Cultural determinants of Japan and United States

The purpose of this report is to explore the cultural determinants of both Japan and United States. The report elucidates the differences between the two countries in terms of leadership styles as influenced by their respective different cultures. The reason in selecting Japan as one of the research countries is because of its deep rooted strong cultural beliefs and group centered style in a business perspective. It is well known to the world that Japan is a closed economy but at the same time, extremely competitive. On the other hand, United States make a good contrast in terms of its open culture and individualistic style of doing business. Despite the differences, both are amongst the most competitive and successful nations in the world. The compromising Japanese and confrontational Americans do make this research journey an exciting and interesting one.

Different cultures exist in the world and their impact on leadership styles in their respective countries is significant. As defined by Luthans and Doh (2009, p96), “Culture is the acquired knowledge that people use to interpret experience and generate social behaviour.” And culture is gained through transmissions between individuals in forms of symbols, rituals, languages, stories told and etc. It will be interesting to find out that the countries’ cultures do in fact influence their leadership styles to quite a great extent.

In this report, two entirely different cultures; Japan and United States will be explored in depth to provide a better understanding of their background. The seven determinants of culture in these two countries will be individually discussed as well. Leadership styles in these two countries will also be examined to establish a relationship with their respective cultures. In the later part of the report, an analysis on the cultural and leadership differences between Japan and United States will give the readers a clear outline of the contrasts which exist currently.

2. Overview of Theories

2.1 Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions

Geert Hofstede developed five dimensions of national culture. He had specifically examined the role of national culture in work related values and information system design (Hofstede, 1980). National culture can be defined as a collection of relatively uniform and enduring values, beliefs, customs, practices and traditions that are shared by a country’s members, learned by new members and transmitted from one to the next (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001).

According to Hofstede (1984), culture is a kind of mental programming that lies between human nature on one side and personality on the other. Through the completion of his study in 1980, it was found that the differences between cultures can be understood by the following four distinctive dimensions:

Power Distance

Individualism Vs Collectivism

Uncertainty Avoidance

Masculinity Vs Femininity

Power Distance

It is the extent to which people expect and accept unequal power distribution. These people are usually the ones with less power and control. Countries can be referred to as either having ‘High power distance’ or ‘Low power distance’. The former has a tall and centralised structure, instructions and orders (from superiors) are obeyed without queries or rather, heedlessly. The latter, on the other hand, has a flat and decentralised structure. Superiors give lots of respect and trust to subordinates.

Individualism vs. Collectivism

In an individualistic culture, people look after themselves and are more self-centred. The ties between people are not strong as each person is focused on their own goals. This type of culture is mostly found in western countries.

In a collectivist culture, great emphasis is placed on groups. It is more of a “We” culture instead of “I”. This type of culture can be described as harmonious and there is almost zero confrontation in times of conflict. As opposed to the individualistic culture, collectivist is more common in Asian countries.

Uncertainty Avoidance

It is the preference of a society for unambiguous and risk free situations. In a high uncertainty avoidance country, there are more regulations and policies to adhere to and they tend to reduce risk to the minimum. Whereas in a low uncertainty avoidance country, people are tend to push boundaries and are more daring to take risks.

Masculinity vs. Femininity

In simple terms, when a society’s most important social values are associated with money and success, it is said to be highly masculine. It is highly stressful to be working in such environments. Feminine societies, in contrast, believe in quality of life and helping others over anything else.

2.2 Leadership in the International Context

Leadership is the process of influencing people to direct their efforts toward achievement of organization goals. A good leader takes ownership over projects, while simultaneously empowering everyone in his or her team to contribute according to their key strengths. They are accountable for any mistakes made, but ensure each is a learning experience for everyone, and capable of drawing their own intuitive conclusions on the progress or outcome of a project, or foresee any roadblocks which may arise. Initiative is another key leadership trait. Successful leaders jump to their feet and run the extra mile to exceed expectations.

They are two comparative areas provide a foundation for understanding leadership in the international:

1) the philosophical grounding of how leaders view their subordinates and

2) leadership approaches as reflected through use of autocratic-participative

characteristics and behaviours of leaders.

