Cross Cultural Leadership

Over the last six months I have been heavily involved in the formal establishment of a subsidiary in the Philippines.  This involved the initial legal structure right through to daily operations.  During this period I have reflected on the business theory related to cross cultural leadership and management.

We know that modern day leaders work in a global world, even when they are based domestically and this exposes many leaders to different cultures frequently.  This exposure is intensified when you venture internationally.

“…the single greatest barrier to business success is the one erected by culture.”

Hall & Hall (1987)

In my experience working in many Asian countries cultural differences can impact business activities such as effective leadership, meetings, entertainment, negotiation, expectation, decision-making, conflict resolution and communication style.  To succeed, leaders must be aware of the relevance of ‘culture’ and ‘multicultural’ environments.

There are two types of culture that influence an employee and need to be considered by the leader:

Culture image  

National Culture

“…those customary beliefs and values that ethnic, religious, and social groups transmit fairly unchanged from generation to generation.”

Guiso, Sapienza, & Zingales (2006)

 To understand and effectively negate cultural barriers to business, leaders must appreciate the employee’s emotional attachment to ethnic traditions; places; events; stories; and memories.  I have found this especially true in relation to traditions (that may be carried out during working hours) and events (that occur throughout the year during work days that have relevance to an employee’s way of life).

 

Organisational culture

There are many definitions of organisational culture however Schein (1985) explains it succinctly, in that an organisational culture can be explained on three levels:

  1. Basic (underlying) assumptions – Belief in the correct way of doing things – deepest level of culture and hardest to change.
  2. Group Values – A sense of what ought to be.  As the group changes overtime so do the values, this is more evident in the smaller groups within an organisation.
  3. Group Artefacts – Established procedures, technology and communication methods.  This has certainly been the hardest to manage on a day to day basis especially in a start-up organisation.  Founding employees bring the group artefacts from their previous employer, if they are negative and/or unproductive they need to be negated quickly.

 

Parting comment

In order to deploy effective leadership, leaders need to take the time to explore, investigate and understand these manifestations of culture in the workplace before adapting their leadership style.

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About Timothy J. Lakeman

TIMOTHY LAKEMAN is passionate about business owners THRIVING not striving – strategically; financially; and operationally. Timothy’s passion for business stems from having observed his entrepreneurial father in many failed businesses over a number of decades. This fuelled his commitment to ensure all business owners that he works with have a thriving business. Timothy Lakeman has 20 years’ experience working with small to medium sized businesses in the capacity of a senior executive and also as a business owner himself. He has worked throughout Australia, Asia, Middle East and India, and in a variety of industries including Media, Construction and Technology. Timothy is able to draw on his international experiences from a cultural and diversification perspective to drive change in any business to maximise its profit potential and to create a valuable saleable asset into the future. Timothy utilises the practicality of an in-depth financial understanding from being an experienced Chartered Accountant with the academic theories of his Master of Business Administration to partner with business owners to implement and take their businesses to the next level. Timothy loves being a Judge and Mentor as part of the RMIT University Business Plan competition as it allows him to meet and assist the business owners of the future leaving a legacy of Thriving. He also publishes a Business and Entrepreneurial blog discussing the issues relevant to business owners. Book in for a 2 hour free no obligation discovery session with Timothy to take your business to the next level! View all posts by Timothy J. Lakeman

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