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The Scope of Cultural Dimensions in Contemporary Global Leadership Practices – A Study

Authors:
  • Koshys Group of Institutions

Abstract

The study explores and examines the scope of cultural dimensions with modern leadership practices while managing global business. Today the business environment has no borders in terms of geographical presence, however there’s to be noted that it is controlled by some ‘International Organizations’ which monitor and govern its function. However it is to record that geographical boundary has been replaced by cultural clusters which govern the business activities sternly, aside to overcome such situations the global leadership practices play a vital role. There have been several studies on culture, leadership styles and practices, cross cultural management and cultural dimensions in given areas.
The Scope of Cultural Dimensions in Contemporary Global Leadership Practices – A Study
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Title: “The Scope of Cultural Dimensions in Contemporary Global
Leadership Practices – A Study”
Authors:
1. Dr. Nirmala M
Assistant Professor
Canara Bank School of Management Studies
Bangalore University, Bangalore
nirmala.cbsms@gmail.com
2. Pradeep N E
Research Scholar
Canara Bank School of Management Studies
Bangalore University, Bangalore
pradeep.ne@gmail.com
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ABSTRACT
The study explores and examines the scope of cultural dimensions with modern leadership
practices while managing global business. Today the business environment has no borders in
terms of geographical presence, however there’s to be noted that it is controlled by some
‘International Organizations’ which monitor and govern its function. However it is to record
that geographical boundary has been replaced by cultural clusters which govern the business
activities sternly, aside to overcome such situations the global leadership practices play a vital
role. There have been several studies on culture, leadership styles and practices, cross cultural
management and cultural dimensions in given areas.
Keywords: Culture, Leadership practices, cultural dimensions
The Scope of Cultural Dimensions in Contemporary Global Leadership Practices – A Study
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Introduction:
Culture is a phenomenon which is shared and understood differently among
individuals, organizations and society. Culture as a concept has had a long and checkered
history. It has been used by the layman as a word to indicate sophistication, as when we say
that someone is very “cultured”. It has been used by anthropologists to refer to the customs
and rituals that societies develop over the course of their history. In the last several decades it
has been used by some organizational researchers and managers to refer to the climate and
practices that organizations develop around their handling of people, or to the espoused
values and credo of an organization (Edgar, 2004). Culture is transmitted through the process
of learning and interacting with one’s environment, rather than through the genetic process
(Gary, 2012). There has been no common definition which could bring commonalities on
cultures; however Hofstede and Trompenaars through their empirical study conducted
globally were able to summarize various cultures and sub-cultures under certain cultural
dimensions. The models have been able to decipher the cultural traits which are present in
individuals, groups and organizations in the society. These cultural dimensions are further
related to organizational perspectives to determine the cultural presence; which is most
commonly observed as organizational culture.
In the dynamic global environment, business has been expanding continuously to
facilitate the diverse customer desires and have paved challenge to contemporary
organizations and its management. In this context it brings the need of leadership in
managing the situation, by which the demands of leadership almost invariable exceed the
capacity of a single person to meet the needs at hand. There have been several models and
theories developed and examined to understand leadership styles and practices. Some theories
of the kind are Great Man Theory, Trait Theory, Behavior Theory, Contingency Theory,
Influential Theory, and many other theories.
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The studies have been conducted across countries and its found that all cultures
experience continual change, however the changing world is now witnessing the loose ends
in cultural models and dimensions on their applicability to contemporary organizations and
leadership practices. This study is an attempt to examine those changing differences in
cultural dimensions and its scope to contemporary global leadership practices.
.
Objective:
To study on the culture and its dimensions
To learn on contemporary leadership theories and practices
To examine the scope of cultural dimensions to changing leadership practices
REVIEW OF LITERATURE:
American Heritage English dictionary defines ‘Culture’ as “The totality of socially
transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work
or thought”. There has been a debate on understanding culture in independent environment,
time and space; however culture is a set of shared values, beliefs and thoughts which has
been transmitted from one person to another person, from one society to another, from one
generation to another and from one time to another. For this culture may be broadly identified
traditionally in two different approaches:
1. The Psychic or psychological level, which focuses on the internalized norms,
attitudes, and behavior of individuals from a particular culture (psychic distance is
a measure of differences between groups)
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2. The institutional level, which looks at national (or group) culture embodied in
institutions (government, education and economic institutions as well as in
business organizations)
In general it is perceived that culture is majorly influenced by its society or
environment where individuals, groups or organizations collectively exist. Nationality and
culture tend to coincide, although nations encompass a wide variety of institutions, religions,
beliefs, and patterns of behavior, and distinctive subcultures can always be found within
individual countries. The only way to make sense of this wide diversity is to characterize
distinct cultural groups through simplified national stereotypes. Many studies have attempted
to create these stereotypes by mapping and comparing the shared characteristics of managers
and employees in different countries. Researchers then examine the effects of key differences
on business behavior, organization, structure, and ultimately the performance of companies
from different countries. Geert Hofstede defines culture as the collective programming of the
mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from another. Mean while, cultural
anthropologist Clyde Kluckholn defined culture as the collection of beliefs, values, behaviors,
customs, and attitudes that distinguish the people of one society from another. The GLOBE
researchers defined culture as shared motives, values, beliefs, identities, and interpretations or
meanings of significant events that result from common experiences of members of
collectives that are transmitted across generations. Fons Trompenaars defined culture as the
way in which a group of people solves problems and reconciles dilemmas. Ann Swidler also
took a problem-solving approach, viewing culture as a “toolkit” of symbols, stories, rituals,
and worldviews that help the people of a culture survive and succeed. Finally, cultural
anthropologist Clifford Geertz defined culture as the means by which people communicate,
perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about attitudes towards life (Steers, et al., 2010). On
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these grounds the key cultural dimensions were studied and pronounced by Hofstede and
Trompenaar in their research.
