population professing the faith.This forms the hardworking culture of Japanese and shapes the foundations of their leadership behaviour.

Most Japanese managers believe that their employees are hard-working and are self-motivated by teamwork, that they want to share responsibility for attaining group goals and therefore seek participation in management process.

Due to the participative approach of employees, Japanese managers use a blend of both task-centered and people-centered approach to lead subordinates. Both leaders and subordinates are motivated by a powerful sense of commitment to be a part of a greater whole. This is contributed by the social structure and educational system of Japan.

The social structure hierarchy of Japan which consist of the Royal family down to the peasants and their strong sense of loyalty due to their Shinto teachings resulted in the Japanese believe that they are part of a greater whole, in country context Japan as a whole.

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Japan has one of the most successful and renowned education system. In recent years, there is a rise in higher education of Japanese in both private and government sector. Thorough its education system, it has reach attain a 99% literacy population. It has the highest literacy rates in Asia.

Most

Under theory Z leaders, Japanese employees seek out responsibility and strive for opportunities to advance in organisations. They work towards the goal to be in the upper middle class of their social structure.

Japanese leaders believe that the employees are self-satisfied when they contribute to organisational success through teamwork. In return for their organisation’s long-term commitment to providing job security (often for life), workers develop strong bonds of loyalty towards their employer.

Communication Flows

As theory Z

Seniority Leadership

Due to the Japanese Feudal value, Japanese leaders are mostly base on their seniority. Evaluation of work and promotion is very slow and promotions are not base on individual performance. Seniority and age are much more important factors in Japan.

Because of their emphasis on seniority, some of the major organisations in Japan are still family owned. They are managed and passed down to the Head of the family, usually the Male eldest of the descendants instead of the most capable of the family.

The concept of family owned business may not work out on many other countries with different culture but miraculously organisations that are family owned showed great performance results.

It is recognized in Japan to decide the heir of the business base on seniority and it is right that all others of the family must obey all instruction that the head has pass down to them. Any subjugation towards the family head will be deemed as wrong and will not be accepted by the Japanese society. This is also due to the Japanese National Religion of Shinto. They are loyal to their familiar way of life and places, therefore able to maintain their practice.

Guideline: Leadership style should relate to culture determinants in 3.1. To show how the culture had influenced the kind of leadership style in Japan

3.3 Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions – in the Japanese context

Power Distance

Japan has a score of 54 on power-distance index (PDI) and a ranking of 44 out of 69 countries (Refer to Appendix 1). Japan is considered as a high power distance although the score is slightly below the world average of 55. Having a high power distance index, this will influence the leadership style of Japan. According to Hofstede, G. et al (2010), in high power distance circumstances; subordinate acknowledges the existence of inequity. Thus, hierarchical system was the result of it. With a centralized and tall structure, the power is not evenly distributed and mainly control by the people from the top management (mostly seniors).

Hofstede, G. et al (2010) suggested that it is essential for management to identify the strength of local culture and make use of it to complete certain tasks. Japanese leader would delegate tasks which require subordinate’s discipline in order to get the work done in an orderly manner. Tasks would be completed with less conflict and disputes as subordinates would normally do what they are instructed to do. However, this would result in no or minimal initiative by the Japanese subordinates at work.

Individualism Vs Collectivism

Japan has a score of 46 on Individualism Index (IDV) and a ranking of 31-33 out of 69 countries (Refer to Appendix 1). The Individualism score for Japan is slightly above the world average of 43. However, Japan belongs to the group of collectivism. This is because Japan has the tendency to handle stuffs based on the relationship and believe that they have responsibility to one another. Hofstede, G. et al (2010, p120) stated that “Poor performance of an employee in this relationship is no reason for dismissal: one does not dismiss one’s child.” Therefore, Japanese leaders would first establish a relationship and some form of trust instead of demanding work to be done.

Hofstede, G. et al (2010) stated that collectivist individual has a one of the culture norm with strong concept of “face” where one should not embarrass another. Thus, Japanese leaders would need to opt for a correct method to disseminate the negative news instead of criticise and give negative feedback openly. Furthermore, under collectivist society, collectivist individual tends to perform the best in group and badly on individual basis. Therefore, Japanese leaders would tend to allocate more group works to their subordinates. However, when a group of employees completed their work, rewards should be given to the group as a whole and not individual.

