I used to think…. I could apply my leadership values and behaviors in any context.
What I learned…..
Each country has unique values and beliefs. These values and beliefs drive behavior. Geert Hofstede has been one of the leading researchers in how cultural values influence the workplace. He identifies 6 dimensions that impact cultural norms and values: Power Distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long Term Orientation and Indulgence. Each country or culture holds beliefs within these dimensions that impact their values. To understand a culture you must examine and analyze these dimensions. Leaders that have a deeper understanding (Cognitive Cultural Intelligence) of these dimensions will have greater success in navigating within the specific culture.
Below is a comparison of Canada, United States and China. Perhaps by analyzing these dimensions we can gain knowledge and understanding of why individuals, societies or cultures behave or react in the manner in which they do. We can move from a place of judgement to understanding.
Hofstede has faced several criticisms for his work:
1. Reliability and validity of the study due to the instrument used (questionnaire) and sample size.
2. Variances within a culture. All cultures are not homogeneous.
3. Variances in national identities.
4. Political influences and instability.
5. Relevance in a rapidly changing society.
6. Need for additional dimensions.
It is important to note however, “while the level of controversy surrounding this work is still quite high, it remains the most valuable piece of work on culture for both scholars and practitioners” (Jones, 2007 p.7).
As leaders working within a global workplace we must use the tools and resources at our disposal to gain insight and understanding to improve our cultural intelligence. Hofstede’s work and country comparison provide information that we can use as leaders when working within different cultural contexts.
What are you learning?