Effects of Culture on Behaviours of Leaders and Followers the Western and Eastern Countries from Hofstedes Perspective

November 28, 2016/ Free Online/ 0 comments

CELE Project 2010
Buket Gultekin
Ten weeks

MSc Work and Organizational Psychology

Permission given to use this project
Word count: 2916

Effects of Culture on Behaviours of Leaders and Followers: The Western and Eastern Countries from Hofstede??™s Perspective

27 August 2010


Internationalization has generated a need to be aware of other parts of the world and other cultures. Leaders with distinctive prevailing management styles reflect differences in cultural values. Therefore the existence of intercultural differences in management styles requires research on this subject. Many research projects have been conducted in the last 30 years, and this paper is a short study on cross-cultural management highlightening Hofstede??™s Model. This study focuses on the Western and Eastern countries according to Hofstede??™s perspective which emphasises that, culture is one of the most important factors that incfluence leaders and their followers.



Introduction 1



3.1.Power Distance 6
3.2.Individualism??“Collectivism 7
3.3.Masculinity??“Femininity 9
3.4.Uncertainity Avoidance 9

4.1.Eastern Countries 11
4.2.Western Countries 12

Conclusion 14

References 15


Development of technology and globalisation have resulted in a lot of intercultural relationships. Organisations that want to be successful on the international stage should be aware of cultures, nations and personal differences, so in recent years the term of culture has become popular. Nowadays international competition has also increased. Cultural interaction, the management of different cultures and solving problems that result from cultural differences play an important role in the accomplishment of international organisations. Hofstede (1997), who has been investigating culture over 30 years, describes it metaphorically as ???the software of the mind. The ???mental programming is elaborated out of a persons experiences in the family, at school, in youth groups, at the workplace. In short, out of all the components usually included in the notion ???social environment. Culture is ???the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another??? (Hofstede, 1997, 5).

The purpose of this paper is to explain the correlation between culture and management behaviours. This project proceeds as follows: First, there will be a brief definition of culture and leadership. Secondly, will be outlined dimensions of culture; Hofstede??™s model. Finally, effects of culture on employees and managers behaviours will be mentioned.


One of the oldest definitions belongs to Taylor (1980) and it is the view of Taylor that culture is a complex combination of habits, knowledge, belief, art, morals of people who live in society. Everything that is mentioned above and affects all aspects of human life in a society is part of the culture.(Soares et al., 2007, 277) The opinion of Peng et al.(2000), is that culture has various definitions. Indeed, researchers claim that ???emphasize numerous aspects of culture, adopting unalterable defective but workable assumptions about what culture is??? one of the important traditions classify cultures according to their value systems. The best known form in this tradition is Hofstede.(Pines and Kaspi-Baruch, 2008, 306) According to Hofstede, culture (or mental software) is the collective programing of individual members of groups, groups in societies or societies??™s thinking, feeling, and acting that is important for people. (Arrindell et al., 2004, 629). According to Steenkamp culture can be identified as

???General disposition of continuous preferences for particular states of affairs over others, continuous preferences for specific social processes over others, and general rules for discriminatory consideration, explanation of environmental cues, and answers??? (Steenkamp, 2001,30)

According to most writers, culture is based on values. (e.g. Erez, 1993; Hofstede, 1980; 1997). Values are wide tendencies to prefer certain states of affairs to others. Preferred activities, heroes, gestures, objects with particular emotional meanings are stem from values. Inkeles and Levinson (1969) point out that cultures were consist of asuduity of society, groups and individuals with regard to the following common basic issues worldwide: (Popper and Sleman, 2001, 221-222)

Obeying authority,
Conception of self, in particular the relationship between individual and society, and the individuals concept of masculinity and femininity
Styles of dealing with conflicts, including control of aggression and expression of feelings

Although culture is a term that presents an accumulation of values at national level some researchers (e.g.Steenkamp,2001; Schwartz and Ros,1995) have noted that culture has different layers, and the perception of culture can be analysed in smaller units. Craig and Douglas (2006) noted that

??¦.the development of linkages across national borders imply that national culture is no longer as relevant as the unit of analysis for examining culture??¦less reliance should be placed on country as the unit of analysis