Uncertainty Avoidance

Japan has a score of 92 on Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) and a ranking of 10-11 out of 69 countries (Refer to Appendix 1). Japan has a considerably high Uncertainty Avoidance Index. According to Hofstede, G. et al (2010, p213), “Britain has produced more noble Prize winners than Japan, but Japan has put more new products on the world market.” Japanese prefer to develop ideas which are established rather than to move ahead to supply new ideas. Furthermore, they have a systematic way to get things done which is good as this lead to actual products being produced.

According to Luthan and Doh (2009), high uncertainty avoidance also implies that subordinates are less ambitious. They have low risk appetite and because of this there is an emotional need to create rules. However, not all the rules work. Therefore, leader would have to find ways to lead and motivate their subordinates to achieve excellent result.

Masculinity Vs Femininity

Japan has a score of 95 on Masculinity Index (MAS) and a ranking of 2 out of 69 countries (Refer to Appendix 1). Japan has the second highest Masculinity Index. Therefore, Japan emphasises the importance of having the main values which are associated with money and success. According to Hofstede, G. et al (2010), work goals such as earnings, recognition, advancement and challenge are deemed to play an important role.

After identifying Japanese having a high masculine culture and background of what they want to achieve, leaders can based on the criteria and lead the team effectively. The main items that Japanese are seeking for is money and success. Therefore, leaders should provide opportunities and encourage high performance from their Japanese subordinates in order for them to achieve their goals. Leaders should also note that incentives and rewards are based on equity and not equality.

4. Overview of USA

The United States of America, one of the world’s largest developed countries located between the North Atlantic Ocean and North Pacific Ocean. USA is highly abundant with natural resources, providing the world with its largest coal reserves. Apart from the lands and resources, USA is also considered having the world’s strongest and leading technological economy.

Being one of the developed countries, USA is currently facing environmental issues like air, land and sea pollution cause by factories, mines and other industrial developments (The World Factbook, 2010).

4.1 Determinants of US Culture

USA, the largest economy, deals massive trades among the rest of the world. Studying the culture norms and values of would be important to businessman and entrepreneur that are boarding the shore of the US economy. American possess a strong believe in the concept of equality. Each individual should have equal rights, equal employment opportunity and equal social obligation no matter which ethnic or gender the individual belongs to.

Individualism, direct, high uncertainties are some values that are tagged to American by numerous studies. Somehow these values have its roots related to the culture of the country.

Religion

Although USA has a wide diversity of ethnics namely the North American, South American, Alaska native, Hawaiian native, Asian and others races; Christianity still remains as their largest form of religious belief.

Among the Christian, Protestant (including Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian) outnumber the Roman Catholic with 51.3% of the total population and the later 23.9%. Followed by Jewish, Islamic, Muslim and others reported by World Factbook (2010).

Social Structure

In USA, most American would believe that there is equal opportunity and economic mobility and social classes does not exist. Moreover, Dennis Gilbert (1998) did defined USA social structure into 6 different classes;

Capitalist Class – American upper class

These are the minute top notch individual that has high influence in the economy of USA, example Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

Upper Middle Class

These are highly educated professional that has a high annual household income, example Lawyers, professor, and dentist.

Middle Class

These are college graduates that are employed for white collar position in an organization, examples managerial position.

Lower Middle Class

These usually consist of blue collar workers or those performing clerical position.

Lower Class

These refer to the working individual that draws minimal annual household income, example farmers.

Under Class

These refer to individual that are unemployed.

Political Philosophy

A national government with 50 states government, USA is considered as a federal republic country. Democrats and Republicans are 2 major parties dominating the political systems of USA. The government can be divided into three different branches.

The government is headed by the “Executive” branch which comprises of the president and its appointed cabinet. Each state has a different government constitution, the “Legislative” branch consist of Senate from each state and its House of Representatives. Each state have two Senates elect by the citizen of the state. Senates will need to be re-elect after six years of service

Lastly the “Judiciary” branch is headed by the US Supreme Court. This is the highest court that reviews and maintains the interpretative of the whole nation’s constitution (USA Country Brief, 2006).

Economy

USA has the largest and most important market in the world (EconomyWatch (2010). Even though it is the largest economy, government have much regulation protecting certain home-grown sectors. Two thirds of US economy is highly driven by its own consumer and therefore US economy can also be regard as “Consumer Economy”.