Douglas McGregor, an American social psychologist, proposed his famous X-Y theory in his 1960 book ‘The Human Side Of Enterprise’. The specific philosophical assumptions of Theory X leaders are humans inherently dislike working and will try to avoid it if they can. Because people dislike work they have to be coerced or controlled by management and threatened so they work hard enough. Average employees want to be directed and don’t like responsibility. Average humans are clear and unambiguous and need security at work. Theory X leaders conducive to large scale efficient operations and apply to mass manufacturing – Production Workers. This classify as Authoritarian, a hard management style.

The specific philosophical assumptions of Theory Y leaders described people view work as being as natural as play and rest. Humans expend the same amount of physical and mental effort in their work as in their private lives. Provided people are motivated, they will be self-directing to the aims of the organization. Control and punishment are not the only mechanisms to make people work. Job satisfaction is the key to engaging employees and ensuring their commitment. People learn to accept and seek responsibility. Average humans, under the proper conditions, will not only accept but even naturally seek responsibility. People are imaginative and creative. Their ingenuity should be used to solve problems at work. This apply to professional services workers for participative complex problem solving. This classify as Participative, a soft management style.

McGregor sees Theory Y as the preferable model and management method, however he felt Theory Y was difficult to use in large-scale operations.

In 1981, William Ouchi came up with a variant that combined American and Japanese management practices together to form Theory Z, Theory Z essentially advocates a combination of all that’s best about theory Y and modern Japanese management, which places a large amount of freedom and trust with workers, and assumes that workers have a strong loyalty and interest in team-working and the organisation.

Authoritarian Leadership (Autocratic) leaders provide clear expectations for what are need to be done, when it should be done, and how it should be done. There is also a clear division between the leaders and the followers. Some of the appropriate conditions are to be use when you have all the information to solve the problem, you are short on time, and your employees are well motivated.

Participative Leadership (Democratic) leaders offer guidance to group members, but they also participate in the group and allow input from other group members. Participative leaders encourage group members to participate, but retain the final say over the decision-making process. Group members feel engaged in the process and are more motivated and creative.

Delegative (Laissez-Faire) leaders offer little or no guidance to group members and leave decision-making up to group members. While this style can be effective in situations where group members are highly qualified in an area of expertise, it often leads to poorly defined roles and a lack of motivation.

3. Overview of Japan

Japan is an industrialised, and one of the most efficient countries in Asia, in terms of its economy and trades. Due to the limitation of natural resources, Japan has turned to international trades for its constant supplies. The people of Japan are well educated and worldly known as extremely well mannered. Japan has strived to achieve and maintain very high health standards surpassing many other countries in the world, with its life expectancy rate exceeding that of the United States. (US Department of State, 2010)

3.1 Determinants of Japanese Culture

The ancient Japanese culture has cast a massive impression on many people over centuries for being one of the most homogeneous countries in the world. Traditional, indirect, seniority based, collectivist, are some of the various terms associated with the Japanese. Their national culture is so strongly rooted that till this day, it is one of the very few countries in the world which ‘operates’ in a total different and unique way with traditional customs and feudal values, and still clinging firm to them. It surely has left many people wondering and pondering, having in mind that globalisation and internationalisation is so common these days. The below are some determinants of the Japanese culture which is worth to understand.

Existing Feudal Values

Founded in 600 B.C and having its roots in Buddhism and Confucianism, the Japanese believes in tall hierarchical structures with strong importance placed on seniority, respect, loyalty and family. One of the feudal values is the unequal treatment of women. Women are regarded as low status in the highly masculine society of Japan. However, there are researches which shows that there has been some change to that, women are slowly paving their way up and even successful in their careers. (Bucknall, 2005)

Interesting to know from Bucknall’s (2005, p16) study is that the Japanese culture has a “strong central core” which sees things as being either right or totally wrong, nothing in between. To the Japanese, losing is unacceptable and disgraceful because losing is just ‘totally wrong’. Hence, since the ancient Japan, they have regarded themselves as being a highly superior cast of people who just cannot lose to anyone, to ‘Conquer’ is what they aim to achieve. (Recall World War II)

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Another ancient value of the Japanese is that the seniors (in terms of age), are treated with reverence. The young people could only patiently wait for their turns for promotions. No way could they rise fast in an organisation even though they are out-performing or outstanding.


