Cross-Cultural Leadership Styles

While a great deal has been said about international differences in leadership styles and their effectiveness, another issue probably matters more for most organizations: How can we develop leaders who are effective across cultural boundaries? Is it possible to create a truly global leadership style that will extend across cultures? Some recent forays into the field of cross-cultural leadership highlight possibilities for how global organizations might proceed.

Some of the leadership styles we have described in this chapter do seem to generalize across cultures. For example, research suggests charismatic leadership is effective in a variety of national contexts. In many cultures, terms like visionary, symbolizer, and self-sacrificer appear as descriptors of effective leaders, and positive leader– member exchanges also are associated with high performance across a variety of cultures. Culturally intelligent leaders are flexible and adaptable, tailoring their leadership styles to the specific and changing needs of the global workforce.

Researchers agree that learning to be a global leader requires gaining active experience in dealing with multiple cultures simultaneously. These experiences give leaders a chance to observe how different leadership styles work with different groups of people and build confidence in working across cultural boundaries. Leadership development programs can also use 360-degree feedback from supervisors, colleagues, and subordinates to help leaders recognize when their behavior is not effective with certain populations of employees. Companies like PepsiCo and Ford have their most effective global leaders provide seminars to emerging leaders so they can describe practices that have been especially effective.

 

Sources: K. Ng, L. Van Dyne, and S. Ang, “From Experience to Experiential Learning:

Cultural Intelligence as a Learning Capacity for Global Leader Development,” Academy of Management Learning and Education 9, no. 4 (2009), pp. 511–526; C. B. Gibson and D. M. McDaniel, “Moving Beyond Conventional Wisdom: Advancements in Cross-Cultural Theories of Leadership, Conflict, and Teams,” Perspectives on Psychological Science 5, no. 4 (2010), pp. 450–462; and D. Simmonds and O. Tsui, “Effective Design of a Global Leadership Programme,” Human Resource Development International 13, no. 5 (2010), pp. 519–540.

While a great deal has been said about international differences in leadership styles and their effectiveness, another issue probably matters more for most organizations: How can we develop leaders who are effective across cultural boundaries? Is it possible to create a truly global leadership style that will extend across cultures? Some recent forays into the field of cross-cultural leadership highlight possibilities for how global organizations might proceed.

 

Some of the leadership styles we have described in this chapter do seem to generalize across cultures. For example, research suggests charismatic leadership is effective in a variety of national contexts. In many cultures, terms like visionary, symbolizer, and self-sacrificer appear as descriptors of effective leaders, and positive leader– member exchanges also are associated with high performance across a variety of cultures. Culturally intelligent leaders are flexible and adaptable, tailoring their leadership styles to the specific and changing needs of the global workforce.

 

Researchers agree that learning to be a global leader requires gaining active experience in dealing with multiple cultures simultaneously. These experiences give leaders a chance to observe how different leadership styles work with different groups of people and build confidence in working across cultural boundaries. Leadership development programs can also use 360-degree feedback from supervisors, colleagues, and subordinates to help leaders recognize when their behavior is not effective with certain populations of employees. Companies like PepsiCo and Ford have their most effective global leaders provide seminars to emerging leaders so they can describe practices that have been especially effective.

 

Sources: K. Ng, L. Van Dyne, and S. Ang, “From Experience to Experiential Learning:

Cultural Intelligence as a Learning Capacity for Global Leader Development,” Academy of Management Learning and Education 9, no. 4 (2009), pp. 511–526; C. B. Gibson and D. M. McDaniel, “Moving Beyond Conventional Wisdom: Advancements in Cross-Cultural Theories of Leadership, Conflict, and Teams,” Perspectives on Psychological Science 5, no. 4 (2010), pp. 450–462; and D. Simmonds and O. Tsui, “Effective Design of a Global Leadership Programme,” Human Resource Development International 13, no. 5 (2010), pp. 519–540.