According to World FactBook (2010), USA GDP rose to about 14 trillion in end of 2009. It is about 3 times as higher than the next largest economy, which is Japan. Despite of that, USA have also top the chart for its private and public debts owned. This could be possibly due to the economic depression in 2008 where there is an acute rose of oil prices putting the country in a state of inflation with high unemployment rate.

In 2009, USA government borrowed billions to purchases equity from banks and Industrial Corporation, in order to perform additional injection to the economy for jobs creation and stabilizing the global economic downturn.

Language

There is actually no official language stated by Law in USA, English and Spanish are 2 most common languages. In addition, English is the language use in legislation and a main form of business communication. Hawaiian is the official state language for Hawaii (Grimes, 2000).

Communication style of an American can sometimes be regarded as straight forward and aggressive. Going around the bush in meetings or discussion is considered time wasting. American has its own style of name format which is different from Asian, they would address “First Name” (given name) followed by “Last Name” (family name) as in “Julia Roberts” where “Roberts” is the family name and “Julia” is the given name. Whereas for Asian, we would address “Last Name” (family name) followed by “First Name” (given name).

Politeness is highly valued in USA. When meeting someone for the first time, it is always polite to address them with a salutation of “Mr”, “Miss”, “Madam” or Dr. “Please” and “Thank You” are two most common words heard in a conversation with American.

Education

Slight differences can be spotted in the education system in different states but generally they are still common. For most children in USA, education starts at an earlier age of 5 and graduated from high school at the age of 17.

Parents can choose to send their kids to public schools which are funded by public tax; these would be the common choice for most US citizen. In another hand, if the parents thinks that the public education systems does not suit their kids, they can still send them to private schools owned by churches, individuals and private groups (WorldWidelearn, 2010)

4.2 Leadership style and relationship to Culture in United States

Guideline: Leadership style should relate to culture determinants in 4.1. To show how the culture had influenced the kind of leadership style in United States

The U.S. is one of the most religious of all the large nations of the world. Gallup International reports that 57 percent of American citizens regularly attend religious services. Politicians frequently discuss their religion when campaigning, and many churches and religious figures are highly politically active.

Most American religious take concrete form as congregational voluntary associations. They provide their members with multiple and continuous opportunities to observe, learn and practice the skills of community life and leadership.

By doing so, religious members are exposed to have chance to acquire and practice a series of useful capacities and skills. These include group decision making, raising and budgeting funds, leading discussion, mobilization consens

The purpose of this report is to explore the cultural determinants of both Japan and United States. The report elucidates the differences between the two countries in terms of leadership styles as influenced by their respective different cultures. The reason in selecting Japan as one of the research countries is because of its deep rooted strong cultural beliefs and group centered style in a business perspective. It is well known to the world that Japan is a closed economy but at the same time, extremely competitive. On the other hand, United States make a good contrast in terms of its open culture and individualistic style of doing business. Despite the differences, both are amongst the most competitive and successful nations in the world. The compromising Japanese and confrontational Americans do make this research journey an exciting and interesting one.

Different cultures exist in the world and their impact on leadership styles in their respective countries is significant. As defined by Luthans and Doh (2009, p96), “Culture is the acquired knowledge that people use to interpret experience and generate social behaviour.” And culture is gained through transmissions between individuals in forms of symbols, rituals, languages, stories told and etc. It will be interesting to find out that the countries’ cultures do in fact influence their leadership styles to quite a great extent.

In this report, two entirely different cultures; Japan and United States will be explored in depth to provide a better understanding of their background. The seven determinants of culture in these two countries will be individually discussed as well. Leadership styles in these two countries will also be examined to establish a relationship with their respective cultures. In the later part of the report, an analysis on the cultural and leadership differences between Japan and United States will give the readers a clear outline of the contrasts which exist currently.

2. Overview of Theories

2.1 Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions

Geert Hofstede developed five dimensions of national culture. He had specifically examined the role of national culture in work related values and information system design (Hofstede, 1980). National culture can be defined as a collection of relatively uniform and enduring values, beliefs, customs, practices and traditions that are shared by a country’s members, learned by new members and transmitted from one to the next (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001).

