People should consider understanding the extent to which culture affects leadership. This is important because culture affects leadership differently. Americans, Europeans, Germans and Russians for example give great attention on matters regarding leadership. On the contrary, countries such as Netherlands and the Scandinavian view leadership matters differently. For example, it is common that Americans value two types of leaders, one who can award autonomy and envoy responsibility to subordinates as well as a leader who is bold, forceful and confident. This is different from people in Dutch as they put much focus on egalitarianism and they dislike leadership on claims that it carries much stigma from the public. Interestingly, in Arabic countries, the situation is different since they worship their leaders, while the Iranians expect their leaders to present power and strength. However, putting all the above in consideration, one can admit that culture has an impact on leadership (Maczynski, 1997). This paper explores on the cultural characteristics that influence leadership.
Cultural influence on leaders
Initially, empirical studies have proved that cultural values and practices affect the responsibilities conducted by leaders. Most importantly, culture influences the leadership style that a leader is prone to use. This is because the organizational founders highly believe in their own societal culture in most cases, hence causing them to create the leadership behavioral patterns that rhyme with their culture. In the same way that individuals possess dissimilar views and beliefs about favored styles of leadership, cultures as a whole have different inclinations for particular leadership approaches (Leung& Bond, 2009). It therefore follows that a leader is most likely to rule in a manner similar to that which is viewed appropriate in his culture. In Netherlands for example, the Dutch view a participative leadership approach as the most appropriate style of leadership. In this case, their culture proposes a flat hierarchical pyramid where the leader is expected to involve the subordinates in the process of decision making (Leung& Bond, 200). Conversely, this leadership style is considered a weakness in most organizations in Romania, where authoritative leadership style is viewed as strength (Leung& Bond, 200). On a similar note, the qualities of an excellent leader in the United States would not essentially apply in the regions of Central and Eastern Europe. Consequently, this implies that the attributes and behaviors shown by leaders, which can be observable in the organizational practices, in most cases are similar to those proposed by their societal cultures (Leung& Bond, 2009).
Additionally, different researchers have indicated that cultural characteristics largely influence the leadership traits of an individual. According to them, leadership traits refer to patterns of thought, emotion, and behaviors which define particular individual characteristics (Smith, Misumi, Tayeb, Paterson & Bond, 1999). Consequently, these traits in a leader can either be strengthened or weakened by the culture in which he comes from. The power distance traits of a culture for instance, influences certain characteristics in a leader. Cultures that support high power distance expect their leaders to be more critical and straightforward in their decisions. In this case, high power distance cultures are most likely to bring about leaders who are very controlling and independent in their decisions. This is because their authorities tend to be less questionable in the society making them feel confident of themselves as much as the decisions are not guaranteed to be the best (Smith, Misumi, Tayeb, Paterson & Bond, 1999). Low power distance cultures on the other hand tend to produce more democratic leaders.
The individualism characteristic of a given culture also influences leadership in an adverse manner. Individualistic cultures encourage the “I” consciousness rather than “we” consciousness (Smith, Misumi, Tayeb, Paterson & Bond, 1999). Individuals in such a society are supposed to be more autonomous and manage themselves. They do not depend on the support of the collective entities such as teams, organizations and families (Smith, Misumi, Tayeb, Paterson & Bond, 1999).In such a society, the leadership has to allow individuals to exercise their independence. The leaders are therefore more flexible, facilitating and participative (Leung& Bond, 2009). It therefore follows that Individualism cultural characteristic has an influence on the kind of leadership a society is exposed to. Apart from individualism, researchers have pointed out that the masculinity character of a culture could also impact on leadership. In masculine cultures, they argue that individuals live in order to work as opposed to work in order to live (Chan and Chan, 2005). Here, the leaders are extremely motivated, influential, and happen to be performance driven. Also, the uncertainty trait of a culture influences the leadership in a given society. People in cultures with sturdy uncertainty avoidance, anticipate agreements, rules, and laws to maintain a rigid cultural framework (Chan and Chan, 2005). Leadership in such a society is usually characterized by judgment, less fairness, and less flexibility (Chan and Chan, 2005).
Furthermore, the cultural orientation of a society majorly influences the leadership in that society. Short-time oriented cultures esteem traditions to a great extent and anticipate quick results. Conversely, cultures that are long-term oriented adjust their traditions to altered provisions and concentrate on saving and investing. Motivated by short term visions and enthusiastic for quick results, leaders in such a society shape themselves as straightforward, productive, and decisive persons (Chan and Chan, 2005). With the long-term orientation on the other hand, leaders tend to possess guiding and inspiring qualities.
Additionally, the organizational contingent, which includes factors such as technology, size of the organization and the surrounding environment creates different requirements that organizations need to meet so that they can enhance their performance, and be able to compete in the market. Therefore, such contingents end up affecting the attributes and behaviors of the organizational leader. Notably, leaders who fail to work in line with the organizational culture will experience many challenges while dealing with the subordinates compared to those who apply the contingents. Therefore, this implies that leaders have to accept the organizational culture in order to be in a better position of facilitating effectiveness. As well, effectiveness is imperative because it encourages the acceptance of a leader by their subordinates (Smith, Misumi, Tayeb, Paterson & Bond, 1999).
Remarkably, one can identify the impact of culture on leadership by analyzing the American politics, where Mitt Romney clearly headed for the presidential position of Barack Obama. This is a good study on the leadership matter and researchers had the opportunity to analyze the two different cultural backgrounds that raised the two politicians to compete as candidates for the most powerful and wealthy nation around the globe. This is because both Obama and Romney were privileged and wealthy. Even though, Romney was born to the wealthy and has been working extra hard to increase his wealth and has been ranked among the super-rich Americans (Bass, 2005). On the contrary, Obama was not born in the richness but had a humbler start. Obama originated from a bi-racial middle-class family raised by a single mother enabling him to work hard so that he can access education up to the university level. Consequently, it can turn out that the cultural background of both Romney and Obama affected the manner in which Americans voted. According to research conducted by a group of political analyst in the U.S, most people around the globe want a real leader, because they are in need of an individual in which they can entrust their decisions, and who is are capable of shaping the whole generation and the globe. This has been evident in Americans who have inspired many people around the globe by the way in which they apply their democratic principles in voting and in acceptance of diversity in order to benefit their country (Chan and Chan, 2005). Concurrently, it is true that Americans choose their leaders in line with his or her cultural competence so that he or she can be able to change the social complex that they currently experience in the country.
Different cultural characteristics affect leadership in dissimilar ways as aforementioned in the paper. This indicates that people should put the issue of culture into consideration because it is the most significant challenge facing many leaders in the globe today. Similarly, culture is impacting differently on communication styles, premises, social relationship and values among other things that have an effect on leadership (Pasha, 2000).
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Smith, P. B., Misumi, J., Tayeb, M. H., Paterson, M., & Bond, M. H. (1999).On the generality of leadership style across cultures.Journal of Occupational Psychology, 30, 526-537
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Chan A.T.S. and Chan, E.H.W., (2005) Impact of Perceived Leadership Styles on Work Outcomes: Case of Building Professionals.Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, ASCE, vol.131, No.4, p.413-422