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Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions:
Geert Hofstede is a Dutch psychologist who conducted one of the earliest and best-known
cultural studies in management, on IBM’s operations in 70 countries around the world.
Getting answers to 32 statements from over 116,000 questionnaires, he mapped key cultural
characteristics of these countries according to four value dimensions:
1. Power distance is the extent to which a culture accepts that power in organizations is
distributed unequally. High power distance equates with steep organizational hierarchies,
with more autocratic leadership and less employee participation in decision making
2. Uncertainty avoidance is the degree to which members of a society feel
uncomfortable with risk and uncertainty. High uncertainty avoidance (Japan,Argentina,
France) will be reflected in the high priority placed on rituals, routines, and procedures in
organizations and society in general. Countries with low uncertainty avoidance (Denmark,
UK, India, US) tend to emphasize flexibility and informality rather than bureaucracy.
3. Individualism is the extent to which people are supposed to take care of themselves
and be emotionally independent from others
4. Masculinity is the value attributed to achievement, assertiveness, and material
success (Japan, Mexico, Germany, UK) as opposed to the stereotypical feminine values of
relationships, modesty, caring, and the quality of life (Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark)
according to Hofstede.
Trompenaar’s Dimensions of Culture:
Fons Trompenaars built on Hofstede’s work by expanding the framework for stereotyping
and comparing different national cultures and by focusing more on the management
implications of cultural differences. Using initial research involving 15,000 employees in 50
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countries, Trompenaars explored the “cultural extremes and the incomprehension that can
arise when doing business across cultures,” even when people are working for the same
company. Seven cultural dimensions are:
1. Universalism vs. Particularism: The degree to which rules are uniformly or
situationally applied.
2. Individualism vs. Collectivism: Do people derive their identity from within
themselves or their group?
3. Specific vs. Diffuse: Are an individual’s various roles compartmentalized or
integrated?
4. Neutral vs. Affective: Are people free to express their emotions or are they
restrained.
5. Achievement vs. Ascription: How are people accorded respect and social status?
6. Time perspective: Do people focus on the past or the future?
7. Relationship with the environment: Do people control the environment or does it
control them?
LEADERSHIP
Leadership has been understood as an attribute of an individual or an organization leading
a process, function or organization itself. Leadership is the ability to influence a group toward
the achievement of a vision or set of goals (Robbins, 2013). In a society leadership may be
seen as the ability of a leader influencing a group of members to achieve a social cause or
societal needs, whereas in an organization it is the manager where the source of the influence
may be formal as provided in hierarchical structure by managerial rank. But not all leaders
are managers, nor, for that matter, are all managers’ leaders. In other words, leaders can
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emerge from within a group as well as by formal appointment. The demands of leadership
almost invariably exceed the capacity of a single person to meet the needs at hand. The 1998
Fairholm Perspectives model proposed an interrelated hierarchy of mindsets about what
leadership is; these mindsets have characterized the 100-plus year life span of modern
leadership study. Since then literally hundreds of books, articles, and essays have been
published that take a “perspectives” viewpoint describing various elements and aspects of
leadership. The Leadership Perspectives Model (LPM) described herein emerged in part as a
result of studying the attitudes and values of practicing organizational leaders, in part from
analysis of available past and contemporary literature, in part from observation of leaders in
action, and in part from the authors’ personal experiences both as leaders and as followers of
leaders – some good, some not. The LPM defines a kind of leadership based in the values of
the leader transposed to the group. Depending on the values-set of the individual leader, he or
she may see leadership as (1) a synonym for management, (2) an element of excellence
management, (3) a reflection of that leader’s values-set, (4) an establishing of a values-laden
culture he or she creates to facilitate group action, or (5) an out growth of the leader’s core
spiritual values (Fairholm & Fairholm, 2009).
Contemporary Global Leadership Practices
Several researches have been conducted to understand the leadership practices globally,
and the same has revealed illustrations of theories evolved on leadership which are:
Trait Theory: Leadership theories that consider personal qualities and characteristics
that differentiate leaders from non-leaders
Behavioral Theory: Leadership theories propose that specific behaviors differentiate
leaders from non-leaders.