According to Lee and Trim (2008), the Japanese adopted Buddhism and then merged it with Shintoism. It led to the ability of the rulers of Japan to develop government ceremonies in accordance with Shinto rituals. (Osumi, 1992) Buddhism teachings emphasise on doing the right actions and making right decisions. It also involves three elements; mental culture, wisdom and morality. (Lee and Trim, 1999)

Besides the above, the Japanese have also been deeply influenced by Confucian thought. (Mei, 1967) Confucianism focuses on 4 main elements; benevolence, wisdom, righteousness and decorum.

It is important for foreigners to note that religion in Japan has played a crucial part in shaping their national identity. Buddhism and Shintoism intertwined, evolving their central government system. Hence, understanding religions of Japan would be highly recommended and should not be regarded lightly.

Social Structure

A study by Levy, (1992) showed that there are six social classes which can be distinguished in modern Japan. They are namely;

The Imperial Family

Consists of the Emperor and his relatives (“Sacred objects” mentioned by Levy, 1992, p3), unlike the King and royal family in England, the Japanese Emperor holds a symbolic position in Japan’s social system and extremely significant.


Consists of descendents of the Kuge, Samurais, Dukes and counts. (Nobilities in ancient Japan). Highly respected group in Japan.

Upper Middle Class

Consists of people who are not necessarily descendents of any nobility, but have high status in modern Japan. i.e Directors of large corporations, high ranking civil servants, etc.

Lower Middle Class

They are the normal working class people in modern Japan. Most of the people fall under this category.

Industrial Proletariat

They are the blue collared workers.


The rest of the population with lower than average income.

Political Philosophy

There are seven political parties in Japan, namely Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the People’s New Party (PNP), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the New Clean Government Party (Komeito), the Japan Communist Party (JCP), and Your Party (YP). Japan is a “constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government” (US Department of State, 2010).


Japan is the second largest free-market economy in the world following United States. (US Department of State, 2010) It has a highly competitive and efficient economy with few natural resources. The wages in Japan are the highest in the world (EconomyWatch, 2010), but fact that the living conditions/standards are extremely high has to be considered as well.


Almost all Japanese people converse and use Japanese as a business language. Even though they know English, they would be too shy to speak in that. Silence would be the answers in the case of dealing with foreigners. It may seem strange to many foreigners, but this is the typical behaviour of many Japanese people. Very restricted use of English (despite being an international language) would be seen in most business meetings, limited to simply “Good mornings” and “Good Byes”. They do not show willingness to converse to foreigners in another language other than Japanese, perhaps due to their extreme shyness.


As mentioned earlier, Japanese are a group of homogeneous people. As such, their education system is highly uniformed. Hence, it can be perceived that almost all Japanese share the same ideas and beliefs. In Japan, all children are taught the same things in school, freedom to customise the curriculum is near impossible as the Ministry of Education in Japan closely supervises the education system.

The Japanese government places significant importance in the education system. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan introduced five policies in January 2002 to improve the quality of education system. One of which is to increase the number of teaching personnel so as to achieve smaller teaching groups for more focus on each student.

3.2 Leadership style and relationship to Culture in Japan

Japanese leadership style is unique and differs from the convention X-Y theory proposed by Douglas McGregor. In 1981, William Ouchi came up with a variant theory Z which is essentially a combination of Theory Y and Japanese management.

Buddhism has been around since Japan feudal era, practices by samurais and bushi (warrior) as Zen Buddhism. When the samurai class unified the country under the leadership of shogun Tokugawa Leyasu in the Edo period (1600-1868), the sects encouraged values of hard work and patience according to their Buddhism teachings.

Today, Buddhism is the most popular religion in Japan with some 85% of the population professing the faith.This forms the hardworking culture of Japanese and shapes the foundations of their leadership behaviour.

