Article: Book review: Culture and leadership across the world


Book review: Culture and leadership across the world

This book offers rich qualitative insights about the outstanding leadership practices and cultural values in each society

The increasingly global nature of today's businesses necessitates that managers be prepared for cross-cultural encounters


This book offers rich qualitative insights about the outstanding leadership practices and cultural values in each society

Managers have increasingly realized that the so-called soft side of their work and workplaces—mindsets, organizational culture, leadership qualities, emotions, to name a few—are important matters. However, they mostly rely on popular advice and intuition to deal with such important matters. They rarely turn to systematic evidence about these and other human issues, often ignore or forget the evidence, or apply it inconsistently. Such tendencies may have especially graver implications in cross-cultural settings where managers have to conduct business with people from different cultures and economies. However, the increasingly global nature of today’s businesses necessitates that managers be prepared for such cross-cultural encounters. This book is an excellent source of knowledge and advice for them. It offers a compilation of rich insights into the societal and organizational culture prevalent in 25 societies across the world. Besides culture, this book also provides a thick description of what constitutes outstanding leadership inside organizations of these 25 societies.

This book is a result of systematic research efforts of a network of researchers located across the globe. It is perhaps the best example of collaborative research at such a large scale. This research project—aptly named as Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE)—was carried out by 170 researchers in 62 societies. These researchers employed a standardized set of data collection tools to answer a number of questions about leadership, societal and organizational culture, and their implications for organizational practices and competitiveness. The project also sought to understand if there were universal attributes of leadership and culture, and if some attributes were specific to individual societies under investigation. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected and analyzed. The source of data was also standardized to a significant extent. These researchers gathered data from the middle managers working in at least two of the following three industries: (1) food processing, (2) telecommunication services, and (3) financial services. Such a research design permitted comparison of findings across the societies.

The outcome of GLOBE project is available in two books. The first book published in 2004 reported the methodology and quantitative findings about culture and leadership practices in the 62 societies. This second book reports the results of in-depth quantitative and qualitative studies of societal and organizational culture and values as well as leadership practices carried out in 25 of the 62 societies.

Though no one can deny the importance of understanding culture and leadership for practicing managers, these are tricky topics to research. Clarity on the definition and measurement of these terms has been difficult to emerge. Hofstede was the first researcher who attempted a systematic formulation of the meaning and dimensions of culture. However, his interpretations were based on the data from employees of just one large multinational corporation. Building on his initial efforts, the researchers of GLOBE project have formulated a richer meaning of culture comprising of nine different dimensions. A typology of leadership practices has also emerged from this project.

More than the quantitative description of leadership and culture in each of the 25 societies, this book offers rich qualitative insights about the outstanding leadership practices and cultural values in each society. These results are presented along with an introduction of the history, economy, and polity of each of these societies. These features of the individual chapters make them complete yet brief and easy-to-read accounts of the individual societies which practicing managers should find quite useful. As they enter into cross-cultural business relationships, they need sound understanding of different societies and advices based on robust research.

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Topics: Leadership, Culture, #GlobalPerspective

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