A DISCUSSION BEGAN among LeaderShape Global's worldwide Faculty in response to a video from Harvard Business Review (HBR) which identifies where various countries sit in the mapping of hierarchical versus decision-making approaches. There are four quadrants to HBR's chart. See which quadrant your country fits in or, if not listed, judge where your country should be. Click on the image below to see the presentation.

Of course, as with any averaging and stereotyping, there will be many exceptions of how different companies operate in different countries. LeaderShape Global comments: "It is interesting that the Anglo countries are in the same group  (Egalitarian/ Top Down) - we suggest that "management theory" over the last 50 years has also embedded the pace-setting style into these countries and neutralised the best of the visionary / democratic styles.
"It is also interesting to see the Nordic countries in the same group (Egalitarian/ Consensual.)  The one criticism of their style can be that they are slow to make decisions (though when made, they tend to stick). This is most noticeable in times of crisis - these countries are perceived as being relatively slow to react to national emergencies."

The Four Styles

  • Egalitarian/ Consensual: Colleagues who have been part of this style of leadership noticed better performance, creativity and generally more happiness.
  • Hierarchical/ Consensual: Believe this style helps improve Empathy and Teamwork.
  • Hierarchical//Top Down: The BRICs and, according to HBR, a number of African countries fall into this group. This style creates a lot of stress and unproductive results when used as a default position.
  • Egalitarian/Top Down: A democratic but non-consensual way of the leader obtaining information and making decisions. 

LeaderShape Global took the ideas further, starting to match the quadrants to four culture styles.

The Discussion Continues:

LeaderShape Global colleagues add: "Erin Meyer's The Culture Map does a great job of moving the  dimensions'  debate on to provide a richer picture of the cultural norms (even than Hofstede or Trompenaars).   However, the profiles reflect the value systems of a society at large, not all of the individuals in it.  Putting whole countries on scales or in neat boxes can become 'sophisticated stereotyping'.

"Whenever we travel it's important to research the cultural norms in the country being visited. Sometimes these norms are reflected greatly in individuals; sometimes not, depending on their life experiences.

"Culture is just too nuanced to put everyone into neat boxes.  The types of leaders LeaderShape Global works with are widely travelled, often educated internationally and are working globally or at least multi-culturally.  These leaders have to learn to be adaptive; to flex their leadership style according to context - both nationally, organisationally and functionally; not to mention all of the outside influences being brought to bear such as the economic or political climate. If  leaders understand the cultural influences they are facing, then they understand better their own cultural identity and how this affects their decisions, thoughts, emotions and actions - and that of their teams.  Otherwise, even though we might understand that X countries fit within certain quadrants, we are likely to see this through our own cultural filter. 

"Within any cultural setting, there are certain expectations on organisational behaviour and individual approach which are hard to escape. For example, if a leader wishes to consult on key decisions, they may be perceived as weak; alternatively there may just be no mechanisms with which they can do so. Sometimes even the structure of organisations, or the legal and regulatory frameworks, are determined by national government, and can force certain decision making approaches. This will tend to discourage behaviour outside the norm."
An Observation of one Major Organisation.

THE REPORTED MANAGEMENT culture at one large organisation, which is state owned but independently led, is very heavily influenced by state decision making, which is highly top-down and hierarchical. Traditional department heads operate in just this way, using a commanding style and relying on structural hierarchy to get things done. These departments are regarded as highly effective at performing routine or repetitive tasks, but not at all flexible. Newer managers who have been educated abroad display far more tendency to be visionary and driving change, with a more inclusive style, but are nevertheless sometimes stifled by outside forces.

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LeaderShape Global Ltd is a UK-based organisation with a 
global culture that operates without borders. 

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Greg Young, 
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