According to Hofstede (1984), culture is a kind of mental programming that lies between human nature on one side and personality on the other. Through the completion of his study in 1980, it was found that the differences between cultures can be understood by the following four distinctive dimensions:

Power Distance

Individualism Vs Collectivism

Uncertainty Avoidance

Masculinity Vs Femininity

Power Distance

It is the extent to which people expect and accept unequal power distribution. These people are usually the ones with less power and control. Countries can be referred to as either having ‘High power distance’ or ‘Low power distance’. The former has a tall and centralised structure, instructions and orders (from superiors) are obeyed without queries or rather, heedlessly. The latter, on the other hand, has a flat and decentralised structure. Superiors give lots of respect and trust to subordinates.

Individualism vs. Collectivism

In an individualistic culture, people look after themselves and are more self-centred. The ties between people are not strong as each person is focused on their own goals. This type of culture is mostly found in western countries.

In a collectivist culture, great emphasis is placed on groups. It is more of a “We” culture instead of “I”. This type of culture can be described as harmonious and there is almost zero confrontation in times of conflict. As opposed to the individualistic culture, collectivist is more common in Asian countries.

Uncertainty Avoidance

It is the preference of a society for unambiguous and risk free situations. In a high uncertainty avoidance country, there are more regulations and policies to adhere to and they tend to reduce risk to the minimum. Whereas in a low uncertainty avoidance country, people are tend to push boundaries and are more daring to take risks.

Masculinity vs. Femininity

In simple terms, when a society’s most important social values are associated with money and success, it is said to be highly masculine. It is highly stressful to be working in such environments. Feminine societies, in contrast, believe in quality of life and helping others over anything else.

2.2 Leadership in the International Context

Leadership is the process of influencing people to direct their efforts toward achievement of organization goals. A good leader takes ownership over projects, while simultaneously empowering everyone in his or her team to contribute according to their key strengths. They are accountable for any mistakes made, but ensure each is a learning experience for everyone, and capable of drawing their own intuitive conclusions on the progress or outcome of a project, or foresee any roadblocks which may arise. Initiative is another key leadership trait. Successful leaders jump to their feet and run the extra mile to exceed expectations.

They are two comparative areas provide a foundation for understanding leadership in the international:

1) the philosophical grounding of how leaders view their subordinates and

2) leadership approaches as reflected through use of autocratic-participative

characteristics and behaviours of leaders.

Douglas McGregor, an American social psychologist, proposed his famous X-Y theory in his 1960 book ‘The Human Side Of Enterprise’. The specific philosophical assumptions of Theory X leaders are humans inherently dislike working and will try to avoid it if they can. Because people dislike work they have to be coerced or controlled by management and threatened so they work hard enough. Average employees want to be directed and don’t like responsibility. Average humans are clear and unambiguous and need security at work. Theory X leaders conducive to large scale efficient operations and apply to mass manufacturing – Production Workers. This classify as Authoritarian, a hard management style.

The specific philosophical assumptions of Theory Y leaders described people view work as being as natural as play and rest. Humans expend the same amount of physical and mental effort in their work as in their private lives. Provided people are motivated, they will be self-directing to the aims of the organization. Control and punishment are not the only mechanisms to make people work. Job satisfaction is the key to engaging employees and ensuring their commitment. People learn to accept and seek responsibility. Average humans, under the proper conditions, will not only accept but even naturally seek responsibility. People are imaginative and creative. Their ingenuity should be used to solve problems at work. This apply to professional services workers for participative complex problem solving. This classify as Participative, a soft management style.

McGregor sees Theory Y as the preferable model and management method, however he felt Theory Y was difficult to use in large-scale operations.

In 1981, William Ouchi came up with a variant that combined American and Japanese management practices together to form Theory Z, Theory Z essentially advocates a combination of all that’s best about theory Y and modern Japanese management, which places a large amount of freedom and trust with workers, and assumes that workers have a strong loyalty and interest in team-working and the organisation.

Authoritarian Leadership (Autocratic) leaders provide clear expectations for what are need to be done, when it should be done, and how it should be done. There is also a clear division between the leaders and the followers. Some of the appropriate conditions are to be use when you have all the information to solve the problem, you are short on time, and your employees are well motivated.

Participative Leadership (Democratic) leaders offer guidance to group members, but they also participate in the group and allow input from other group members. Participative leaders encourage group members to participate, but retain the final say over the decision-making process. Group members feel engaged in the process and are more motivated and creative.