Most Japanese managers believe that their employees are hard-working and are self-motivated by teamwork, that they want to share responsibility for attaining group goals and therefore seek participation in management process.

Due to the participative approach of employees, Japanese managers use a blend of both task-centered and people-centered approach to lead subordinates. Both leaders and subordinates are motivated by a powerful sense of commitment to be a part of a greater whole. This is contributed by the social structure and educational system of Japan.

The social structure hierarchy of Japan which consist of the Royal family down to the peasants and their strong sense of loyalty due to their Shinto teachings resulted in the Japanese believe that they are part of a greater whole, in country context Japan as a whole.

Japan has one of the most successful and renowned education system. In recent years, there is a rise in higher education of Japanese in both private and government sector. Thorough its education system, it has reach attain a 99% literacy population. It has the highest literacy rates in Asia.


Under theory Z leaders, Japanese employees seek out responsibility and strive for opportunities to advance in organisations. They work towards the goal to be in the upper middle class of their social structure.

Japanese leaders believe that the employees are self-satisfied when they contribute to organisational success through teamwork. In return for their organisation’s long-term commitment to providing job security (often for life), workers develop strong bonds of loyalty towards their employer.

Communication Flows

As theory Z

Seniority Leadership

Due to the Japanese Feudal value, Japanese leaders are mostly base on their seniority. Evaluation of work and promotion is very slow and promotions are not base on individual performance. Seniority and age are much more important factors in Japan.

Because of their emphasis on seniority, some of the major organisations in Japan are still family owned. They are managed and passed down to the Head of the family, usually the Male eldest of the descendants instead of the most capable of the family.

The concept of family owned business may not work out on many other countries with different culture but miraculously organisations that are family owned showed great performance results.

It is recognized in Japan to decide the heir of the business base on seniority and it is right that all others of the family must obey all instruction that the head has pass down to them. Any subjugation towards the family head will be deemed as wrong and will not be accepted by the Japanese society. This is also due to the Japanese National Religion of Shinto. They are loyal to their familiar way of life and places, therefore able to maintain their practice.

Guideline: Leadership style should relate to culture determinants in 3.1. To show how the culture had influenced the kind of leadership style in Japan

3.3 Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions – in the Japanese context

Power Distance

Japan has a score of 54 on power-distance index (PDI) and a ranking of 44 out of 69 countries (Refer to Appendix 1). Japan is considered as a high power distance although the score is slightly below the world average of 55. Having a high power distance index, this will influence the leadership style of Japan. According to Hofstede, G. et al (2010), in high power distance circumstances; subordinate acknowledges the existence of inequity. Thus, hierarchical system was the result of it. With a centralized and tall structure, the power is not evenly distributed and mainly control by the people from the top management (mostly seniors).

Hofstede, G. et al (2010) suggested that it is essential for management to identify the strength of local culture and make use of it to complete certain tasks. Japanese leader would delegate tasks which require subordinate’s discipline in order to get the work done in an orderly manner. Tasks would be completed with less conflict and disputes as subordinates would normally do what they are instructed to do. However, this would result in no or minimal initiative by the Japanese subordinates at work.

Individualism Vs Collectivism

Japan has a score of 46 on Individualism Index (IDV) and a ranking of 31-33 out of 69 countries (Refer to Appendix 1). The Individualism score for Japan is slightly above the world average of 43. However, Japan belongs to the group of collectivism. This is because Japan has the tendency to handle stuffs based on the relationship and believe that they have responsibility to one another. Hofstede, G. et al (2010, p120) stated that “Poor performance of an employee in this relationship is no reason for dismissal: one does not dismiss one’s child.” Therefore, Japanese leaders would first establish a relationship and some form of trust instead of demanding work to be done.

Hofstede, G. et al (2010) stated that collectivist individual has a one of the culture norm with strong concept of “face” where one should not embarrass another. Thus, Japanese leaders would need to opt for a correct method to disseminate the negative news instead of criticise and give negative feedback openly. Furthermore, under collectivist society, collectivist individual tends to perform the best in group and badly on individual basis. Therefore, Japanese leaders would tend to allocate more group works to their subordinates. However, when a group of employees completed their work, rewards should be given to the group as a whole and not individual.