Likewise; Laroche et al. (2005) put forward that

A serious limitation of national culture indices is their high level of aggregation, which may hide important variations, including regional??¦and individual differences and experiences. (Blodgett et al.,2008, 339)



Over the past century, the term of leadership has been mentioned in many research projects, such as academic research, businesses, government agencies, military organisations??¦ The main object is to identify the characateristics of good leaders. Also, these studies tried to recognise and develop these characteristics. In recent years, explanations and definitions of leadership increased. (Silverthorne, 2005, 57)

In the beginning of the 20th Century, according to E.F.Mumford (1906) leadership is the process by which one person??™s decisions become more important than others??™ in the process of controlling social movements. In this period, leadership is based on monopoly, power and authority. In 1930s, theory of characteristics was effective on definitions of leadership. The opinion of Bogardus (1934) is that, leadership that is not only matter of characteristics and groups but also the mental contact of group members, and someone who is effective on other group members in this mental contact. When 1940s is considered, the stream of group approach started to be effective on leadership definitions. White (1943) claimed that leadership is the process of being effective on group members without and power and benefits. R.M.Stogdill (1950) noted that leadership is the process that is impressed others to perform aims of group.

In 1950s, the first experimental studies on leadership started in Ohio State and Michigan University, so in 1960s behavioural theory impressed the definitions of leadership. Terry (1960) stated that leadership is the activity that is impressed group members to actualize group aims enthusiastically. The standard explanation of leadership in 1970s is to establish and sustain organizational structure. (http://yayim.meb.gov.tr/dergiler/162/eraslan.htm) According to Robbins (1998) ???leadership has been defined as the ability to persuade others to seek set objectives enthusiastically??? (Silverthorne, 2005, 59)

The definitions of leadership that were expressed in approximately a century varies from each others because of changes and transformations in world, but some common point can be found on these definitions, such as collective aim, organizational authority, one person??™s effects on others. (http://yayim.meb.gov.tr/dergiler/162/eraslan.htm)

When it comes to 2000s, leaders are people who can create a vision and sinergy and can control group movements towards perfection.


Hofstede studied the values and attitudes of more than 100000 workers from 1967 to 1973 in 74 countries and this study provided a comparison about cultural behaviours of people in 40 countries. He classified four dimensions ???power distance???, uncertanity avoidance???, individualism-collectivism??? and ???masculinity-feminity???, and each country was given a score on them between 0 and 100. Power distance refers to how people react to the fact that power and status are distributed unequally, while uncertanity avoidance measures how unknown and unstructured situations affect people. Individualism and collectivism present how a person behave in society and what the person??™s priority is; oneself or society. The last one, masculinity-feminity outlines where values are common; masculine values such as competitiveness, assertiveness, achivement, ambition, and high earning or feminine ones such as, caring and helping others, priority for relationship, not performing a role and giving importance to quality of life. (Drogendijk and Slangen, 2006, 362-363)

3.1.Power Distance

Power distance is the consequences of relations and unequality distribution of power in society. Families and organizational contexts in society are affected by power distance.( Soares et al., 2007, 280.) Power distance dimension hints that members of the society expect that there are layers in the society. High Power distance cultures assume that the authority is a guarantee to create social responsibillity. Generally superiors give less attention to lower status people. People of the countries that have high power distance hesitate to disagree and they hope their superiors behave paternalistically so as to relieve their responsibility. Confucian Asia is one of the countries that has high power distance and it causes some difficulties in group activities.(Kull and Wacker, 2010, 229)

People who live in high power distance culture tend to centralization and they are relaxed with paternalistic leaders while people in low power distance cultures are accustomed to delegate and they prefer autonomastic leaders. Moreover, they are more comfortable wtih equal power distribution. Individuals from countries on the low levels on the power distance dimension, such as israel like action, improvisation, and informal methods. They are generally comfortable when empowerment is provided because of their cultural background. (Eylan et Kevin, 1999, 376)

In addition, power distance in society affects the leadership behaviours directly. For instance, lower status people generally prefer to change their leader instead of explain their disagreement and they are fearful in situations that include conflicts. (Dickson et al, 2003, 742)

