“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” – Jim Rohn
Sounds like a lot. But the worst part is that, when you lead across cultures, there’s even more nuance to leadership than Jim Rohn described.
Last week, we talked about the study done by GLOBE, which identified various types of leadership styles.
Universal preference went to the charismatic/value-based leader.
After all, a personable leader who can inspire and motivate his employees is someone anyone can get behind.
However, when it comes to the other styles of leadership, cultural preferences varied.
Good vs. Bad
Unsurprisingly, leadership preferences differed based on the values of the culture.
One example: ambition.
Some cultures see ambition as a good thing, while others see it as bad.
This was reflected in the study on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and in the breakdown of leadership preferences.
While the charismatic/value-based leader was tops in the US, the UK, and Australia (Anglo-Saxon countries), the same leadership style was least preferred in the Middle East and South Asia, both of which sought self-protective leadership.
Human-oriented leadership was not favored in Nordic Europe but was favored in South Asia, while Latin America preferred team-orientated leadership.
Eastern Europe liked an autonomous leader, which rings true when you look at their history of favoring strong leaders.
The Roads Diverge
The greatest divergence in leadership preferences was between the Middle East and Western cultures.
Charismatic/value-based or team-oriented leaderships were favored least in the Middle East, in comparison to other regions.
Instead, the Middle East views self-protective leadership as less problematic.
Localized research also showed that Middle Eastern cultures preferred leadership attributes to include: humility, faithfulness, and family-orientation. This suggests that Western management styles would not be easily embraced.
The strong insights into how global cultures view leadership and what various populations expect from a leader are what make the GLOBE project a super useful tool for cross-cultural management.
For instance, due to these differences in favored leadership styles, GLOBE researchers remarked that mergers and acquisitions between European and Middle Eastern countries may be difficult.
Knowing the favored leadership styles of another culture allows international managers a blueprint for what sort of patterns are expected of them.
Instead of applying the management style you’ve learned in your own country, when you work internationally, you might tweak how you lead, applying tactical patterns from the local blueprint.
The bottom line is: employees from another culture likely expect a different type of leadership from their boss than you do from your own. So, prepare accordingly.