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Contingency Theory: Fred Fiedler developed the first comprehensive contingency
model for leadership which proposes that effective groups depends on the proper
match between a leaders’ style of interacting with subordinates and the degree to
which the situation gives control and influence to the leader. Situational leadership
theory (SLT) is another contingency theory that focuses on followers’ readiness, or
the extent to which they are willing and able to accomplish a specific task.
Charismatic Theory: A leadership theory that states that followers make attributions
of heroic or extraordinary leadership abilities when they observe certain behaviors.
Transformational Theory: A leadership theory wherein leaders who inspire
followers to transcend their own self-interests and who are capable of having a
profound and extraordinary effect on followers.
All the above theories present the changing aspect of theory from one level to another where
the researchers and experts find the scope for improvement or another way of defining
leadership based on various anchors. The review of literature encompasses the study of key
cultural factors influencing leadership styles and practices.
Research Methodology:
Method : Descriptive Study
Data Sources : Books, journals & research papers
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Outcome of the Study:
On review of literature on culture, cultural dimensions, leadership and leadership
theories it is observed on some instances which has to be attended to align the changing
perspectives in cultural aspects with managing of global leadership practices. The study has
revealed certain key facts as below:
- Leadership theories have been developed continuously to match the environment
- Environment is dynamic and reciprocates to cultural changes
- Globalization has reshaped the business environment and organization structures
- Global corporations are changing to be proactive than reactive
- The key dimensions of culture proposed by Hofstede and Trompenaar have
significantly diluting for the reason that global business environment are adapting
to common cultural practices
The study also identifies that the scope of cultural dimensions has gained shift towards:
Learning culture Leaders are now learning from other individuals, groups,
organizations and nations on engaging resources efficiently to achieve business
perspectives. Also leaders have shown the response of being novel in terms of
creativity and innovation
Leverage cultureThe power or influence has been changing among leaders in the
organizations, than being more autocratic or bureaucratic leadership practices are
considerable collaborative and participative in nature. In US and European nations it
is noted that the scope for individual contributors has been emphasised, whereas some
other nations have continued with hierarchical tall structures.
Orientation culture The study has revealed that emphasis in contemporary global
leadership is less on time i.e. short term or long term, rather the emphasis has taken a
The Scope of Cultural Dimensions in Contemporary Global Leadership Practices – A Study
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drive from task oriented to people oriented which refers to self-driven individual
culture. This is a shift from time to project orientation.
Values – Leaders and global leadership practices in contemporary organizations insist
on human values, ethics and trust which earlier were on business perspective.
Transformational culture – The global leaders have transformed from transactional
practices to transformational leadership styles
The researchers have found that there exist the scope for further research to learn intensively
on changing cultural anchors and its influences on leadership styles and practices.
Conclusion
The study has been able to portray on several micro and macro level factors relatively
influencing contemporary global leadership practices; and cultural transitions across the
globe is one key factor being studied here. Globalization has reshaped societies and cultures
on a scale that has never happened before (Senge, et al., 2005), there has been metamorphosis
on cultural identities and global resources being integrated towards creating common culture.
The international organizations like World Trade Organizations (WTO), UNESCO, UNICEF,
World Bank, IMF and other regional economic co-operation groups are integrating towards
accomplishing the optimum utilization of global resources most efficiently to fulfill the
demand of human appropriately. Hence the study is being concluded with the quote of
Warren Buffet, “Only when the tides goes out do you find out who is not wearing a bathing
suit”(Moran, et al., 2011).
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References
1. Fairholm, Matthew R & Fairholm, Gilbert W, 2009, Understanding Leadership
Perspectives, Springer, p.3
2. Ferraro, Gary, 2012, The Cultural Dimension of International Business, Pearson, p.20
3. Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner, Riding the Waves of Culture:
4. Hofstede, Geert, 2001, Culture’s Consequence: International Differences in Work
Related Values, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
5. House, et al., Culture, Leadership, and Organizations.
6. Klukholn, Clyde, 1951, “Culture and behavior,” in Grahm Lindzey (ed.), Handbook
of Social Psychology. New York, McGraw-Hill, pp. 921–976.
7. Moran, Robert T, et al., 2011, Managing Cultural Differences – Leadership skills and
strategies for working in a global world, Butterworth – Heinemann (Elsevier), p.9
8. Robbins, Stephen P, et al., 2013, Organizational Behavior, Pearson, p. 394
9. Schein, Edgar H, 2004, Organizational Culture and Leadership, Jossey-Bass, p.7
10. Senge, Peter, et al., 2005, Presence – Exploring profound change in people,
organizations and society, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London, p.178
11. Steers, Richard M, et al., 2010, Management Across Cultures, Cambridge University
Press, p.50
12. Swidler, Ann, 1986, “Culture in action: symbols and strategies,” American
Sociological Review, 51(2), p. 273.
13. Understanding Cultural Diversity in Global Business. London: McGraw-Hill, 1998.
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