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Analyse the effects of culture on leadership styles

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Culture is a part of our everyday lives embedded within all aspects around us inevitably holding an invisible grasp on the ways that we live our lives. Likewise, leadership practices and leadership as a whole is the typical norm and ideal in this day and age of ideal democracy and just like culture it plays a massive role in the way we go about our daily activities. Both these terms of culture and leadership are undeniably very broad and have many different layers to it and so this essay will be analysing the effect of which one inevitable such as culture effects leadership practices and to what extent.

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Upon looking at leadership it is clear to see that the comprehensive term has many dimensions and so cannot be contained to just one definition therefore leaving it to be adaptable to different styles and dimensions. One key aspect to consider is the behavioural dimension of leadership in which it is believed that leaders and nurtured rather than being inherently made and leadership skills are learned and developed over time. The supposed polar of this would be considering the trait dimension in leadership which believes that leaders are indeed born with certain qualities that equip them for leadership positions; thus, believing it is rather nature that creates a leadership compared to nurture (Mládková, Ludmila p.84). More so people may look at leadership from an approach that considers the situation at hand known as the situational dimension of leadership in which leadership does not reside in a person but rather the situation. What is meant by this is the fact that due to the nature of situations changing leaders may consequently rise and fall due to the qualities found necessary to lead in that situation may indeed be useless elsewhere (Murphy,(1941) p.12). Another way of looking at leadership is through the process-oriented dimension of leadership in which it is believed leadership is a process, involving a transactional relationship between the leader and follower in which they can affect one another (Northhouse (2015) p.5).

More so just as leadership can be defined in different ways due to context, the same can be seen for the definition of culture. Nonetheless a generic way to define culture would be to class it as a set of parameters that differentiate a collective due to sharing a normative set of beliefs and values that is able to define them as individuals or as a group of people (Housse et.al(2004) p.15)). These motives, values and beliefs can then be broadened to elaborate on the fact that it is amongst a collective which can then transmit these ideas across age generations. These collectives can then be measured using power distance which analyses the degree to which members of a collective expect power to be equally distributed.

Whist considering the extent to which culture effects leadership practises it will be important to consider specific elements such as power distances, individualism, collectivism, masculinity and femininity in order to dictate the severity that culture effects leadership practises. The two different power distances that are being analysed today are known as high power distance and low power distance. Whilst high power distance emphasizes the power hierarchy and makes it a point for society to be dependent on leaders to make decisions due to their title, low power distance societies trend to have little or no recognition for the power hierarchy and can so debatably be seen as more liberal and democratic. An example of a high-power distance in this century can be seen in Japan as they are always conscious of hierarchal position in any social setting and act accordingly (Hofstede-insights.com) . similarly, an example of a low power distance can be seen in the US as it is seen as a norm to value the American premise of ‘liberty and justice for all (hopeinthecutluralcomm.weely.com/power-distance.html).

Another key element which contributes to the viewing of culture on leadership practises is the idea of individualism vs collectivism which focuses on the needs prioritised between groups and individuals. Individualism is the idea in which people prioritise their individual interest over that of any group or identity whereas collectivism emphasises on the communal and interconnected relations which are seen to form a key part of people’s identities. A country that can be viewed to be individualistic in their culture is Ireland as they are seen to be oriented around themselves and would rather be independent than identify with a group. On the contrary, a country that can be seen as having a collectivist culture is Korea in which it is clear that they emphasise family and work group goals above individual needs or desires. These seemingly miniscule aspects of a large scale consequently have an inevitable effect on the way leadership is practised as whist one leader in Ireland may believe that individualism is the best way for prosperity another leader in Korea may completely contradict that and believe that the only way to succeed depends on being a unit and a collective.

Furthermore, it is of great importance to consider the degree to which a society prioritises gender equality and gender specific attributes as part of the social system known as masculinity and femininity. It is undeniable that in this century due to feminist movements and the changing position of the role of women gender does indeed play a pivotal role in life. Masculinity refers to the idea that gender plays a role in the behavioural expectation; where men are expected to be assertive and less emotionally expressive than women. Femininity refers to the cultural values that focuses on war social relationships, support for the weak and quality of life; thus, in theory both these terms look at the supposed instrumental vs expressive roles seen in society today.

One key example of culture effecting leadership styles in the modern world can be found In Japan. Although it is considered to be a borderline hierarchal society compared to other Asian cultures it is still very clear that they adapt an extremely hierarchical system. This can be seen through their business interactions which tend to take a long-time due to each decision having to be confirmed by each level of the hierarchal pyramid. Therefore, due to being a high-power distance culture decisions in Japan cannot be made easily and promptly clearly showing how due to their culture their leadership is affected as long decisions tend to affect the professionalism of the leadership style. Nonetheless it is still important to consider that Japan isn’t universally a high-power distance culture due to having a meritocratic society in which hard work and efforts are emphasised. Additionally, Japan is also seen as a country with high levels of individualism due to by nature being interdependent with other states and believing they need to look after themselves and their families. This also effects leadership practises as leaders are more concerned only with their affairs and not international relations; thus, leading an individualistic society to be potentially dangerous as they have not built any loyalties to other states and so can act irrationally with no boundaries maintaining them. The fact that Japan is also a highly masculine society does not aid with the potential security dilemmas already created as they are driven by competition, achievement and success being defined by winners and losers. This may affect leadership skills as it may take the sincerity of a democracy and doing what’s best for the country due to the corruption of doing what the leader personal views as the best. Thus, ( Hofstede-insights, country comparison).

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