Delegative (Laissez-Faire) leaders offer little or no guidance to group members and leave decision-making up to group members. While this style can be effective in situations where group members are highly qualified in an area of expertise, it often leads to poorly defined roles and a lack of motivation.

3. Overview of Japan

Japan is an industrialised, and one of the most efficient countries in Asia, in terms of its economy and trades. Due to the limitation of natural resources, Japan has turned to international trades for its constant supplies. The people of Japan are well educated and worldly known as extremely well mannered. Japan has strived to achieve and maintain very high health standards surpassing many other countries in the world, with its life expectancy rate exceeding that of the United States. (US Department of State, 2010)

3.1 Determinants of Japanese Culture

The ancient Japanese culture has cast a massive impression on many people over centuries for being one of the most homogeneous countries in the world. Traditional, indirect, seniority based, collectivist, are some of the various terms associated with the Japanese. Their national culture is so strongly rooted that till this day, it is one of the very few countries in the world which ‘operates’ in a total different and unique way with traditional customs and feudal values, and still clinging firm to them. It surely has left many people wondering and pondering, having in mind that globalisation and internationalisation is so common these days. The below are some determinants of the Japanese culture which is worth to understand.

Existing Feudal Values

Founded in 600 B.C and having its roots in Buddhism and Confucianism, the Japanese believes in tall hierarchical structures with strong importance placed on seniority, respect, loyalty and family. One of the feudal values is the unequal treatment of women. Women are regarded as low status in the highly masculine society of Japan. However, there are researches which shows that there has been some change to that, women are slowly paving their way up and even successful in their careers. (Bucknall, 2005)

Interesting to know from Bucknall’s (2005, p16) study is that the Japanese culture has a “strong central core” which sees things as being either right or totally wrong, nothing in between. To the Japanese, losing is unacceptable and disgraceful because losing is just ‘totally wrong’. Hence, since the ancient Japan, they have regarded themselves as being a highly superior cast of people who just cannot lose to anyone, to ‘Conquer’ is what they aim to achieve. (Recall World War II)

Another ancient value of the Japanese is that the seniors (in terms of age), are treated with reverence. The young people could only patiently wait for their turns for promotions. No way could they rise fast in an organisation even though they are out-performing or outstanding.

Religion

According to Lee and Trim (2008), the Japanese adopted Buddhism and then merged it with Shintoism. It led to the ability of the rulers of Japan to develop government ceremonies in accordance with Shinto rituals. (Osumi, 1992) Buddhism teachings emphasise on doing the right actions and making right decisions. It also involves three elements; mental culture, wisdom and morality. (Lee and Trim, 1999)

Besides the above, the Japanese have also been deeply influenced by Confucian thought. (Mei, 1967) Confucianism focuses on 4 main elements; benevolence, wisdom, righteousness and decorum.

It is important for foreigners to note that religion in Japan has played a crucial part in shaping their national identity. Buddhism and Shintoism intertwined, evolving their central government system. Hence, understanding religions of Japan would be highly recommended and should not be regarded lightly.

Social Structure

A study by Levy, (1992) showed that there are six social classes which can be distinguished in modern Japan. They are namely;

The Imperial Family

Consists of the Emperor and his relatives (“Sacred objects” mentioned by Levy, 1992, p3), unlike the King and royal family in England, the Japanese Emperor holds a symbolic position in Japan’s social system and extremely significant.

Nobility

Consists of descendents of the Kuge, Samurais, Dukes and counts. (Nobilities in ancient Japan). Highly respected group in Japan.

Upper Middle Class

Consists of people who are not necessarily descendents of any nobility, but have high status in modern Japan. i.e Directors of large corporations, high ranking civil servants, etc.

Lower Middle Class

They are the normal working class people in modern Japan. Most of the people fall under this category.

Industrial Proletariat

They are the blue collared workers.

Peasants

The rest of the population with lower than average income.

Political Philosophy

There are seven political parties in Japan, namely Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the People’s New Party (PNP), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the New Clean Government Party (Komeito), the Japan Communist Party (JCP), and Your Party (YP). Japan is a “constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government” (US Department of State, 2010).

