Leadership in Diverse Culture and Society

       According to Hornsby, “Everyone is subordinate to someone—some board, some coach, some law, some other leader”. A research-based discussion caught my interest this week as we’ve tackled one of the most comprehensive papers about leadership, the ‘The GLOBE Study’. The study talks about the similarities and differences of norms, cultures, values, and beliefs and its relationship to leadership across the world.

            Among those are power distance, uncertainty avoidance, humane orientation, collectivism (institutional level), collectivism (group level), assertiveness, gender egalitarianism, future orientation, and performance orientation. GLOBE attempt to learn about people expectations from their leaders and link it to the cultural values and practices. In summary, it says that the culture has a great impact to the leadership style. The study mentioned that it can make or break a leader. It was also mentioned that the leadership itself can rise above the predominating culture.

In the same research, they studied 112 leader’s characteristics until they came up with a scale that they called ‘most universally desirable to least universally desirable’. The top three in scale are integrity, inspirational, and visionary while the lowest among the 21-refined list are malevolent, autocratic, and self-centered.

            As a young leader, I’ve been a believer of integrity. In fact, I am greatly influenced by one of my favorite leader-author, John Maxwell. One of his many definition of integrity was “Integrity is not determined by circumstances. It is determined by the choices you make. Make it a practice to take full responsibility for your character. Set aside the negative experience you’ve had, including difficult circumstances and people who have hurt you.
Commit to truth, reliability, honesty, and confidentiality as the pillars of your life.”

            Coming from the current position that I am holding as a Procurement Officer, my character is always being tested. We’ve been generalized, the procurement in the Philippines setting in general as one of the most corrupt department whether in public or private sector. And so that’s why my idea of being a leader, my moral being a leader, and me as a leader is always being validated by many. And I think this is the perfect time to declare integrity.

        On the other hand, the lowest desirable characteristic as this empirical study was saying was being self-centered. Sounds so negative that most of the future or developing leaders may not like the idea of self-centeredness at all. Maxwell once said that “Self-centered leaders manipulate when they move people for personal benefit. Mature leaders motivate by moving people for mutual benefit.” There are some strong arguments between being self-centered and self-aware. Most of them say that these are faces of the same coin. Being self-centered is human nature, and leaders need to become self-aware to avoid the pitfalls of becoming one. Perceived of focusing on self-interest can be risky to your career especially in the modern organization where teamwork, relationship, and focusing on “we” is highly valued.

       The question is, are the leaders behaviors, attributes, and organizational practices that are universally acceptable and effective are acceptable among all cultures? GLOBE search the world and tried to find an answer using statistical data. Using the six culturally endorsed ‘leadership style dimension’, the research tries to come up with what is globally acceptable style considering culture diversity. At the end, it turns out that charismatic leadership is what on topmost over, participative, team oriented, humane oriented, self-protective, and autonomous. A charismatic leader is described as visionary, inspirational, self-sacrificing, with integrity, decisive, and performance oriented. While the style being mentioned to be culturally acceptable and seems to be faultless, it appears that these are the characteristics that expected by the world (regardless of cultures) from those who lead them. Reflecting on the result of the study, I realized that throughout the development of my leadership skills, I’ve had the exclusive chance to be involved with both large and small teams. I understand what it means to be on a team that can work collectively to increase output, build morale, formulate strategies that will meet a predefined goal.

            In the organizations that I have been with for almost nine years of working, with at least three different companies, I can affirm that leadership style adjust based on the cultural factors. The adjustment may also be grounded on the type of the organization, and the demand of the people inside the organization. A motivated workforce is essential for the success of today’s businesses. Global leaders should therefore be able to inspire their subordinates. Nonetheless, one thing is certain for me. As leadership style can be changed or modified by extrinsic causes such as what have discussed in the GLOBE Study, but I would still like to believe that once character of a person has been established, he/she will be able to survive cultural related challenges as a leader. It is certain that my role as a leader is one that comes with passion and genuine desire to really do what it is you believe you are called to do.

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