How do you score on this Cross-Cultural Leadership Quiz?
1. You don’t completely agree with how an important business decision will be implemented. You:
a. Question your superior and provide your input on the situation
b. Withhold disapproval and implement the decision without question
2. You prefer a leader who:
a. Dresses formally, goes by their appropriate title or honorific, and formally interacts with employees
b. Dresses casually, prefers to be called by their first name, and works alongside other employees
3. When starting a new project, you feel most comfortable when your leader or manager:
a. Tells you what to do with detailed, step-by-step instructions
b. Provides a basic outline with room for interpretation
4. During meetings, you’d rather your leader or manager:
a. Start by engaging in social conversations about family, sports, or personal activities
b. Get down to business without delay
5. An important project is due today. It still needs a lot of work, but you have a family event to attend. You:
a. Sacrifice arriving to your event on time in order to complete your goal
b. Plan to finish it tomorrow and attend your obligation on time
Congratulations, you passed the test!
In fact, there is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions. Your preferences are a product of different dimensions of your cultural background and life experience. The thing is, though, these differences can make global leadership quite challenging. As a global leader, it’s important to develop a global mindset in order to avoid misreading culturally different behaviors.
To help further your global leadership skills, let’s take a closer look at the cultural dimensions at play in the quiz above.
Question 1: How Hierarchical and Egalitarian Structures Interact with Authority
When it comes to leadership and management style, the Hierarchy Dimension impacts the extent to which team members are empowered to take initiative and make decisions, as well as the amount of control, autonomy, and supervision that members expect and are comfortable with.
In hierarchical cultures such as India, the leaders and subordinates have quite distinct roles and understand their ranking in the structure and their relationship vis-à-vis their supervisors. This means employees are expected to defer to their leaders’ more authoritative leadership style.
Egalitarian cultures such as Denmark, on the other hand, see leadership as a shared responsibility and feel most comfortable when they’re encouraged to take autonomous initiative. Since egalitarian folks tend to collaborate on business decisions, those in egalitarian cultures expect to take initiative and confer with their leaders for advice.
Question 2: Formality Impacts Appearance and Demeanor
In leadership, the Formality Dimension refers to the importance of appearance, etiquette, and use of titles and honorifics. In formal cultures such Peru or Japan, for instance, leaders wear more formal attire and are often addressed by their proper title. However, in informal cultures such as Australia, those “visible cues” of authority may be obscured. A CEO might dress in casual clothes and sit alongside other employees, which can confuse more formal folks who expect their leaders to wear a suit and tie.
It’s important to note that there is still a level of deference and acknowledgement of status in informal cultures. Regardless of how the CEO dresses or what car they drive, their business title implies the same level of authority as in a formal culture.
Question 3: Communication Style and Background Information
One aspect of the Communication Dimension refers to the amount of information people need to receive or share to understand a message. Some cultures, such as the Dutch, value brevity. They expect to receive only as much information as needed to accomplish a task. Leaders typically explain the overall goal and allow their subordinates latitude to achieve it.
To contrast, employees in a high-context culture such as China usually prefer a comprehensive picture of the project with everyone’s roles laid out explicitly. While there may be no such thing as “too much context”, the amount of background information desired by high-context cultures can frustrate folks who value brevity. Extra information can be perceived as a waste of time for those who are comfortable with limited details, so it’s important to remember that once the whole team feels fully informed, decision-making and project implementation will likely progress quickly.
Question 4: Relationships Range from Interpersonal to Transactional
The Relationship Dimension also plays a tremendous role in global leadership. Brazilian folks, for example, tend to be quite people oriented and value interpersonal relationships in the workplace. This means they’ll likely take time to chat casually even when there’s business to attend to. To many interpersonal cultures, these close relationships are the backbone of trust. However, in cultures that are more transactional, these niceties may seem inconvenient. They might prefer to keep social conversations to a minimum, get down to business, and stay focused on tasks.
Question 5: Motivation Can Be Fueled by Status or Work-Life Balance
Finally, the Motivation Dimension– whether folks are motivated by status or work-life balance – also affects global leadership. In Status-motivated environments such the US, employees tend to highly value their professional lives and are goal-oriented. As such, they are often expected to conduct business outside of working hours or on weekends.
Cultures that value balance, like many in the Gulf Arab states, see a distinct difference between work and personal life. They do not feel their personal time should be sacrificed in pursuit of greater workplace recognition. As such, organizations are expected not to interfere with the private time of their workers.
For folks from a status-motivated culture, it can be crucial to remember that those who value work-life balance is a cultural characteristic, and isn’t a sign of a lack of commitment. For a status-motivated culture to productively work alongside balance-oriented cultures, you would do well to recognize the importance of private obligations and accommodate when necessary.
As you can see, employees and leaders from varied cultures can have many different expectations about how to behave in certain situations. Cultural Dimensions like Hierarchy, Formality, Communication, Relationship, and Motivation all play a major role in the leadership and management styles of different cultures. Fortunately, the cultural awareness that comes with a global mindset is a key to help global leaders drive their cross-cultural teams to success.