Category Archives: Global Economy

Is Humility A Universal Leadership Value Across Cultures ?


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Humility in leadership can be defined as the ability to understand yourself and bring the best from other people. You must first know your talents and limitations, then recognize that you have to rely on others and empower them to discover their own strengths and manage their weak points to focus on achieving a common goal.

Global leaders and managers working in multicultural teams must manage conflicts, poor communication and lack of teamwork as a result of misunderstandings and wrong assumptions from people driven by different internal core values and beliefs.

What we know, from the work of Professor Geert Hofstede on dimensions of national culture is that some countries have high power distance such as Russia that scores 93 on a scale of 1-100 and others have a low power distance dimension like United States that scores 40.

What it means, is that in Russia the power is distributed unequally and highly centralized with 80% of the financial potential concentrated in Moscow. It also means that in high distance countries people believe that power and authority are facts of life and inequality is institutionalized. Leaders are therefore expected to have a top-down approach to solve conflicts and take important decisions. Subordinates will simply comply with their leader.

For doing business In Russia, you must understand that hierarchy and status are important and that Russians respect age, rank and position as well as technological expertise. Russians see negotiations as win-lose and compromise as weakness.

On the other hand, in lower power distance countries such as the United States, there is a preference for consultation and collaborative leadership. Subordinates are encouraged to be independent  and contribute to problem solving. In the United States. business communication is informal and based on a win-win negotiation style.

If you are coming from the U.S. or another low power distance country when you have to deal with high power distance countries like Russia, you need to take your time  to understand who has the power of making decisions, otherwise nothing is going to happen especially when dealing with the administration and its very complex bureaucracy. For Americans, “time is money” but trying to force Russians to take quick decisions will only delay the processes and decrease trust.

So in a sense, humility in business negotiation is highly valued by Russians in general as humble business leaders have patience, try to understand first  and at the same time are strong enough to deal with conflicts without showing any sign of arrogance or superiority.

Most of the studies on humility as a value in leadership have been conducted in the United States and therefore it is difficult to separate the empirical and anecdotal from the real science-based evidences.

Leadership is a question of character (integrity, confidence, curiosity), not temperament (biology and genetics), therefore it is possible for global leaders and expatriated managers to learn cultural differences and the benefits of humility, holding judgment and avoiding placing one culture above another.

The role of effective intercultural leaders is to shape the corporate and local cultures of their organization to be understood and embraced by individuals from different race, ethnicity, religion and gender with a minimum of misunderstandings. 

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How Intercultural Competence Drives Success in Global Virtual Teams


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See on Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

A study that shows intercultural competence as a factor in effectiveness of global virtual teams, and that building relationships, establishing structure, and having discipline are critical for success.

Anne Egros‘s insight:

To build a global team, first determine what needs to be done and then identify who are the best individuals for achieving the goals based on individual coaching and through intercultural training programs

See on gbr.pepperdine.edu

International Commuters: Understanding the Benefits and Challenges | Expatriatus


See on Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

International assignments  are getting shorter and the number of international commuters is increasing. Do you think it is beneficial on the long run for both the employees and employers ?

Anne Egros‘s insight:

Not living in the same country with your family is detrimental for learning fully about the culture. Local employees may also treat you as an outsider, not really part of the team as you can’t share social events involving partners or children.

Each family situation is different but if you embrace expatriation as a great way to grow then I prefer to do it with the whole family. However I understand that sometimes other considerations such as schooling system or health care or dangerous locations may give no choice but commuting, I think this situation should be exceptional and not exceed 1 year.

I am not surprised that long-distance commuters have 40 percent higher risk of separation compared to other people who already have 50 percent chance to get divorced in most countries nowadays.

And yes the tax filing can become a nightmare and a costly exercise, especially for US residents and citizen

See on blog.iese.edu

Perception of Time Value In America and Russia


Business in Russia

Many managers working in multicultural teams or dealing with clients and business partners overseas have often little idea that conflicts could have underlying cultural differences.

Time and its perceived value is one of those key cultural differences. We may measure time with same metrics such as hours or days  but time is perceived differently on a personal level and on a cultural level.

Time management is a frequent cause of conflicts between Americans and Russians when doing business together and this is due to the cultural context.

For Americans the value of time is material:

  • “Time is money”
  • They tend to have a materialistic approach attached to achievements and time.
  • Time is sacred in the U.S.,  being late is very rude, deadlines  are fixed.
  • “Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.”Peter F. Drucker

For Russians, the value of time is “elastic”:

  •  “People” come before time, a Russian proverb says: “seven people do not wait for one”.
  • Being late is not perceived as being rude
  • Deadlines are flexible
  • Russian management does not fit easily in “westernized” practices of time management
  • Planning is not rigorous
  • Issues and problems are solved under pressure and stress at the last-minute
  • If you want to manage your Russian team you better be a night owl. Often employees work late until 11 pm or 1 am (the direct consequence of dealing with things at the last-minute)

When doing business in Russia, American companies should spend more time than they usually do in the US on establishing personal connections before talking business. Frequent contacts should then be maintained.

