In recent years, a major international research project under the general direction of Robert House, called Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness, or GLOBE, started publishing its findings. The meta-goal of the GLOBE program is to develop, over time, an empirically based theory to describe, understand, and predict the impact of cultural variables on leadership, organizational processes, and the effectiveness of the leader and the processes. For over a decade, 170 country-based coinvestigators (CCIs) gathered data from 18,000 managers from 62 countries. The CCIs were responsible for leading the study in the specific culture in which each had expertise.
A major goal of the GLOBE project was to develop societal and organizational measures of culture and leader attributes that were appropriate to use across all cultures. The GLOBE research indicated nine dimensions of cultures that differentiate Societies and organizations. These identified cultural dimensions are:
1. Power distance, or the degree to which members of a collective expect power to be distributed equally
2. Uncertainty avoidance, which is the extent a society, organization, or groups rely on norms, rules, and procedures to alleviate the unpredictability of future events
3. Humane orientation, reflected in the degree to which a collective encourages and rewards individuals for being fair, altruistic, generous, caring, and kind to others
4. Institutional Collectivism, described as the degree to which organizational and societal institutional practices encourage and reward the collective distribution of resources and collective actions
5. In-Group Collectivism, which is the degree to which individuals express pride, loyalty, and cohesiveness in their organizations or families
6. Assertiveness, defined as the degree to which individuals are assertive, confrontational, and aggressive in their relationships with others
7. Gender egalitarianism, expressed as the degree a collective minimizes gender inequality
8. Future orientation, or the extent to which individuals engage in future-oriented behaviors such as delaying gratification, planning, and investing in the future
9. Performance orientation, suggested by the degree to which a collective encourages and rewards group members for Performance Improvement and excellence
The first six dimensions were originally defined by Hofstede. One dimension Hofstede called “masculinity” has been relabeled as two constructs, assertiveness and gender egalitarianism, by the GLOBE researchers. Following the development and validation of the scale used to measure leader and cultural variables, studies were conducted to empirically assess the psychometric properties of the dimensions that had been established.
The second phase of the program was a further assessment of the leader and cultural scales. Unobtrusive measures were created to identify the latent constructs, manifest indicators, and qualitative indicators that could be used to assess the nine cultural dimensions, nine organizational practices, organizational contingencies including technology, the environment, and the size of the organization, plus societal culturally endorsed implicit leadership theories. In addition, hypotheses were developed regarding the relationships among various societal dimensions, organizational dimensions, and the culturally endorsed implicit theories that had been identified.
Phase three of the project was designed to study Organizational culture along with measures of leader and work-unit effectiveness, as well as individual cognitive, emotional, and evaluative responses to leader behaviors. The goal is to study leader behaviors within organizations and cultures longitudinally.
Phase four is based on phase three, in which universally perceived behaviors that impede or facilitate outstanding leadership were identified. Also, phase three is oriented toward identifying actual leader practices and universal organizational practices leading to positive or negative cognitive, affective, and performance consequences. Further, efforts were made to identify those perceived behaviors and practices that are culture specific. The researchers’ goal in phase four was to answer the following questions:
1. Are there any universally effective leader behaviors?
2. What are the effects of violating strongly held culturally endorsed preferences for leader behaviors?
3. What types of consistent specific preferences for leader behaviors are present across cultures?
Some of the findings by the GLOBE team suggest 21 primary and then six leader attributes and behaviors that are viewed as contributing to leadership in various cultures. These six are summarized as follows:
1. Charismatic/Value-Base—the ability to inspire, to motivate, and to expect high performance outcomes from others on the basis of core beliefs.
2. Team-Oriented—effective team building and implementation of a common purpose/ goal among team members.
3. Participative—the degree to which managers/leaders involve others in making and implementing decisions.
4. Humane-Oriented—supportive, considerate, compassionate, and generous leadership.
5. Autonomous—independent and individualistic leadership.
6. Self-Protective—ensuring the safety and security of the individual, it tends to be an approach that is self-centered and face saving.
The GLOBE researchers found that these six leadership dimensions differed in terms of their desirability and effectiveness in various cultures. For example, the charismatic/valuebased, team-oriented, and participative are generally reported to contribute to outstanding leadership, but each is found more often in specific cultures (e.g., charismatic in Anglo, team in Latin American, and participative in Germanic Europe). On the other hand, humane leadership is felt to be neutral in some cultures but moderately contribute to outstanding leadership in others; autonomous leadership is reported to range from impeding outstanding leadership to slightly facilitating it; and self-protective leadership is generally reported to impede outstanding leadership. Again, each of these types of leadership is found to different degrees in various cultures (e.g., humane in Southern Asia, autonomous in Eastern Europe, and self-protective in Southern Asia).
The general findings of the GLOBE project are that cultural dimensions do exist that can be identified and measured. Cultural Differences can be studied through etic (across cultures) or emic (within cultures, or country-specific information) approaches. Cultural differences strongly influence the ways in which people think about their leaders as well as societal norms that exist concerning the status, influence, and the privileges granted to leaders. Although work remains to complete the project, the findings so far indicate a great deal of promise for furthering understanding of how leaders can effectively operate in various cultures.
Other smaller international research efforts have also been conducted. For example, Bass examined the nature of the transactional-transformational leadership paradigm across national boundaries. Also, Church and Wacalawski investigated the relationship between leader style (transformational versus transactional) and subsequent organizational practices and outcomes, which supports the findings presented in the GLOBE report. And finally, still another study suggests that there are indeed leadership concepts that are culturally endorsed, in which similar cultures share similar leadership concepts. Clearly, the study of leadership across cultures is a growing and important body of knowledge for the leadership field.