Human Nature Theories And Leadership Styles Management Essay

When a manager is sent from his/her home country to manage either a culturally different or a highly diverse workforce, such a manager will most likely face some problems. Some of the problems are culturally contingent. This work looks at problems faced by an American manager when he relocates to Japan as a result of difference in their leadership styles.

America managers relocating to Japan are being considered in this piece of work as a result of different reasons.

Japan is regarded as one of the leading economies in the industrialized world. It is the second largest economy. Japan is regarded as America’s fourth largest export market and is the second largest foreign investor in America (U.S. Department of Commerce).

Trade between America and Japan has had its ups and downs due to conflicts and tighter trade restrictions by Japan. However as a result of research done, The New York Times (1991) proposed that American companies operating in Japan now face fewer trade restrictions. Also, many companies were said to enjoy lucrative returns. American companies such as IBM, Bank of America and others were regarded as successful in Japan. Japanese companies such as Toyota operating in America also send American managers that are their employees to the head office in Japan to get more understanding of the corporate culture, processes, e.t.c.

All these and more have necessitated the need to look at leadership styles of both countries and try to find a model that would work for the American manager and Japanese employees he would be leading in order to avoid conflicts, lack of cooperation, tension, lack of productivity that may result from incompatibility of the manager and the employees.

The topic will As earlier stated, the problems faced by an American manager who has to relocate to a branch of the company in Japan will be examined and analyzed by looking at the different leadership styles, theories on leadership and role of culture in determining leadership styles. Leadership styles of America and Japan will be identified, analysis of the link between theories with practice will be done, the possible similarities/differences he will face, problems encountered and possible solutions to those problems will be identified before arriving at a conclusion.


Different definitions of leadership have been proposed overtime. According to Hogetts and Luthans (2003), leadership is the process of influencing people to direct their efforts towards achievement of some particular goals or goals. House et al (2004) defined leadership as the ability of a person to influence, motivate and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members.

Leadership style Overview

The style of the leader is considered to be very important in achieving organizational goals as it can induce performance among subordinates (Barling; Berson and Zacharatos).

Different leadership styles have been proposed by various scholars. Two models will be considered in this work: Transformational and Transactional leadership styles proposed by James Macgregor Burns (1978) and, Directive, Supportive, Participative and Achievement-Oriented leadership styles developed by House (1971, 1974) but with focus on House’s model as this makes comparison between American and Japanese leadership styles easier.


This leadership style has overtime demonstrated benefits over the transactional style in achieving organizational goals. (McColl-Kennedy and Andreson, 2002). Transformational leaders are those that lead by stimulating and inspiring their followers to achieve extraordinary outcomes and in the process, develop their own leadership capacity. (Bass and Riggio 2006). Transformational leaders inspire their followers to do more than they originally intended or thought possible. This transformation occurs through individual interactions between leaders and subordinates, especially through the manner in which transformational leaders communicate with subordinates.


Transactional leaders, on the other hand, lead through social exchange. Transactional leaders offer or deny rewards for productivity or lack of it (Burns, 1978). They engage in a process of negotiation, offering subordinates rewards in exchange for the attainment of specific goals and completion of agreed-upon tasks (Bass, 1985).

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As earlier stated, focus will be on the different leadership styles developed by House (1971, 1974) in his path-goal theory. This was developed to explain how the behaviour of a leader affects the performance and satisfaction of subordinates. The following leadership behaviours/styles were identified:

Directive Leadership: telling subordinates what to do, giving specific guidance along the way, scheduling and coordinating things to be done and, asking them to follow rules and procedures. (Yukl, 2002). This should be applied in environments where there is strong acceptance of hierarchies. (Mohr, 2010). This style increases the follower’s sense of security.

Supportive Leadership: this involves giving consideration to the needs of subordinates, being concerned for their welfare and creating a friendly work environment (Yukl, 2002). Should be applied in environments with strong group orientation (Mohr, 2010).

Participative: involves consulting with subordinates and taking their opinions and suggestions into account when making decisions (Yukl, 2002, Kreitner et al, 2002). Should be applied in environments with strong equality and individualism (Mohr, 2010). This approach works best when subordinates are experts in their fields and can give advice when needed.

Achievement Oriented: involves setting challenging goals in work and self-improvement, seeking high standards and performance improvement. Also showing confidence in abilities of subordinates (Yukl, 2002). Should be used in environments with strong individualism and pragmatism where result-orientation and achievement are the main motivational factors (Mohr, 2010).


Theories on leadership are philosophical assumptions that help leaders know how to direct their subordinates most effectively. There are various theories supporting the concept of leadership style. They aid explanation and proper understanding of leadership styles. Theories to be considered in this assignment are:

McGregor’s Human nature theory ( Theory X and Y)

Ouchi’s theory (Theory Z)

Douglas McGregor’s Human Nature Theory (Theory X and Y):

According to Hodgetts and Luthans (2003), Theory X and Y are two philosophical assumptions which Douglas McGregor labelled to understand the human nature.

