Effective Leadership Styles Are Contingent Upon Cultural

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With the start of globalisation, the emergence of cross cultural or multi-cultural organisations is seen. The influence of the western culture in values and culture has an impact on the business culture as well. This has increased interdependence of nations between each other. Seeing that the exports and imports are high, the nations are dependent on each other for resources. The idea of outsourcing functions/ departments and insourcing cheap labour is one of the influences of globalisation. This brings in a diversifies work force for organisations to manage. Here the cultures and values of the different nations has to be considered and the norms followed have to be assessed. For example, the idea of tipping in restaurants varies from country to country. US and Mexico do not have service charges added on to the bill so they are expected to pay 10-20% of the total bill as a tip. Whereas in a country like India, service charges are added to the bill but still the idea of giving a tip is 5-10% of the bill or just mere change is seen as etiquette. But surprisingly in countries like Spain, tipping is not common and in Japan tipping is considered rude and insulting. Similarly, in the business context in terms of approaching their goals, US is seen as future oriented when dealing with potential benefits of a product whereas counties like India and China recognises credibility through past achievements (Gill Atkinson,2019).

In the context of India, the impact of globalisation is very high and the western influence is definitely seen in the workings of the organisations. Similarly, India has a very rich culture and value system. These values are not only embedded in the day to day lifestyle but also in its business world. India is multilingual, multi ethnic and a pluralistic society (Ukibc, 2015). Indians are strongly guided by their religion and shared values. It is also seen that it is common in Indian businesses to give the decision-making authority to top/ middle level management. Decisions are based on intuition as well as statistics and data. Working relationships are of great value to the organisations and it is said to be ideal to develop contacts and relationships with time (Asia link business, 2018).

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The main factor that affects the leadership styles followed in India are the different types of organisations. The three main types of organizations that exist are: (i) Family managed-traditional, (ii) Professionally managed- Indian organisations and foreign organisations and (iii) Public sector organisations. These organizations have their own distinctive features and leadership styles that are implemented. Seeing that India has 3 primary sectors or classifications for work organisations, the theories come into play to find the most effective type of leadership style for each of these organisations. Some leadership theory that works well for one of them may not necessarily be effective in another. Hence the idea of a universal leadership theory and style cannot be practised when taking India as the context.

Indian leadership is often said to be very autocratic, with the supervisor closely supervising the subordinates and providing only limited degree of authority in participation. India has seen to have a very directive style of leadership(Nanus, 1985). Here the leader’s motive is to get the tasks completed as well as reach the goals by giving orders and instructions. Here the meeting of targets derives him of certain benefits such as image building and competitive edge over his/her competitors. Here the leader is highly performance oriented, dynamic, transactional, innovative, empowering, spiritual and charismatic(Pal, 2011). All of these qualities and styles of leadership are seen in the Indian business world. A few of the leaders are Ratan Tata, Azim Premji, N.R. Narayana Murthy and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. These leaders have made a mark for themselves in the business world not only in terms of their business but also the leadership styles they portray.

The organisations operational internationally have a set of standard policies and rules but these policies are followed differently within the organisations as the employees are from different cultures and operate in different ways. Moreover, the influence of national culture is seen in the behaviours and attitudes of the people within the organisation(Trompenaars and Hampden­turner, 1993).

