West not best when it comes to leadership

Published: 16 December 2013 at 13:35

Cultural factors could be the reason for differences, says Anglia Ruskin expert

Managers within global companies show distinct differences in leadership styles based on their nationality or place of work, according to a new study.

Dr Caroline Rook, from Anglia Ruskin University’s Lord Ashcroft International Business School, analysed data from the Global Executive Leadership Inventory (GELI), which includes information on 1,748 executives of 128 different nationalities. 

Dr Rook discovered that while the leaders of companies generally display similar patterns of behaviour, those in eastern and western economies displayed differences in four of the 12 main leadership characteristics: resilience to stress, emotional intelligence, outside orientation (responsiveness to stakeholders and customers), and designing and aligning (implementing company strategy). 

In all four of these areas, leaders who are from eastern economies displayed more of the actions associated with successful leadership than their western counterparts.

When studied in more detail, the data shows that business leaders in the Anglo cluster (UK, USA and other English-speaking nations) are likely to be rated lower for visioning (articulating a compelling vision, mission and strategy), empowering (sharing of information and delegation), rewarding and feedback, and team building.

Leaders from Nordic European countries excelled in displaying global mindset characteristics, while those in Eastern Europe were particularly strong in the areas of tenacity and empowering.  Leaders in the Middle East are likely to be rated higher on emotional intelligence but were less likely to have a good work-life balance.

However, it is not necessarily the case that business leaders from one region have a natural advantage regarding particular leadership characteristics.  Instead it might be that all executives “think global but act local” because of cultural sensitivities.

Dr Rook, Lecturer in Human Resource Management and Leadership at Anglia Ruskin, said:

“Because we were looking at global leaders, at first we were surprised to find any significant differences. 
“However, different cultures place different values on certain leadership behaviours and styles.  For example, very clear demonstrations of leadership are expected in many East Asian countries.  Cultural sensitivity is also a necessary quality when global leaders have employees from different countries.”

The study Global Leaders East and West – Do All Global Leaders Lead in the Same Way? was co-authored by Anupam Agrawal of the University of Illinois, and has been published as an INSEAD working paper.