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Leadership Styles in Nigeria, America and China Exploratory Essay

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Management in the global scene is usually a challenge due to the various cultures that are found around the world. It is for this reason that managers of global organizations find it difficult to manage since they have to understand each of the various cultures, beliefs, and leadership styles.

It is important to note that cultural differences affect communication. George, Owoyemi and Onakala (2012) indicate that an organization that has a poor communication system will always find it difficult to succeed.

Nigeria’s culture is different from that of America. In addition, the two countries have different cultures from that of China. As a result, the three nations have varying management and leadership styles. A manager of a multinational organization that has operations in any of the three nations is, therefore, supposed to have cross-national management knowledge and skills.

Hofstede explained that culture is a collective programming of the mind (Tang, 2012). Therefore, the programs of the mind affect the way people think, the way they feel, as well as the way they do things (Lijun, 2008). One is required to unlearn his or her programs before learning other cultures, a process that Hofstede says that it is more difficult than learning.

Hur, Strickland and Dragan (2010) opine that someone from a given culture will be required to unlearn their culture before learning a new culture.

In other words, a manager from Nigeria will be required to unlearn the Nigerian culture before learning the American culture or the Chinese culture to manage effectively in any of these two nations. It is the same case for an American manager or a Chinese manager aspiring to manage outside their mother country.


Leaders of organizations have to work in an environment that is highly unpredictable in Nigeria. George, Owoyemi and Onakala (2012) indicate that the economic environment in Nigeria is unpredictable. This is the same with political, as well as social environments. According to Bayode (2008), organizational leaders in Nigeria especially in the private sector face a lot of challenges.

Among the challenges he has cited in his article are dilemmas, such as killings and unceremonious removal from office happening in various organizations. The market structure is said to be bad, just like the educational system is. The economic challenges make it difficult for parents to take their children to school.

These, among other challenges that the leaders of Nigerian organization face in their career, make it difficult for them to utilize their full potential (Epelle, 2011). Consequently, it makes it difficult for them to stir economic growth and development.

If people in a country are not well educated, then organizations might not have enough human resource that can help them in their development because human resource is one of the most important assets in an organization (George, Owoyemi and Onakala, 2012).

The most common factor that relates to the differences in leadership styles in America, Nigeria and China is cultural variations. For instance, Nigeria has a high score on power distance. Decision making is centralized and only the top managers have the authority to make decisions.

Orders are given by the top managers and executives, and the rest of the organization members are expected to follow. It is important to note that most of the African nations are said to have a high power distance, and Nigeria is not an exception (Ogbonna, 2010).

Considering the dimension of individualism and collectiveness, collectiveness is more accepted in Nigeria than individualism. The leader of an organization should view issues from a group perspective. According to Medugu, Majid and Choji (2008), interests of a group are prioritized in Nigeria, just like it is in China.

Further, Nigeria is considered to be a masculine society. People are expected to work and managers are expected to make assertive decisions. There is a lot of emphasis on equity as well as performance and competition in Nigeria.

Uncertainty avoidance is another factor that determines leadership in a country. Nigeria is a nation that has high uncertainty avoidance.

As Madichie, Nkamnebe and Idemobi (2008) say, Nigerians prefer to have stability and try as much as possible to avoid changes that are likely to have unknown effects on organizations or the economy. Finally, Nigeria scores high in terms of long term orientation, meaning that leadership is based on the national traditions (Ogbonna, 2010).


Kolko, Neumark and Mejia (2013) indicate that the socio-economic environment in America is relatively stable compared to that of Nigeria. This makes it easier for a manager in an American organization since they do not face a lot of such challenges in their management. Most people in the US are educated since parents have money to take their children to school (Kolko, Neumark and Mejia, 2013).

This means that there is skilled human resource for organizations. In this regard, the potential of success for organizations is relatively high compared to the one in Nigeria (Elele and Fields, 2010). Therefore, leading organizations in the US is not as challenging as leading in Nigeria.

Considering power distance, American organizations have leadership that is more decentralized. Lijun (2008) indicates that power distance is low in that the distance between the employees and managers is small. Employees are given the chance to contribute in decision making. The level of equality between members of the organization is high. In addition, power is distributed equally among managers and the rest of the employees.

Another cultural factor that can be considered to have an effect on leadership in the three countries is individualism and collectivism. According to Lijun (2008), individualism is highly favoured in the United States. Despite the fact that team work is seen as important for the success of organizations, it is not considered to be very significant in the US organizations. Instead, individual interests are given priority.

A manager in the USA should be aware of masculinity and femininity differences in Nigeria and China in order to manage the subsidiaries effectively. As Usunier (2010) states, gender is not considered as a big issue in leadership in the United States. Ambitions and goals fostered by women are highly recognized in the US as opposed to China where it is hard to find a woman in a top position in an organization.

It is also important for a manager to consider long-term orientation of the nation in which they are managing. There are cultures whose investment focuses on long-term results, while others focus on short-term results. According to Dong and Liu (2010), America is considered to score highly on short-term orientation. This means that the US does not have a lot of value for traditions.