Economy

Japan is the second largest free-market economy in the world following United States. (US Department of State, 2010) It has a highly competitive and efficient economy with few natural resources. The wages in Japan are the highest in the world (EconomyWatch, 2010), but fact that the living conditions/standards are extremely high has to be considered as well.

Language

Almost all Japanese people converse and use Japanese as a business language. Even though they know English, they would be too shy to speak in that. Silence would be the answers in the case of dealing with foreigners. It may seem strange to many foreigners, but this is the typical behaviour of many Japanese people. Very restricted use of English (despite being an international language) would be seen in most business meetings, limited to simply “Good mornings” and “Good Byes”. They do not show willingness to converse to foreigners in another language other than Japanese, perhaps due to their extreme shyness.

Education

As mentioned earlier, Japanese are a group of homogeneous people. As such, their education system is highly uniformed. Hence, it can be perceived that almost all Japanese share the same ideas and beliefs. In Japan, all children are taught the same things in school, freedom to customise the curriculum is near impossible as the Ministry of Education in Japan closely supervises the education system.

The Japanese government places significant importance in the education system. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan introduced five policies in January 2002 to improve the quality of education system. One of which is to increase the number of teaching personnel so as to achieve smaller teaching groups for more focus on each student.

3.2 Leadership style and relationship to Culture in Japan

Japanese leadership style is unique and differs from the convention X-Y theory proposed by Douglas McGregor. In 1981, William Ouchi came up with a variant theory Z which is essentially a combination of Theory Y and Japanese management.

Buddhism has been around since Japan feudal era, practices by samurais and bushi (warrior) as Zen Buddhism. When the samurai class unified the country under the leadership of shogun Tokugawa Leyasu in the Edo period (1600-1868), the sects encouraged values of hard work and patience according to their Buddhism teachings.

Today, Buddhism is the most popular religion in Japan with some 85% of the population professing the faith.This forms the hardworking culture of Japanese and shapes the foundations of their leadership behaviour.

Most Japanese managers believe that their employees are hard-working and are self-motivated by teamwork, that they want to share responsibility for attaining group goals and therefore seek participation in management process.

Due to the participative approach of employees, Japanese managers use a blend of both task-centered and people-centered approach to lead subordinates. Both leaders and subordinates are motivated by a powerful sense of commitment to be a part of a greater whole. This is contributed by the social structure and educational system of Japan.

The social structure hierarchy of Japan which consist of the Royal family down to the peasants and their strong sense of loyalty due to their Shinto teachings resulted in the Japanese believe that they are part of a greater whole, in country context Japan as a whole.

Japan has one of the most successful and renowned education system. In recent years, there is a rise in higher education of Japanese in both private and government sector. Thorough its education system, it has reach attain a 99% literacy population. It has the highest literacy rates in Asia.

Most

Under theory Z leaders, Japanese employees seek out responsibility and strive for opportunities to advance in organisations. They work towards the goal to be in the upper middle class of their social structure.

Japanese leaders believe that the employees are self-satisfied when they contribute to organisational success through teamwork. In return for their organisation’s long-term commitment to providing job security (often for life), workers develop strong bonds of loyalty towards their employer.

Communication Flows

As theory Z

Seniority Leadership

Due to the Japanese Feudal value, Japanese leaders are mostly base on their seniority. Evaluation of work and promotion is very slow and promotions are not base on individual performance. Seniority and age are much more important factors in Japan.

Because of their emphasis on seniority, some of the major organisations in Japan are still family owned. They are managed and passed down to the Head of the family, usually the Male eldest of the descendants instead of the most capable of the family.

The concept of family owned business may not work out on many other countries with different culture but miraculously organisations that are family owned showed great performance results.

It is recognized in Japan to decide the heir of the business base on seniority and it is right that all others of the family must obey all instruction that the head has pass down to them. Any subjugation towards the family head will be deemed as wrong and will not be accepted by the Japanese society. This is also due to the Japanese National Religion of Shinto. They are loyal to their familiar way of life and places, therefore able to maintain their practice.

Guideline: Leadership style should relate to culture determinants in 3.1. To show how the culture had influenced the kind of leadership style in Japan

3.3 Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions – in the Japanese context

Power Distance

Japan has a score of 54 on power-distance index (PDI) and a ranking of 44 out of 69 countries (Refer to Appendix 1). Japan is considered as a high power distance although the score is slightly below the world average of 55. Having a high power distance index, this will influence the leadership style of Japan. According to Hofstede, G. et al (2010), in high power distance circumstances; subordinate acknowledges the existence of inequity. Thus, hierarchical system was the result of it. With a centralized and tall structure, the power is not evenly distributed and mainly control by the people from the top management (mostly seniors).

