Leadership Style – Not “one size fits all”

June 13, 2012 | By

Leadership and National Culture

Professor Geert Hofstede conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of how values in the workplace are influenced by culture. He analyzed a large data base of employee values scores collected by IBM between 1967 and 1973 covering more than 70 countries, from which he first used the 40 largest only and afterwards extended the analysis to 50 countries and 3 regions. Subsequent studies validating the earlier results have included populations in many other countries. The values that distinguished countries from each other were initially grouped statistically into four clusters. These four groups became the Hofstede dimensions of national culture:

  • Power Distance (PDI)
  • Individualism versus Collectivism (IDV)
  • Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS)
  • Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)

A fifth dimension was added in 1991 based on research by Michael Bond. That Dimension, based on Confucian dynamism, is Long-Term Orientation (LTO) and was applied to 23 countries. In 2010, research by Michael Minkov allowed to extend the number of country scores for this dimension to 93.

In the 2010 edition of Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Minda sixth dimension has been added, based on Michael Minkov’s analysis of the World Values Survey data for 93 countries. This new dimension is called Indulgence versus Restraint (IVR).

Cultural norms play a large part in the mechanics and interpersonal relationships at work. When you grow up in a culture you take your norms of behavior for granted. You don’t have to think about your reactions, preferences, and feelings.

When you step into a foreign culture, suddenly things seem different. You don’t know what to do or say. Using Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions as a starting point, you can evaluate your approach, your decisions, and actions based on a general sense of how the society might think and react to you.

Of course, no society is homogenous and there will be deviations from the norms Hofstede found, however, with this as your guide you won’t be going in blind. The unknown will be a little less intimidating and you’ll get a much-needed boost of confidence and security from studying this cultural model.

Reccomended reading:

Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadershipby Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal.

Leadership Dilemmas- Grid® Solutions: a visionary new look at a classic tool for defining and attaining leadership and management excellenceby Robert Blake and Anne Adams.

Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, Third Edition: Intercultural Cooperation and Its Importance for Survivalby Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede and Michael Minkov.

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