Finally, it is important for managers to consider the uncertainty avoidance of each of the countries in which their organization has subsidiaries. This will help the manager to make the right and relevant adjustments in order to manage effectively. America is one of those nations that have low uncertainty avoidance.

Dong and Liu (2010) opine that America is open to change and people do not worry much about the effects that change will have on them in the future. As a result, it is easier to manage change in America since people are least likely to oppose it. The culture in America is open to innovations and new ideas (Usunier, 2010). This has been a critical factor in the success of American organizations.


China has an environment that is relatively predictable compared to Nigeria, despite being a third world country (Dong and Liu, 2010). Therefore, a manager of a Chinese organization operates in an economic environment that is stable and faces fewer challenges in management.

China is also an economically stable nation since it is one of the countries in the world that have the best economies. Leadership in this country is also not very challenging.

Considering the cultural dimensions by Hofstede, Chinese culture is different from that of the United States given that power distance is high in China. The distribution of power in Chinese organizations is not equal. Qin, Ramburuth and Wang (2008) indicate that the top level managers are viewed as the most powerful and they make most of the decisions.

The lower level managers and employees are not involved in the decision making process, or they make very little contribution. Managers give orders and employees are supposed to follow without questioning. In terms of individualism and collectiveness, China favours collectiveness to individualism. Workers in an organization are expected to work in a team. Wide consultation is highly appreciated.

It is not easy to find individual efforts being accepted and appreciated in Chinese organizations (Qin, Ramburuth and Wang, 2008). This is an issue that leaders and managers of Chinese organizations should appreciate in order to increase their chances of succeeding in the country. Group interests are prioritized ahead of individual interests.

Leadership style in China is also influenced by the issue of masculinity and femininity. Dong and Liu (2010) indicate that women are not considered for leadership positions in China, thus the gender gap difference is high. It is, therefore, difficult to find a woman manager in an organization. Moreover, China values long-term orientation. A leader should be aware of the traditions in the country.

Chinese people do not easily accept new things that are not within their traditions. China is regarded as a country that scores lowly on ‘uncertainty avoidance’. It is worth noting that the Chinese language itself is ambiguous and characterized by many signs that have uncertain meanings (Dong and Liu, 2010).

Ambiguity is, therefore, acceptable in China and uncertainty avoidance is also low. This has contributed to technological development in China.

From the above review, it is evident that managing in Nigeria, America and China would require unique set of skills and understanding of cultural dimensions due to the varying cultural orientations. The authors generally agree that Nigeria is a nation that has a hierarchical culture. It is the same case for China.

In these two nations, leaders are expected to make decisions without necessarily holding consultations before making their decisions. The review has also revealed that America is not a hierarchical nation, thus decision making is decentralized.

In this regard, the manager of an organization that has subsidiaries in any of these nations should be aware of the cultural differences in order to make the right changes and adjustments while managing in any of the three nations.

Reference List

Bayode, B 2008, Analysis of organizational leadership: a phenomenological study of organizational leaders in the private sector in Nigeria, Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest.

Dong, K & Liu, Y 2010 ‘Cross-cultural management in China’, Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 223 – 243.

Elele, J & Fields, D 2010 ‘Participative decision making and organizational commitment: Comparing Nigerian and American employees’, Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 368 – 392.

Epelle, A 2011 ‘Managing the bureaucracy for the socio-economic transformation of Nigeria: beyond the cliché of reforms’, Mustang Journal of Business & Ethics, vol. 2, pp. 39-55.

George, O, Owoyemi, O & Onakala U 2012, Hofstede’s ‘software of the mind’ revisited and tested: The case of Cadbury worldwide and Cadbury (Nigeria) Plc – A qualitative study’, International Business Research, vol. 5, no. 9, pp. 148-157.

Hur, Y, Strickland, RA & Dragan S 2010 ‘Managing diversity: does it matter to municipal governments?’, International Journal of Public Sector Management, vol. 23, no. 5, pp. 500 – 515.

Kolko, J, Neumark, D, & Mejia, M 2013, ‘What do business climate indexes teach us about state policy and economic growth?’ Journal of Regional Science, vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 220-255.

Lijun, C 2008 ‘Individualism, collectivism, selected personality traits, and psychological contract in employment: A comparative study’, Management Research News, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 289 – 304.

Madichie, NO, Nkamnebe, AD & Idemobi, EI 2008 ‘Cultural determinants of entrepreneurial emergence in a typical sub-Sahara African context’, Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 285 – 299.

Medugu, IN, Majid, MR & Choji, ID 2008 ‘A comprehensive approach to drought and desertification in Nigeria: A brief evaluation of government policies’, Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal, vol. 19, no. 6, pp. 690 – 704.

Ogbonna, C 2010, Cultural issues about doing business in Nigeria: case study for Thurmo Oy, viewed on <>

Qin, C, Ramburuth, P & Wang, Y 2008, ‘Cultural distance and subsidiary roles in knowledge transfer in MNCs in China’, Chinese Management Studies, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 260 – 280.

Tang, L 2012 ‘The direction of cultural distance on FDI: attractiveness or incongruity?’ Cross Cultural Management, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 233-256.

Usunier, J 2010, ‘Beyond Hofstede: Culture frameworks for global marketing and management’, International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 122-124.

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