Hofstede, G. et al (2010) suggested that it is essential for management to identify the strength of local culture and make use of it to complete certain tasks. Japanese leader would delegate tasks which require subordinate’s discipline in order to get the work done in an orderly manner. Tasks would be completed with less conflict and disputes as subordinates would normally do what they are instructed to do. However, this would result in no or minimal initiative by the Japanese subordinates at work.

Individualism Vs Collectivism

Japan has a score of 46 on Individualism Index (IDV) and a ranking of 31-33 out of 69 countries (Refer to Appendix 1). The Individualism score for Japan is slightly above the world average of 43. However, Japan belongs to the group of collectivism. This is because Japan has the tendency to handle stuffs based on the relationship and believe that they have responsibility to one another. Hofstede, G. et al (2010, p120) stated that “Poor performance of an employee in this relationship is no reason for dismissal: one does not dismiss one’s child.” Therefore, Japanese leaders would first establish a relationship and some form of trust instead of demanding work to be done.

Hofstede, G. et al (2010) stated that collectivist individual has a one of the culture norm with strong concept of “face” where one should not embarrass another. Thus, Japanese leaders would need to opt for a correct method to disseminate the negative news instead of criticise and give negative feedback openly. Furthermore, under collectivist society, collectivist individual tends to perform the best in group and badly on individual basis. Therefore, Japanese leaders would tend to allocate more group works to their subordinates. However, when a group of employees completed their work, rewards should be given to the group as a whole and not individual.

Uncertainty Avoidance

Japan has a score of 92 on Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) and a ranking of 10-11 out of 69 countries (Refer to Appendix 1). Japan has a considerably high Uncertainty Avoidance Index. According to Hofstede, G. et al (2010, p213), “Britain has produced more noble Prize winners than Japan, but Japan has put more new products on the world market.” Japanese prefer to develop ideas which are established rather than to move ahead to supply new ideas. Furthermore, they have a systematic way to get things done which is good as this lead to actual products being produced.

According to Luthan and Doh (2009), high uncertainty avoidance also implies that subordinates are less ambitious. They have low risk appetite and because of this there is an emotional need to create rules. However, not all the rules work. Therefore, leader would have to find ways to lead and motivate their subordinates to achieve excellent result.

Masculinity Vs Femininity

Japan has a score of 95 on Masculinity Index (MAS) and a ranking of 2 out of 69 countries (Refer to Appendix 1). Japan has the second highest Masculinity Index. Therefore, Japan emphasises the importance of having the main values which are associated with money and success. According to Hofstede, G. et al (2010), work goals such as earnings, recognition, advancement and challenge are deemed to play an important role.

After identifying Japanese having a high masculine culture and background of what they want to achieve, leaders can based on the criteria and lead the team effectively. The main items that Japanese are seeking for is money and success. Therefore, leaders should provide opportunities and encourage high performance from their Japanese subordinates in order for them to achieve their goals. Leaders should also note that incentives and rewards are based on equity and not equality.

4. Overview of USA

The United States of America, one of the world’s largest developed countries located between the North Atlantic Ocean and North Pacific Ocean. USA is highly abundant with natural resources, providing the world with its largest coal reserves. Apart from the lands and resources, USA is also considered having the world’s strongest and leading technological economy.

Being one of the developed countries, USA is currently facing environmental issues like air, land and sea pollution cause by factories, mines and other industrial developments (The World Factbook, 2010).

4.1 Determinants of US Culture

USA, the largest economy, deals massive trades among the rest of the world. Studying the culture norms and values of would be important to businessman and entrepreneur that are boarding the shore of the US economy. American possess a strong believe in the concept of equality. Each individual should have equal rights, equal employment opportunity and equal social obligation no matter which ethnic or gender the individual belongs to.

Individualism, direct, high uncertainties are some values that are tagged to American by numerous studies. Somehow these values have its roots related to the culture of the country.

Religion

Although USA has a wide diversity of ethnics namely the North American, South American, Alaska native, Hawaiian native, Asian and others races; Christianity still remains as their largest form of religious belief.

