Category Archives: Russian culture

Conflit en Ukraine : contexte historique (avec des pincettes) • NEW POINT de VIEW

Mini rétrospection factuelle de l’histoire russo-ukrainienne — regard neutre sur le pugilat entre les deux Ukraines non-arrangé “occidentalement”

See on Scoop.itLife in Moscow From an Expat Perspective

Cet article offre une bonne analyse en profondeur de la situation en Ukraine avec  a la fois une analyse précise des faits historiques a l’origine du conflit et une explication sur les valeurs culturelles Russes.

Les valeurs cultures Russes en particulier celles liées a l’argent, a leur façon d’être fiers d’endurer les pires situations ou leur patriotisme sont tellement différentes de l’occident que les sanctions Européennes et Américaines ne font que souder les Russes autours de leur leader même avec un rouble dévalué de 30 % et  une inflation galopante de  20 ou 25 % sur les produits alimentaires.


Viewing the Ukraine Crisis From Russia’s Perspective

James Joyce’s famous statement that “history is a nightmare” from which we should try to awake, aptly describes current events in the Ukraine.  All nations involved in these events are biased by the remembered, misremembered, forgotten, and mythologized history they carry in their heads.


 “Our national memories have the passion and power to drive us blindly to hatreds and to war”

History is actually biased opinions based on popular stories that people believe as facts and do not challenge. Those stories are used to exacerbate our patriotism: “our stories” versus “the “enemy stories”. Stories are used in propaganda  to manipulate the public opinion toward a common goal : eliminating the “enemy” and to consolidate political power, financial interests etc.

For example, Hillary Clinton, on March 5, said that Putin’s concern for Russians in Ukraine is like Hitler’s concern for Germans in Poland and Czechoslovakia.

This is a very good example of manipulation:

Labeling Putin as “Hitler” is a sure way to activate a demon in the American national memory and to mobilize the United States to again fight the evil personified (just like Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Chavez, Allende or Gaddafi , to name a few of many leaders that have been called “Hitler” by American politicians)

Russians are looking at Ukraine as increasing the threat of being invaded. After the collapse of the USSR, many previous Soviet republics in Eastern Europe are now members of NATO with military bases. Ukraine and Belarus are actually the last soviet republics that are not EU members.

Each era of  Russian history has had its military super-power, and each super-power in turn attacked Russia: Turks, Poles, Swedes, French, Germans, British, and Japanese have each invaded Russia more than once.

See on Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

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. 

Related Articles:

How Do You Develop Global Leaders ?


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 ( )

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.

Related Articles: 

Who Needs Cross-cultural Training ?

Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

This article posted in is giving a great overview about cross-cultural training

Expatriate failure is defined in literature in a variety of ways, with intentions to leave listed prominently

Anne Egros‘s insight:

Tailoring cross-cultural training programmes to the individual’s situation

Cross-cultural trainings should start by the selection of the best candidate for a specific international assignment. Succesful international leaders share some personality traits such as:

-Active listening skills


-Emotional intellligence

-Global strategic thinking with understanding of local issues/market


-Life long learner



Expectations and goals should be clearly defined as well as the key performance indicators including both contribution to local and global performance with in mind long-term impacts of the decisions taken during a short-term (2-3 years) mission. Including colleagues of the host country in the decision process is also a good idea.

Ideally, the family should be assessed too or at least get pre-departure cross-cultural trainings and transition coaching

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The Power of Negative Thinking and Cultural Preferences

See on Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

Both ancient philosophy and modern psychology suggest that darker thoughts can make us happier, writes Oliver Burkeman.

The way we are thinking affects what we do and this article is interesting because it explores alternatives and it challenges the positive thinking principle that if we can dream it we can do it.

“The Three Little Pigs” story gives us a good metaphor on poor evaluation of risks. The two pigs who wanted to play built their houses quickly overlooking quality and danger of the situation. When the wolf came, down went the houses! The lesson is that laziness and too much optimistic thinking are undesirable characteristics to possess, while hard work and careful planning are very positive characteristics.

Positive thinking in American culture is deeply anchored in the education system and workplace cultures.

On May 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade. Without this type of thinking would it have been possible for Armstrong to land on the moon in 1969?

On the other hand we can probably credit an overly positive thinking for the disasters like the “Titanic” or the space shuttle Discovery  (see details in a previous post:  The Titanic Failure, Technical or Leadership Flaws ? )

You can have big dreams but connect expectations with facts and evidences. Good leaders make decisions based on good judgment considering positive outcomes and costs of failure and evaluating the risks of doing something or avoiding it.

How much risk we can tolerate is also greatly depending on culture according to Geert Hofstede. Among the 5 main cultural dimensions there is one called : Uncertainty avoidance: The dimension Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen?

The US scores 46 on this dimension and therefore, American society is what one would describe as “uncertainty accepting.” Consequently, there is a larger degree of acceptance for new ideas, innovative products and a willingness to try something new or different, whether it pertains to technology, business practices, or foodstuffs.

People from coun­tries with high uncer­tainty avoid­ance, such as Rus­sia who scores 95 and many of the former soviet states will typ­ic­ally expect expli­cit instruc­tions and dir­ec­tion for many tasks and will need very detailed and formal responses to requests and ques­tions, these indi­vidu­als feel at their most com­fort­able and pro­duct­ive in a world of struc­ture and rules.

Conclusion:In multicultural environments it is important to understand how people from different cultural backgrounds evaluate risks and project negative or positive outcomes. Avoiding ethnocentric decisions is key in intercultural project management but at the same time high  risk-avoidance should not paralyze action.

Moscow Business Stories: Japanese Companies in Russia

See on Scoop.itLife in Moscow From an Expat Perspective

This article is an Interview with Takushi Seki,  the Director of Corporate Issues and Communications for CIS, Romania and the Adriatic region, Japan Tobacco International, Co-chairman of Japanese Business Club

Correspondent: How can you characterize your Russian employees’ qualifications, their devotion to work, to the company’s success?

At first I was afraid that we would not be able to work as a team. However when I got to know my Russian colleagues better they turned out to be very friendly and devoted to work. I think we have a lot in common. We respect and admire those people who work in our team for the benefit of the company”.

Russians are distinguished by their professionalism and positive attitude towards work. We respect and admire those people who work in our team for the benefit of the company. Besides, the Russian people are easily taught. For example, we launched a programme of innovation proposals’ gathering, based on the Japanese philosophy Kaizen and our personnel took little time to master it. The number of received proposals was higher than we had expected.

Anne Egros‘s insight:

I have been living and working in Japan almost 10 years altogether between 1990 and 2006 (l went there three times) and I have found similarities with Russians as explained by Mr. Takushi Seki. I do agree that people here in Moscow are really working hard and are eager to learn. I have been also amazed by young Russian professionals speaking English very well. The concept of Kaizen wich can be translated as “continuing improvement through team work” is natural to Russian employees who are less individualistic than Westerners, especially compared with Americans.

I had low expectations when I came to Moscow because everybody told me negative clichés about Russians or living in Moscow : the harsh winter, horrible traffic jams, people not smiling or rude with foreigners. Maybe some of those stereotypes are true but I chose to focus on the positive things and people and I am really enjoying my life as an expat in Moscow.

People do smile at strangers and like to help when I try to speak with my broken Russian language. Business wise I have met many Russians eager to collaborate and especially be impressed by Russian women entrepreneurs.

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