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Uncertainty Avoidance

Japan has a score of 92 on Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) and a ranking of 10-11 out of 69 countries (Refer to Appendix 1). Japan has a considerably high Uncertainty Avoidance Index. According to Hofstede, G. et al (2010, p213), “Britain has produced more noble Prize winners than Japan, but Japan has put more new products on the world market.” Japanese prefer to develop ideas which are established rather than to move ahead to supply new ideas. Furthermore, they have a systematic way to get things done which is good as this lead to actual products being produced.

According to Luthan and Doh (2009), high uncertainty avoidance also implies that subordinates are less ambitious. They have low risk appetite and because of this there is an emotional need to create rules. However, not all the rules work. Therefore, leader would have to find ways to lead and motivate their subordinates to achieve excellent result.

Masculinity Vs Femininity

Japan has a score of 95 on Masculinity Index (MAS) and a ranking of 2 out of 69 countries (Refer to Appendix 1). Japan has the second highest Masculinity Index. Therefore, Japan emphasises the importance of having the main values which are associated with money and success. According to Hofstede, G. et al (2010), work goals such as earnings, recognition, advancement and challenge are deemed to play an important role.

After identifying Japanese having a high masculine culture and background of what they want to achieve, leaders can based on the criteria and lead the team effectively. The main items that Japanese are seeking for is money and success. Therefore, leaders should provide opportunities and encourage high performance from their Japanese subordinates in order for them to achieve their goals. Leaders should also note that incentives and rewards are based on equity and not equality.

4. Overview of USA

The United States of America, one of the world’s largest developed countries located between the North Atlantic Ocean and North Pacific Ocean. USA is highly abundant with natural resources, providing the world with its largest coal reserves. Apart from the lands and resources, USA is also considered having the world’s strongest and leading technological economy.

Being one of the developed countries, USA is currently facing environmental issues like air, land and sea pollution cause by factories, mines and other industrial developments (The World Factbook, 2010).

4.1 Determinants of US Culture

USA, the largest economy, deals massive trades among the rest of the world. Studying the culture norms and values of would be important to businessman and entrepreneur that are boarding the shore of the US economy. American possess a strong believe in the concept of equality. Each individual should have equal rights, equal employment opportunity and equal social obligation no matter which ethnic or gender the individual belongs to.

Individualism, direct, high uncertainties are some values that are tagged to American by numerous studies. Somehow these values have its roots related to the culture of the country.


Although USA has a wide diversity of ethnics namely the North American, South American, Alaska native, Hawaiian native, Asian and others races; Christianity still remains as their largest form of religious belief.

Among the Christian, Protestant (including Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian) outnumber the Roman Catholic with 51.3% of the total population and the later 23.9%. Followed by Jewish, Islamic, Muslim and others reported by World Factbook (2010).

Social Structure

In USA, most American would believe that there is equal opportunity and economic mobility and social classes does not exist. Moreover, Dennis Gilbert (1998) did defined USA social structure into 6 different classes;

Capitalist Class – American upper class

These are the minute top notch individual that has high influence in the economy of USA, example Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

Upper Middle Class

These are highly educated professional that has a high annual household income, example Lawyers, professor, and dentist.

Middle Class

These are college graduates that are employed for white collar position in an organization, examples managerial position.

Lower Middle Class

These usually consist of blue collar workers or those performing clerical position.

Lower Class

These refer to the working individual that draws minimal annual household income, example farmers.

Under Class

These refer to individual that are unemployed.

Political Philosophy

A national government with 50 states government, USA is considered as a federal republic country. Democrats and Republicans are 2 major parties dominating the political systems of USA. The government can be divided into three different branches.

The government is headed by the “Executive” branch which comprises of the president and its appointed cabinet. Each state has a different government constitution, the “Legislative” branch consist of Senate from each state and its House of Representatives. Each state have two Senates elect by the citizen of the state. Senates will need to be re-elect after six years of service

Lastly the “Judiciary” branch is headed by the US Supreme Court. This is the highest court that reviews and maintains the interpretative of the whole nation’s constitution (USA Country Brief, 2006).