Among the Christian, Protestant (including Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian) outnumber the Roman Catholic with 51.3% of the total population and the later 23.9%. Followed by Jewish, Islamic, Muslim and others reported by World Factbook (2010).

Social Structure

In USA, most American would believe that there is equal opportunity and economic mobility and social classes does not exist. Moreover, Dennis Gilbert (1998) did defined USA social structure into 6 different classes;

Capitalist Class – American upper class

These are the minute top notch individual that has high influence in the economy of USA, example Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

Upper Middle Class

These are highly educated professional that has a high annual household income, example Lawyers, professor, and dentist.

Middle Class

These are college graduates that are employed for white collar position in an organization, examples managerial position.

Lower Middle Class

These usually consist of blue collar workers or those performing clerical position.

Lower Class

These refer to the working individual that draws minimal annual household income, example farmers.

Under Class

These refer to individual that are unemployed.

Political Philosophy

A national government with 50 states government, USA is considered as a federal republic country. Democrats and Republicans are 2 major parties dominating the political systems of USA. The government can be divided into three different branches.

The government is headed by the “Executive” branch which comprises of the president and its appointed cabinet. Each state has a different government constitution, the “Legislative” branch consist of Senate from each state and its House of Representatives. Each state have two Senates elect by the citizen of the state. Senates will need to be re-elect after six years of service

Lastly the “Judiciary” branch is headed by the US Supreme Court. This is the highest court that reviews and maintains the interpretative of the whole nation’s constitution (USA Country Brief, 2006).

Economy

USA has the largest and most important market in the world (EconomyWatch (2010). Even though it is the largest economy, government have much regulation protecting certain home-grown sectors. Two thirds of US economy is highly driven by its own consumer and therefore US economy can also be regard as “Consumer Economy”.

According to World FactBook (2010), USA GDP rose to about 14 trillion in end of 2009. It is about 3 times as higher than the next largest economy, which is Japan. Despite of that, USA have also top the chart for its private and public debts owned. This could be possibly due to the economic depression in 2008 where there is an acute rose of oil prices putting the country in a state of inflation with high unemployment rate.

In 2009, USA government borrowed billions to purchases equity from banks and Industrial Corporation, in order to perform additional injection to the economy for jobs creation and stabilizing the global economic downturn.

Language

There is actually no official language stated by Law in USA, English and Spanish are 2 most common languages. In addition, English is the language use in legislation and a main form of business communication. Hawaiian is the official state language for Hawaii (Grimes, 2000).

Communication style of an American can sometimes be regarded as straight forward and aggressive. Going around the bush in meetings or discussion is considered time wasting. American has its own style of name format which is different from Asian, they would address “First Name” (given name) followed by “Last Name” (family name) as in “Julia Roberts” where “Roberts” is the family name and “Julia” is the given name. Whereas for Asian, we would address “Last Name” (family name) followed by “First Name” (given name).

Politeness is highly valued in USA. When meeting someone for the first time, it is always polite to address them with a salutation of “Mr”, “Miss”, “Madam” or Dr. “Please” and “Thank You” are two most common words heard in a conversation with American.

Education

Slight differences can be spotted in the education system in different states but generally they are still common. For most children in USA, education starts at an earlier age of 5 and graduated from high school at the age of 17.

Parents can choose to send their kids to public schools which are funded by public tax; these would be the common choice for most US citizen. In another hand, if the parents thinks that the public education systems does not suit their kids, they can still send them to private schools owned by churches, individuals and private groups (WorldWidelearn, 2010)

4.2 Leadership style and relationship to Culture in United States

Guideline: Leadership style should relate to culture determinants in 4.1. To show how the culture had influenced the kind of leadership style in United States

The U.S. is one of the most religious of all the large nations of the world. Gallup International reports that 57 percent of American citizens regularly attend religious services. Politicians frequently discuss their religion when campaigning, and many churches and religious figures are highly politically active.

Most American religious take concrete form as congregational voluntary associations. They provide their members with multiple and continuous opportunities to observe, learn and practice the skills of community life and leadership.

By doing so, religious members are exposed to have chance to acquire and practice a series of useful capacities and skills. These include group decision making, raising and budgeting funds, leading discussion, mobilization consens

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