Organizing bi-cultural meetings is often the first step of intercultural business communication. Handled poorly, those events can lead to frustration and lack of trust, jeopardizing collaboration. The organizers of such introductory intercultural meetings between Americans and Russians should create an environment in which time perception differences are explained and accepted by all. 

In the US, an agenda is always sent before a meetings and it is usually followed. In Russia there is often reluctance to put in writing a detailed plan. If the meeting is conducted in English, more time should be given to people who are not the native speakers. Do not rush the call and make sure to allow extra time for unplanned topics that could emerge during the discussion. Always send minutes or a summary of what’s been said just after the meeting. However, with Russian partners what has been discussed and perceived as agreed by their American counterpart may be challenged and rejected at any time.

Related Resources

How Do You Develop Global Leaders ?


Globe

In the article ‘Global Mindset Secrets of Superstar Expats” published  by Thunderbird School of Global Management, the authors argue that immersing executives in different cultures does not produce effective global leaders as they often fail to learn how to deal with the complexities of their work environment.

To lead is to be able to influence people who are not thinking and behaving like you. In my experience learning to lead across cultures is a mix of formal leadership development training aligned with corporate values and multiple international assignments in places with very different cultural values and dimensions (https://zestnzen.wordpress.com/tag/cultural-dimensions/ )

I challenge the concept of “‘global mindset” as it is often interpreted as an “ethnocentric” way of doing business aka “western”. You can have all the attributes listed in this article and fail to adapt your leadership style to one specific country. Applying participating leadership and asking employees to take initiatives doesn’t work well in Russia for example, while Americans appreciate leaders who grant autonomy and delegate authority to subordinates.

Successful leaders in developed economies are different from successful leaders in emerging economies.

In a Forbes’ article,  How Does Leadership Vary Across the Globe? results of a  study show that it is important to adapt leadership style to a specific culture and not try to apply  “Americanized” management principles. The skills set and competencies of leaders in different countries vary.

The Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Research Project (GLOBE) is an international group of social scientists and management scholars who study cross-cultural leadership. According to GLOBE researchers, leader effectiveness is contextual, that is, it is embedded in the societal and organizational norms, values, and beliefs of the people being led. In other words, to be seen as effective, the time-tested adage continues to apply: “When in Rome do as the Romans do.”

To gauge leader effectiveness across cultures, GLOBE researchers empirically
established nine cultural dimensions (adapted from work of Hofstede) to capture the similarities
and/or differences in norms, values, beliefs –and practices—among societies. The cultural dimensions can be used in intercultural leadership training.

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You Are What You Speak: How Language Influences Behaviors


Montage of languages. Prototype header for the...

Montage of languages. Prototype header for the language portal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If our language shapes the way we think, it also impacts the way we behave.

In its presentation, Keith Chen ask the question: Could your language affect your ability to save money ? The author gives various examples on how same information is delivered very differently from one language to another. For example in English, the following sentences:  “it has rained”, “it is raining” or “it will rain” are translated in Chinese in only one sentence because the information about time in the verb is never mentioned.

He called  “futured languages,” those like English that  distinguish between the past, present and future, and “futureless languages,” those like Chinese that use the same phrasing to describe the events of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Chen found that huge economic differences accompany this linguistic discrepancy. Futureless language speakers are 30 percent more likely to report having saved in any given year than futured language speakers

Unlike English, many languages have a grammatical gender system. For example French, Spanish, Russian or German languages use genders for inanimate objects. Cross-linguistic differences in thought can be produced just by grammatical differences even when the person speaks English.

Different languages divide color space differently. Some colors like “Yellow and “Orange” for example don’t have different names in certain languages but it does not mean that people don’t see the differences. Unlike English, Russian makes a distinction between lighter blues (“goluboy”) and darker blues (“siniy”). These differences have a direct impact on the way meaning is attributed to colors.

Language, cultural rules, norms, personal experience etc., all influence the way we interpret what we see,hear or feel in a very complex manner. Words are interpreted as thoughts and thoughts trigger behaviors.

In doing business in different countries, global companies need to deliver messages to consumers or employees that can be interpreted in the right way. Corporate culture and employee training programs for example should be adapted to local culture and delivered in local language. For global executives and expatriates, intercultural training can be done in English but should be highly personalized and designed based on the culture and experience of the recipients. Looking at differences and similarities between languages can give many clues on what is appropriate or inappropriate behaviors.

 Related articles: 

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