3.2. Individualism??“Collectivism

Individualism versus collectivism is one of the well-known dimensions. Cultures which are labeled as individualistic can be classified as a culture where people firstly take care of themselves and secondly, they take care of their close family only. In contrast, in collectivist cultures, individuals want to be strong and cohesive in groups that are opposed to outgroup and also they anticipate that people are supposed to take care of each other and be loyal.(Dickson et al.,2003, 742) This dimension explains the relationship that individuals have in each culture. In collectivistic society, individuals belong to groups that look after them in loyalty, while people in an individualistic society generally look after themselves first.(Soares et al, 2007, 280)

Individualism-collectivism focuses on which society encourages collectivistic behaviours or which society encourages individualistic behaviours. Also this dimension measures the level at which a society encourages individual or collective accomplishment and relationship among people,respectively. In a culture that is labelled as individualistic, people tend to be more innovative and trusting in exchange relationships and also they have some personal values such as, freedom, challenge and such extrinsic motivators as material rewards. People in individualistic cultures give importance to their goals firstly and the goals of the group are second for them. According to Gouveia and Ros (2000), ???Have challenging work to do, work from which you can get a personal sense of accomplishment.??? (Sanchez-franco, 2009, 590.)

Collectivists try to achieve a balance between in their own goals and goals of group while indivualists give preference to their goals. Also decisions of the group are important for collectivists. Furthermore, identities in collectivistic cultures are based on the relations with the ingroup,and this provides a strong ???we??? consciousness.(Miyahara et al., 1999, 508)

Individualism-collectivism can impress the leadership style of the people. People who live in collectivistic culture are generally more prone to identify with their leaders??™ goals and they share the purpose and vision of the group or organizations, and they show a high level of loyalty. Collectivists lean towards an opinion about strong attribution to the group. Moreover, they tend to be more willing to ignore their individual goals. However, people from individualistic cultures are assessed as people who are motivated by their self-interests and personal aims. They give a priority to their personal achievements and rewards.(Dickson et al., 2003, 743)

3.3. Masculinity??“Femininity

One of the dimensions interpreted by Hofstede is masculinity versus feminity. As for Hofstede, masculine behaviours include dominant values in a society that stresses assertiveness as the way of to succeed, the obtaining of money and material objects, and taking care of others, the quality of life or people. In cultures that include feminine behaviours, warm social relationship, quality of life, and care of the weak are stressed. This dimension is related to gender differences. Cultures that are masculine expect that women are modest and tender and men are assertive and though. However, low masculinity (or high feminity) represent societies where both men and women are expected to be modest and tender. According to Triandis (1994) and Hofstede(2001) ???achievement motivation and an acceptance of ???machismo style??? management should be higher in countries high on masculinity than in those low on masculinity.(Dickson, 2003, 745)

Cultural conditions are affected by development of the globalization and changes in economic and social conditions and changes are more likely to be strongly felt by women than by men. With respect to culture and gender, when it is considered in less developed countries, Crossette(2000) notes that ???cultural rules are made by men and that women are used as symbols of their beliefs and policies and are told what to wear and what to do.??? In recent years, women??™s societal roles have changed a lot. Women have become main players in the new world system and the perception of women can be evidence for changes in women??™s lives globally.(Stedham and Yamamura, 2004, 234)

3.4.Uncertainity Avoidance

It ?s view of Hofstede that uncertainty avoidance marks ??? the extent to which people feel threatened by uncertainty and ambiguity and try to avoide these situations.??? This dimension mentions the necessity for well designed rules for anticipated behaviours. (Soares et al., 2007, 280)

Uncertainty avoidance uses norms and procedures to attenuate the effects of unforeseeable situations. People who live in cultures that are at high level on ranking of uncertainty avoidance do not like risks. They think that ???risks are dangerous, ambiguity is threatening, nature is controllable, feedback is important, innovations cause uncertainty, people are unpredictable and unreliable.??? Representatives from high uncertainty avoidance cultures tend to make choice that are predictable. (Kull et Warker, 2010, 228)

