Leadership Behavioral Preferences in Asian Countries

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Cross-cultural research in Asia has identified societies with high power distance and collectivist preferences. Interactions between leaders and followers is to preserve a distance between both parties, with leaders remaining in a paternalistic management style, authoritarian in nature, the followers are obliged to comply.

Despite cultural and traditional tendencies, over the years of economic development and globalization of business and education, cross-borders partnerships and foreign direct investments across nations, Asians have been attracted to Western education of all levels, therefore a combination of tertiary education and executive degrees, often inspired by the aspiration of entering international businesses, have been extensively sought after. The impact is that Asian students and professionals are nowadays more and more Westernized in many aspects, from leadership style preferences, to specific leader behaviors and organizational cultural types. Liden (2012) has found, thus, a convergence rather than divergence of universally well-known leadership theories.

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Many similarities between Western and Asia leadership behavioral preferences have been found by scholars specifically when high power distance Asian countries expressing their inclination towards autonomy and dislike over authoritarian controlling leadership styles. Whilst autonomy helped build positive relationships and job satisfaction, prominently expressed in Asian countries with lower power distance was true.

Liden (2012) had looked at the cultural comparison of practices of transformational leadership, LMX and servant leadership, finding that all three have shown more similarities than differences across the Western and Asian geographies. The main differences in transformational leadership in Asia were found over cultural variables such as power distance, assertiveness level, traditional values which tended to be more specific per countries, all in all transformational leadership tended to generate OCB and positive performance, primarily in China. Liden also found antecedents such as trust and distributive justice to be highly correlated in Asia under low power distance countries, however, less correlated in countries under high power distance. Testing for servant leadership presence in Asia via the servant leadership scale the mean represented in Chinese employees was higher (4.93) than from the employees in the United States (4.67), expressing, therefore, servant leadership having great potential in Asia. Repeating the usage of the same scale, Schaubroeck, Lam & Pang (2011) found that there were no differences between the mean in Hong Kong and United States of the same employees of the multinational bank.

Other researchers agree that dominant leadership theories are well suited in Asia. They further content that in large-scale cross-cultural studies there were more similarities than differences discovered amongst universal theories of leadership, thus in the name of rigor and parsimony, it would be less than useful and appropriate to generate new country based leadership theories. Nevertheless, cross-cultural studies on leadership ought to be tested for cultural moderators’ effects that are universally endorsed leadership constructs.

Their analysis of Mainland Chinese organizations found that although transformational leadership may work well in the higher hierarchies in organizational relationships, it failed in empirical research to support innovation due to intrinsic motivation showing a weaker effect on work motivation, as in many of the Asian cultures of the collectivist nature mixed with larger power distance tended to be weaker. Trust is their immediate supervisor was found to be a big performance factor – stewardship in small businesses and in operational leadership roles in larger organizations where the role interface with the immediate supervisor was more relevant, concluding that stewardship was highly appreciated from leaders. Stewardship also contributed to competitive advantage in forming social and government ties for business relations in China, given that the legal and institutional settings are complex and uncertain. In a sample of 154 teams, it was found that creativity was increased by self-identification towards the servant leader and the higher the self-identification the stronger the client for innovation existed.

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