Leadership styles have evolved independently all over the world, leading to a significant diversity of cultural norms and approaches to the task. When leaders from various parts of the world meet and see the differences in their methods, the question of comparison and superiority surfaces often. The existing theories disagree on most aspects of the job, calling the willingness of employees to work and their relationships with their superiors into question. The introduction of radically different philosophies and practices that resulted from the improved relationship between the West and the East changed the dynamic further. This post tries to evaluate the general approaches to leadership, compare them, and find similarities.
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The traditional Western leadership model looks for specific qualities in a potential manager. Chin, Trimble, and Garcia (2017) call the approach the “trait theory” and put forward the idea that it can be adapted to other cultures. Furthermore, the leader is expected to control and coordinate the actions of his or her subordinates. To do that, they use the contingency approach, which Boehe (2016) defines as “identifying and developing functional relationships between environmental, management and performance variables” (p. 405). The manager usually supervises and understands the entire situation, creating and executing plans based on his or her vision.
The East shows several approaches to leadership that contrast the method described above through the creation of closer relationships with followers. According to Fukuhara (2016), the Japanese concentrate on empowerment and trust, which leads to improved cooperation but also distributes responsibility to a point where crises can paralyse the system. Paternalistic leadership as described by Chen, Zhou, and Klyver (2018) is another Asian approach that uses strict discipline and authority and combines them with benevolence, leading the leader to control followers for their good. The method shows itself as useful in its cultural context, leading to improved commitment and efficacy when executed correctly.
The GLOBE Research Project has attempted to discover the traits that are universally considered beneficial in management styles across the world. According to “Cross cultural studies” (n.d.), it has identified six dimensions of leadership: charismatic, team-oriented, participative, humane-oriented, autonomous, and self-protective. Different local approaches showed different values on each of the scales, but several attributes were consistently high. They were charismatic leadership, predicted by a performance orientation, and team-oriented leadership, indicated by collectivism, humane orientation, and uncertainty avoidance (“Cross cultural studies”, n.d.). Other traits varied considerably, but these two were essential in all societies that were investigated.
Western leadership research used to disregard the findings obtained in other parts of the world, but the modern globalisation tendency makes it necessary to study and evaluate different styles that exist in the world. In contrast to the traditional view of the leader as a controller that directs employees that can be unwilling, Eastern approaches focus on mutual trust. They can achieve it through empowerment or rigid, benevolent control. The most important part of the findings, however, is the discovery of specific leadership traits that are universal across the world and deserve consideration.
Boehe, D. M. (2016). Supervisory styles: A contingency framework. Studies in Higher Education, 41(3), 399-414.
Chen, Y., Zhou, X., & Klyver, K. (2018). Collective efficacy: linking paternalistic leadership to organizational commitment. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-17.
Chin, J. L., Trimble, J. E., & Garcia, J. E. (Eds.). (2017). Global and culturally diverse leaders and leadership: New dimensions and challenges for business, education and society. Bingley, United Kingdom: Emerald Publishing.
Cross cultural studies. (n.d.). Web.
Fukuhara, Y. (2016). A critical interpretation of bottom-up management and leadership styles within Japanese companies: A focus on empowerment and trust. AI & Society, 31(1), 85-93.