Hofstede’s cultural dimensions help us to get an insight about the cultural influence of national culture on leadership styles. He states six dimensions power distance (PDI), individualism vs. collectivism (IDV), masculinity vs femininity (MAS), uncertainty avoidance (UAI), long term orientation (LTO) and indulgence vs. restraint (IVR) (Hofstede, 1984). For India, power is distributed unequally as it is based on relationship and dependency. This is due to India’s hierarchical system which is replicated from the caste system which originated years ago. Also, the effect of the migration and colonial rule is seen. Due to the hierarchical division of the society into groups the power distance of the people gas been passed on to the workplace/ organisations as well. Here the top management take up all the decisions making responsibilities and the junior members are expected to portray respect and display loyalty to their seniors. India is said to have a very collectivistic culture. The business relationships are viewed to be long term and sustainable. Here the interest of a group prevails more than an interest of an individual which is a prominent feature in families as well as organisations in India. Here personal relationships are given more importance than tasks. Trust plays a major factor when decisions are to be made. Group and team accomplishments are the focus rather than individual accomplishments. India portrays a masculine culture as focus is said to be more on value earnings, recognition, advancement and challenge. Traits like authority, assertiveness, performance and success are more preferable. India has a more flexible structure for the people in the organisations. Here there are set a firm rule to be followed but mindset of the people is “take it as it comes.” India is a long-term oriented society and believed in deep sense of harmony and stable relationships. In a hand restraint society like India, there are strict norms to be followed. In a restraint society like this freedom speech is not a primary concern (Boopathi, 2014).

Hofstede’s design raised a couple of questions regarding the generalizability of the finding drawn by this research. His research was based on a convenient sample of employees in IBM. This drew a “uni-organisational” design which let to limited data for generalizing it for the entire population of the country(Taras, Steel and Kirkman, 2012). Taking this into consideration the broader idea of the GLOBE dimension is looked at

The Global Leadership and Organisational Behaviour Effectiveness (GLOBE) programme is a study conducted to determine the effectiveness of leadership behaviours in different cultural contexts. To start with a common cultural base, the definition of societal culture was determined. Cultural practises and cultural values were seen as the manifestations of operational culture. Here cultural similarity is seen as a factor for grouping and clusters were framed. The nine cultural dimensions were power distance, uncertainty avoidance, institutional collectivism, in-group collectivism, performance orientation, gender egalitarianism, future orientation, humane orientation and assertiveness There were two attributes for the determination of the rank of the nation: (i) the ways the things are presently and (ii) the way things should be(House et al., 2004).

India came into the Sothern Asian cluster which included other nations like Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Iran. It was found that countries in this cluster value collective goals, futuristic orientation and rule-based structures (Gupta, Hanges and Dorfman, 2002). It was found that in India there was a huge influence of social norms, rules and procedures in the group, organisation and the society as a whole. It was also found that the Indian society was more prepared and calm as compared to other countries when dealing with ambiguity. Indian culture is deeply rooted with humane interactions and orientations. the belief of the present actions having an influence in your future with the idea of ‘karma’ shows the highly humane oriented culture India portrays. India has a high range of institutional collectivism and the members are said to be highly interdependent with the organisation(Boopathi, 2014).

In idea of making personal sacrifices for collective organisational growth and development does not only benefit in meeting of gals but also benefit the members to bring their unique skills and abilities to the organisation (House et al., 2004). India is collectivistic society as seen by the emphasis on family, caste system, sense of kinship and community(Kulkarni et al.,2010). India is high on assertiveness in factors like competition, progress and success. In the business society, India is said to be more male dominated. So, there are more men in positions of power and higher authority as well as high status in the society. There is a high level of power distance as the Indian culture is hierarchical in nature and the subordinated in a team are obliged to meet the demands put forward by the managers. The goodwill if reciprocated by the manger and his subordinates the loyalty is built and established(Kumar, 2005). India is said to be highly performance oriented. Factors like assertiveness, competitiveness and materialism are the focus(Boopathi, 2014).