USA has the largest and most important market in the world (EconomyWatch (2010). Even though it is the largest economy, government have much regulation protecting certain home-grown sectors. Two thirds of US economy is highly driven by its own consumer and therefore US economy can also be regard as “Consumer Economy”.

According to World FactBook (2010), USA GDP rose to about 14 trillion in end of 2009. It is about 3 times as higher than the next largest economy, which is Japan. Despite of that, USA have also top the chart for its private and public debts owned. This could be possibly due to the economic depression in 2008 where there is an acute rose of oil prices putting the country in a state of inflation with high unemployment rate.

In 2009, USA government borrowed billions to purchases equity from banks and Industrial Corporation, in order to perform additional injection to the economy for jobs creation and stabilizing the global economic downturn.


There is actually no official language stated by Law in USA, English and Spanish are 2 most common languages. In addition, English is the language use in legislation and a main form of business communication. Hawaiian is the official state language for Hawaii (Grimes, 2000).

Communication style of an American can sometimes be regarded as straight forward and aggressive. Going around the bush in meetings or discussion is considered time wasting. American has its own style of name format which is different from Asian, they would address “First Name” (given name) followed by “Last Name” (family name) as in “Julia Roberts” where “Roberts” is the family name and “Julia” is the given name. Whereas for Asian, we would address “Last Name” (family name) followed by “First Name” (given name).

Politeness is highly valued in USA. When meeting someone for the first time, it is always polite to address them with a salutation of “Mr”, “Miss”, “Madam” or Dr. “Please” and “Thank You” are two most common words heard in a conversation with American.


Slight differences can be spotted in the education system in different states but generally they are still common. For most children in USA, education starts at an earlier age of 5 and graduated from high school at the age of 17.

Parents can choose to send their kids to public schools which are funded by public tax; these would be the common choice for most US citizen. In another hand, if the parents thinks that the public education systems does not suit their kids, they can still send them to private schools owned by churches, individuals and private groups (WorldWidelearn, 2010)

4.2 Leadership style and relationship to Culture in United States

Guideline: Leadership style should relate to culture determinants in 4.1. To show how the culture had influenced the kind of leadership style in United States

The U.S. is one of the most religious of all the large nations of the world. Gallup International reports that 57 percent of American citizens regularly attend religious services. Politicians frequently discuss their religion when campaigning, and many churches and religious figures are highly politically active.

Most American religious take concrete form as congregational voluntary associations. They provide their members with multiple and continuous opportunities to observe, learn and practice the skills of community life and leadership.

By doing so, religious members are exposed to have chance to acquire and practice a series of useful capacities and skills. These include group decision making, raising and budgeting funds, leading discussion, mobilization consensus, public speaking, enacting rituals, building coalitions, conducting meeting and services and resolving disagreements.

10% or so of the U.S. population can be characterized as upper middle class. This is the well-educated, highly skilled portion of the population which works in executive and professional fields. Their work plays a central part in their lives and in their self and public-image. They are leaders in their communities and are socially, culturally and politically active. They may have modest investments in industry and business, but generally depend on income from remunerative work. A portion of the upper middle class are owners of small businesses. The historical middle class considered as a class which supports itself through investment and management of capital, is split in the United States between the upper middle class and the upper class.

English is considered the de facto language of the United States because of its widespread use. English has been given official status by 30 of the 50 state governments. English, on a worldwide basis for use in business and international trade is threatening to some cultures. It provides the social bonding and predictability because humans have rules for language and these rules lead us to communicate more efficiently and effectively. It has often been said prescriptively, if you want to learn the heart of the people, you must learn the language. We say this because language helps us understand how to “think” in a particular culture.

Language is extremely important to the understanding in each culture. In each culture there are “novices” and “knowing” generations. Only that which is communicated between the “knowing” and the “novices” in each culture has the chance for survival of important core meanings that make up the culture.

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The increasingly of globalisations of educational practices resulted countries around the world are implementing reforms along the lines of American and European practices, although the cultural implications of these changes are not always being fully realized.