Moreover, for Hofstede, people from high uncertainty avoidance communities are shy about new intercultural relationships, so some trouble about intercultural interactions can be explained by this idea.(Merkin, 2006, 214)

Furthermore, uncertainty avoidance can affect not only today??™s leaders but also leaders who are being prepared at present for the future leader roles. In a community high on uncertainty avoidance, formal rules, career stability and the development of expertise tend to be valued, while people in low uncertainty avoidance cultures are flexible in roles and jobs, and they also focus on general rather than specific skills. (Dickson, 2003, 741)


4.1.Eastern Countries

In respect of, Asians doing business with friends is better, so Asians think that friendship is the required condition for good business relations, while Germans think that friendship and business should be kept separate on principle. In Asian cultures, ???control is good but trust is better??? is not an empty phrase. In Japanese culture, when a businessman inrtoduce his friend to another one, and he helped to make a contact between two people, he feels responsible himself for having established the contact and thinks that he is a guarantee.
(Chung, 2002)

Asians managers are on a average level of ranking of uncertainty avoidance. ( Kull and Wacker, 2010, 228). For example as a eastern country China has a culture that has high power distance and is paternalistic. The strict hieararchy between the leader and group members is sensed as natural and suitable. Chinese subordinates accept this inequality easily, because according to their culture, leaders have to bear social responsibility and they have to show kindness to the subordinates. They generally take care of subordinates??™ interests and needs. Wiggins point out that ???the primary motivation of agreeable people is their concern with others??™ interests and empathy for their conditions, agreeable leaders are more likely to carry our such social obligation expected by the subordinates.??? ( Shao et Webber, 2006, 936-944)

Another eastern culture Japan is intermediate on power distance and individualism, and high on masculinity and uncertainty avoidance.( Fukushige and Spicer, 2007, 509) Earley and Erez (1997) observe that the Japanese management philosophy is influenced by cultural values of groups and high power differentials because of the following characteristics:

long-term employment
compassionate concern for employees, including personal problems;???
participative management and group responsibility;???
a bottom-up decision-making system known as ringi, and an emphasis on harmony;???
a seniority-based reward system;???
an organization of both authoritative and participative management;???
standardized training to enhance uniform competence;???
job rotation to produce generalists and not limiting the employee to specialized work functions.??? (Swierczek et Onishi, 2003, 192)

4.2. Western Countries

Germany, France, Denmark and the UK provide example for western cultures. First of all, Germans who have labor that is well-diciplined give importance to team-work. Also, in Germany the engineering images of leaders stand in the forefront rather than manager images. There is a high communication between employees and employers, so participative management is in high demand. On the other hand, in the French community, trust is on a low level and this low level causes increasing individualism. The social layer of individuals is very important in France. The top manager has power and authority. The level of uncertainty avoidance is on high level. Power distance is wide so it can cause some communication problems. When it comes to Denmark, Danish managers do not accept the authority. Organisational structure in Denmark is simple, which means hierarchy is poor. Femininity has priority in Denmark so leaders listen to the employees and they try to perform what employees need.

The UK is a high level individualistic culture, so combining the organisational aims and individual aims sometimes can be hard. English leaders have tolerance for uncertainty but they generally prefer one tendency.


The USA has a culture that is individualistic like the UK and their managers resemble English managers. While American companies focus on loyalty, English companies encourge rotation among agencies. (Tuz et Alt?ntas, 2008, 81-102)



In this paper, it is posited that all nations all over the world have some different characaterictics. The world is becoming more and more global but nations still have some differences that affect leaders and employees behaviours.

How culture affects management is a question that most would find difficult to answer. It is not intended to argue that some dimensions provide a complete definition of cross-cultural differences. However, it is mentioned that Hofstede??™s framework constitutes a simple, practical and proper shortcut. There is a wide broad support in the literature for use of this classification and operationalization of culture. (Ana Maria Soares et al., 2007, 283)

???Though we have treated the cultural dimensions one by one, it is of course true that different cultural dimensions can be simultaneously active in affecting leaders and followers.??? (Dickson et al., 2003, 747)


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