Cross-Cultural Approaches to Leadership Zeynep Aycan
Arabs worship their leaders-as long as they are in power!
-House, Wright, and Aditya (1997, p. 535)
The Dutch place emphasis on egalitarianism and are skeptical about the value of leadership. Terms like leader and manager carry a stigma. If a father is employed as a manager, Dutch children will not admit it to their schoolmates.
-House et al. (1997, p. 535)
The Malaysian leader is expected to behave in a manner that is humble, modest and dignified.
-House et al. (1997, p. 535)
The Americans appreciate two kinds of leaders. They seek empowerment from leaders who grant autonomy and delegate authority to subordinates. They also respect the bold, forceful, confident, and risk-taking leader as personified by John Wayne.
-House et al. (1997, p. 536)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The author wishes to thank Peter Smith and Mark Peterson for their feedback and suggestions on earlier versions of this chapter.
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For Europeans . . . everything seems to indicate that leadership is an unintended and undesirable consequence of democracy.
-Graumann and Moscovici (1986, pp. 241-242)
Indians prefer leaders who are nurturant, caring, dependable, sacrificing and yet demanding, authoritative, and strict disciplinarian.
-Sinha (1995, p. 99)
A s captured in the above quotations, leadership, as seen through the eyesof followers, cannot be studied without taking into account the effect ofcultural context. To remain key players in the global economy, organiza- tions invest in developing leaders who have competencies to understand and manage diversity both at home and globally. While globalization offers numerous opportunities for cross-border synergies for multinational enterprises, leadership challenges can work against realizing such potential (Bartlett & Ghoshal, 1998; Bartlett, Ghoshal, & Birkinshaw, 2004; Peterson & Hunt, 1997). Organizations strive to find the "one best way" of managing people, and they often export leadership theories and development programs, whose effectiveness may be specific to a particular nation or cultural context, to other contexts. However, as stated by Steers, Porter, and Bigley (1996), "no nation or culture has a monopoly on the best ways of doing something. This is especially so when it comes to understanding motivation and leadership at work" (p. 423). Cross-cultural leadership research helps organizations understand the cultural contingencies under which certain leadership approaches work better than others.
Although leadership is one of the most widely researched topics in the literature, it is only recently that attention has been shifted to the effects of the cultural con- text on leadership. This is evident from recent reviews on the topic (e.g., Ayman, 2004; Bass, 1997; Dorfman, 2004; Gelfand, Erez, & Aycan, 2007; House et al., 1997) and a special issue of Leadership Quarterly (Peterson & Hunt, 1997). The past...