Growing awareness of and interest in the phenomenon of globalisation of educational policy and practice is creating the need for the development of a comparative and international branch of educational leadership and management (Dimmock & Walker, 2000, P.143). Dimmock & Walker has address cultural issues in educational leadership.

It would be easy simply to document differences among various cultures in their perceptions of leadership. However, in the absence of any conceptual framework, the simple observation of differences would not explain differences among cultures in general, and would have no value in predicting the leadership preferences of other cultures.

While educational leadership and management has experienced impressive development over the last three decades the fact that a robust comparative branch of the field has failed to emerge is equally conspicuous. The development of conceptual frameworks and instrumentation are imperative if the field is to keep abreast of globalization of policy and practice (Dimmock & Walker, 2000, p.143).

It is natural to approach the theory of cross-cultural educational leadership from a theoretical framework similar to that of Hofstede. After all, quite a large body of research has emerged from studies of management styles in various countries, and a wide range of cultures have been measured and ranked according to the four Hofstede categories (Hofstede & Bond, 1988). It would therefore appear reasonable to study educational leadership in the light of the Hofstede four-factor paradigm, or at least some appropriate modification thereof. For example, Dimmock and Walker (2000) proposed a six-factor

approach, using the categories of

• Power concentrated/power dispersed (cf. Hofstede’s power distance)

• Group oriented/self-oriented (cf. Hofstede’s individualism)

• Aggression/consideration (cf. Hofstede’s masculinity)

• Fatalistic/proactive

• Generative/replicative

• Limited relationship/holistic relationship formal-informal

In the revised edition, Hofstede and Hofstede (2005) included sections on leadership, and attempt to relate preference for leadership styles to the four cultural categories. They cite several anecdotal accounts of how, for example “U.S. leadership style was dysfunctional in Greece and the Greek leadership style in the United States” (Hofstede & Hofstede, p. 270). But these are speculative statements backed up by what seem to be reasonable outcomes rather than on quantitative research findings. Such quantitative findings are almost non-existent.

The United States is highly masculine-oriented and individualistic country. These cultural attributes is a persuasive indicator of the leadership styles employed by American leaders. Individualist leaders, like the Americans, emphasise on individual action and self-interest. American leaders use the participative leadership style. American leaders support and work to perform within the working environment where staff participation is encourage. The involvement of members of the staff is crucial mainly in significant organisational functions such as decision-making processes, communication, and performance. American leaders are result-oriented, where organisational objectives are completely achieved.

In motivation, American leaders also use directive leadership style aside from participative approach. This is because of the presence of standardised rules for behaviour and rewards achievement that affects individual advancement. They include contingency reward and punishment as form of motivation. In relationship management, the process of communication on both leaders is given significant priority. Specifically, American leaders are less relationship-oriented. Employee relationships on American leaders are directed to maximum achievement of goals and disregard personal attributes of employees. For American leaders, results should benefit the whole organisation.

American organisational designs are structured and ordered according to hierarchical positions. A set of governing organisational rules and policies affects the execution of leadership styles. American leaders strictly adhere to all established organisational rules and policies. On personal characteristics, American leaders possess the tendency to focus on self-interest and acquisition of wealth. This is attributed to the individualistic cultural orientation. Self-enhancement is prioritised over self-criticism. They avoid criticisms about themselves. American leaders have higher indication for extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability. They are more conscientious and open. American have more analytical tools to analyse the workplace situations and functions. They value self-criticism and explore many fields of expertise rather than restricting themselves to single area of specialisation.

Communication process and skills, goal setting and achievement, performance and productivity feedback, follower’s or subordinates feedback, and overall leadership behaviours are most likely identical. Significant differences in their leadership styles is seen in the application of management functions including motivation, employee relationships, and some aspects of decision-making, supervising, forecasting ability, and training progression. For American leaders, focus on result is outstanding. The participative leadership styles of the United States is highly effective given that it is applied in specific areas with and maximum carefulness. The investigation of the consequences of this leadership style is important for leaders to have underlying knowledge on how to lead and motivate the members of the organisation.