The based on the analysis of the GLOBE project given by the responses received, leadership scales were generated and six of them were taken into consideration. The scales were: charismatic/value based/ performance-oriented style, team oriented, participative style, humane style, autonomous style and self- protective style. Seen from the ranking, India has a charismatic/ value-based leadership style. Here the idea of the leaders acting as motivators and inspiring the rest of the members in the organisation to work towards achieving the goals. Here the leader acts as a role model for the employees or subordinates. As seen in terms of team orientation, the main focus of the leader is to get the job done efficiently. Being a high distance culture, due to the hierarchical system followed, the idea of team orientation would vary based on the type of organisation. In terms of the participative style, as the hold of authority is in the upper level of management, the idea of employee follows his/her leader rather than making his/her own rules. Participated style of leadership is not common in India. This is due to the deep-rooted traditional culture where the subordinates are expected to be submissive and not challenge the leaders. Indian leaders are independent and authoritative. Seeing the dynamic environment of India, the humane factor is a high focus. Societal activities and nation building are a motto in Indian organisations. Here leaders, being role models and motivators us this wealth for image building and cultivating a sense of society. Being a collectivistic culture, the idea of being autonomous, independent, individualistic and self-centred is not socially acceptable and maybe deemed as selfish. Indian leaders are expected to act as paternal figures seeing they are the head of the families in the Indian culture. Having this trait in a leader is seen as ideal and being status conscious and protecting everyone and their needs is also expected. This helps them in maintain harmony in the organisation(Boopathi, 2014).


Indian leadership should focus on economic growth in keeping with its unique style of functioning. (Pal, 2011)

Indian employees are motivated by social and monetary rewards. With the chaining times it is recommended for leaders to use a transformational leadership style this will help in enhancing and improving the employee’s motivation constantly and effectively. This will in turn result in a high quality of performance and improve the company performance. Here choosing a leadership style based on the organizations’ goals and demands as well as well as employees needs and desires. With the present transition towards a digitalized environment, the leaders of India have to focus on creating a mix of transactional as well as transformational leadership style which is adequate to motivate, stimulate and bring out the best on the employees. Coaching, recognition and team orientation are factors like build employee satisfaction(Gopal, Rima and Chowdhury, 2014).

Transactional leadership deals with department/ management effectiveness, sustenance of performance standards and meeting job expectations. Transformational leadership provides a vision and mission for the organization to work on and creating an environment of motivation and professionalism (Rukmani, Ramesh and Jayakrishnan, 2010).

Leaders have to show certain effective behavioural indicators like ‘nurturant’, ‘personal touch’, ‘expertise’, ‘simple living high thinking’, ‘loyalty’, self-sacrificing’ and ‘giving model of motivation’. To elaborate, the leaders has to give authority and autonomy yet have a keen eye on the employees working. They have to understand each member character and potential. They have to have the expertise of the knowledge of the job as well as look into factors where they have to read between the lines. The idea of ‘simple living high thinking’ is that Indians value simple living as a personal standard and appreciate this culturally. Using the example of Gandhi, he lived a simple life and wore simple clothes. His lifestyle reflected on his leadership style.

The idea of work relationships are very personalized rather than contractual in India(Kamdar, 2002). The idea of affection and personal loyalty made important by subordinated towards their supervisors. There is an “sneh-shraddha” (affection-deference) relationship. This is an ideal situation where the leader shows “sneh” when the tasks are completed by the employees and in return the employees offer “shraddha” (Sinha, 2000). Being a collectivistic society, the idea of giving back to the leaders is seen as respectable. The strong influence of family values and practices are seen in the workings of the organizations’ and brings in the sense of dependence. The norms and ideas of self-sacrifice and is a common norm in collectivistic societies. There is a sense of respect and admiration is seen among members of the Indian society when the idea of transformational leadership is portrayed in a self-sacrificing way. Gandhi was highly praised his idea of ‘ahimsa’ or ‘non-violence’. This idea brought in high esteem among members of the society and created a huge follower base for him as a leader. Many researchers argued that Indians show a higher satisfaction in social prosperity, better life and higher standard for living. They said that Indian get their motivation from wanting to meet to fulfil one’s duty towards the society as a whole.

Seeing that India is a dynamic country, suggestions can be given but the culture and lifestyle do not allow for a universal leadership concept to be implemented. Transformational leaders might be successful in meeting the changing times but the essence of other aspects of leaderships as well will have to be used for effective leadership.

As Peter Dunker once said “Company cultures are like country cultures, never try to change one, try instead to work with what you’ve got.”     


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