Cultural Influences on Leadership


How a culture defines good leadership has been at the center of many business and political debates spanning the course of the past three millennia of human history. One of the key aspects to successful business leadership lies in knowing the cultural history and tendencies of people in need of business leadership. One of the first things a good leader does is take the pulse of the area's intellectual climate by finding out what people are reading and watching and by studying the established business norms of the area.

Key Factors

Knowing the history of a region is key to understanding whether the workers in the region your company is conducting business in prefer a strong uniting leader or prefer to operate on a more democratically modeled business structure. The key factor in determining which style to choose is by reviewing the overall history of the area. One of the cardinal rules of predictive analysis is that past occurrences predict future outcomes, which, according to Customer Think online magazine, is a commonplace predictive analysis method currently used by banking groups.

The Impact of Culture on Leadership Styles

According to the paper “Context Tension," by Dr. Nadine Theimann of the University of Oxford and her associates, there are two primary ways that culture and business leadership converge. The most widespread theory is the convergence economic theory, which claims that ultimately culture is a derivative of economic practices and that all developed nations will eventually share a similar cultural core of values and behaviors. The convergence theory runs the risk of alienating local traditions, particularly in newly industrialized nations. The divergence theory of economic behavior is a direct response to societal values rooted in both tradition and religion. The cross-vergence theory combines both earlier models and explains that although production methods do impart societal change, workers still are driven by motives based upon traditional regional thinking. This balanced viewpoint offers leaders the best point of approach in understanding their workers, because it balances modernization demands with traditional sensibilities.

How Leadership Styles Affect Profits and Employees

Choosing the right leadership style for the area, whether it be a more top-down authoritarian approach or a more spread out and democratic approach, well-suited to unionized workers, can make or break the profitability of an organization. There are advantages to both styles of leadership. A solid top-down authoritarian approach will impart clear direction to employees and allow for a fuller realization of the leaders' vision for the company, provided they have one. Exploration of the Keller Motor Corporation's history will demonstrate that a company based on the charisma of a strong individual leader can do quite well; however, it is likely to fall apart in the absence of that same leader. This is exactly what happened to the Keller Motor Corporation, which quickly dissolved after its owner George D. Keller died a mere two years after the company's launch, changing the face of the American automotive industry. By contrast, a company with a decentralized power base that makes use of more middle management and more worker input is more likely to operate on the impulse of the status quo, rather than adhere to a strict creative vision and suffer slower growth. A company with decentralized leadership is more likely to weather the storm created by losing its founding creator.

Knowing Which Leadership Style to Apply Where

Beyond a simple consideration of the history of the region, a person in the position of business leadership also needs to take into account the level of education of their employees, because this has a direct effect on the level of autonomy that the leader can impart to them without negative consequences. Simply put, a worker with only a basic primary education is less likely to be successful when left to his own devices than a university graduate who is better able to problem solve. If an organization's employee base is made up mostly of highly educated individuals, micromanagement can be seen as insulting and have a negative effect on production and employee morale. This same micromanagement might prove valuable in a production-line-style manufacturing business with unskilled employees, because the closer role of management will allow these employees to work effectively in the system and overcome obstacles. In summary, tailor the leadership style used to suit the skills and sensibilities of employees for the best effect.

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