Leadership style effectively applicable in one country (e.g. the US) may not be easily transferable or even applicable to another (e.g. Japan). Leadership styles are largely complex and designed to cater a specific area of management and practice, their specific relevance in various counties is uncertain. This uncertainty is a potential subject for further empirical exploration. It could be concluded that leadership styles are conceptually different and independently constructed because various styles can be displayed contemporaneously while empirically associated.

American participative leadership style concern and consideration is bounded on different ways in different cultures. It is argued that for a specific leadership style to be successful in serving the needs of today’s contemporary workplace, it will call for retreat from hierarchical position-based authority to a more knowledge-based control. Leadership styles used at any given workplace settings or countries must adjust to existing changes in the global workplace and for the purpose of meeting the budding demands and aspirations of different generations of knowledge workers. Therefore, due to the dynamic condition and nature of the international workplace as well as the job/task itself, leadership styles have also had to undergo transformation. Leadership styles must be created to address the demands of the current environment, adapt to these changes, and meet the organisational goals for productivity and success. In light of above findings, it seems likely that a leader’s style is directly influenced by culture and other considerations yet leadership styles work well in one environment may not be effective in different cultural background.

4.3 Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions – in the United States context

Power Distance

United States has a score of 40 on power-distance index (PDI) and a ranking of 51-53 out of 69 countries (Appendix 1). United States is considered as a low power distance country as the score is below the world average of 55. With a low power distance index, this will influence the leadership style of United States. With a decentralised and flat structure, everyone is deemed to be treated equally. The differential of title is just for the sake of convenient purpose. Superior will have a discussion with subordinates before any new ideas are introduced.

As mentioned above, Hofstede, G. et al (2010) suggested that it is essential for management to identify the strength of local culture and make use of it to complete certain tasks. For United States, with a low power distance index, leaders would tend to delegate tasks which require subordinates to take initiative to complete the task.

Individualism Vs Collectivism

United States has a score of 91 on Individualism Index (IDV) and a ranking of 1 out of 69 countries (Refer to Appendix 1). United States has the highest individualism score. This implies that people would be more interested on what would be beneficial to them and their immediate family. They expect rewards to be given on based on their performance and individual basis. They are more work or performance and result oriented rather than to try and establish relationship with one another as priority. According to Hofstede, G. et al (2010) some companies have practices whereby two employees from same company who decided to get married, one of them would have to leave the company in order to avoid conflict of interest. Therefore, trying to work on the basis of relationship would not be deemed to be that workable in United States context.

Hofstede, G. et al (2010) states that the under individualism society, individualism individual tends to perform badly in group and the best on individual basis. Therefore, leader would tend to introduce and allocate more work on an individual basis.

Uncertainty Avoidance

United States has a score of 46 on Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) and a ranking of 57 out of 69 countries (Refer to Appendix 1). United States has a low Uncertainty Avoidance Index. According to Luthan and Doh (2009), this would implies that there would be high labour turnover and more determined aim-high employees as they are not resistance to take risks. In this case, leaders would need to come out with a suitable leadership style and take more actions to prevent fast and high turnover rate which in terms would affect the company performance. Furthermore, it will reflect badly on them if they do not manage and lead the subordinates well.

Masculinity Vs Femininity

United States has a score of 62 on Masculinity Index (MAS) and a ranking of 20 out of 69 countries (Refer to Appendix 1). United States has a high Masculinity Index. They also emphasises the importance of having the main values which are associated with money and success. According to Hofstede, G. et al (2010), work goals such as earnings, recognition, advancement and challenge are deemed to play an important role.

After identifying United States as having a high masculine culture and the background of what they want to achieve, leaders can based on the criteria and lead the team effectively. The main items that Americans are seeking for is also money and success. Therefore, leaders should provide opportunities and encourage high performance from their American subordinates in order for them to achieve their goals. Leaders should also note that incentives and rewards are based on equity and not equality.

5. Research analysis – Compare & Contrast


Power Distance Index PDI

Individualism IDV

Masculinity MAS

Uncertainty Avoidance Index UAI

Figure 1.2 (Hofstede, 2009)

Compare & contrast between Japan and United states based on figure above.


6. Conclusion

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