Theory X assumes that people are basically lazy and, coercion and threats of punishment are often necessary to get them to work. In this case, leadership style has to be controlling and monitoring. Specifically, the theory assumes that:

By nature, people do not like to work and so avoid it whenever possible.

The individual is evil and will always want to cheat.

Workers have little ambition, try to avoid responsibility and want to be directed.

The main need of employees is job security.

To get people to attain organizational objectives, it is essential to use coercion, control and threats of punishment.

The Theory Y is based on the assumption that under the right conditions, people will work hard and also seek increased responsibility and challenge. Specifically, the theory assumes that,

Individuals want to respected, allowed to show initiative, and given autonomy and responsibility.

Using physical and mental effort at work is as natural to people as resting or playing.

External control and threats of punishment are not the only ways of getting people to work towards achieving organizational objectives: if people are committed to a goal, they will exercise self-direction and self control.

Commitment to objectives is determined by rewards associated with their achievement.

Under proper conditions, the average human being learns not only to accept but also to seek responsibility.

The ability to employ a reasonably high degree of imagination, ingenuity and creativity in the solution of organizational problem is widely distributed throughout the population.

Under condition of modern industry life, the intellectual potential of the average human begin is only partly tapped.

Ouchi’s Theory Z:

The Theory Z approach to management simply suggests that involved workers are the key to increased productivity (Workman, 2008). Ouchi’s Theory Z recommends how employees should be motivated for increased productivity. (Woodman/Workman, 2008). This approach promotes participation in leadership.

Involvement leads to the development of trust relationships and highly cohesive work groups (this tends to compel even greater involvement).

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Employees will be satisfied in the healthy social environment thus created.

Detailed policies and rules to govern and slow employees’ behaviour at work will not be needed.

Employees will be trusted to do the right thing and managers, to look out for employees’ welfare.

The result will be a level of productivity superior to that achieved at similar non-Theory Z firms.


In looking at leadership styles, it is important to note that culture plays an important role in forming and understanding leadership styles/pattern. Therefore, a deeper understanding of American and Japanese culture is essential in the context of this work.

There are cultural differences in America and Japan and, Hofstede’s dimensions; Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Individualism/Collectivism, Masculinity/Feminism (England, 1983) will be considered in understanding these differences and similarities.

From his dimensions, the following index was developed:




Long term orientation

Power distance

Uncertainty avoidance














Table 1: Showing the index of America and Japan using the Hofstede’s dimension.

Source: Adapted from Mohr, 2010.

Comparator (dimension)



Power distance









Uncertainty avoidance



Long term orientation



Table 2: Showing the variation between America and Japan using Hofstede’s dimension.

After looking at Hofstede’s dimensions, main points of American and Japanese work culture will be highlighted.

The table below points out the highlights of American organizational/work culture.

American Work/Organizational Culture


Individualistic, self-reliant and allowed to take decisions on their own

Materialistic goals take priority over spiritual values

Fast work pace/tempo

Opportunistic, take risks and want immediate profit

Start meeting with humour, chatting and use first names

Blunt, like to negotiate and get oral agreement at the first meeting

Quick to hire and fire

Status accorded on basis of merit/achievement and wealth. Age, seniority and gender is largely unimportant

Ethnocentric and assume they are the best

Specialists in their fields

Japanese Work/Organizational Culture


Culturally different from everyone else

Have great power in conformity with Confucian hierarchy but little involvement in daily affairs of the organization

On appropriate occasions, policies/ideas are initiated from the factory floor and passed up the company hierarchy for approval and ratification in what is known as ringi-sho consensus

Collectivist and can’t take decisions on their own. They have to refer back to their Head Office. As a result, don’t make decisions in the first meeting

Vague; not direct/blunt. Don’t want to lose face or have their feelings hurt

Life-long employment with organization

Generalists, not specialists

Life-long job rotation

Table 3: Lewis (2006)

After the review of leadership styles and theories, and culture of America and Japan (both generally and within the organization), leadership styles in America and Japan will now be analyzed:


American leaders have a unique leadership motivation style that integrates the features which most closely fit with their cultural characteristics. Their leadership style is participative (Bass, 1990. Mohr, 2010). This leadership style matches/is in line with the high individuality and low power distance found in Hofstede’s dimensions.

Also, elements of Theory Y (paternalistic) and theory Z (participative) can be found in their leadership style.


The management style in Japan is a mix of participative and directive approach as was found in the research carried out by Spicer and Fukushige (2007). This leadership style matches/is in line with the low individuality, high power distance, and high uncertainty avoidance found in Hofstede’s dimensions. Elements of theory Z (participative) can be found in their leadership style. Japanese leaders use a blend of both task-centred and people-centred approaches to lead subordinates (Workman, 2008).

However, in the research done by Fukushige and Spicer (2007), it was found that Japanese employees prefer the following leadership styles:

Network leadership style

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Gender Equality





Theory X



Theory Y

Since Americans are committed to goals, they exercise high self-control.

No threats of punishment are required to ensure task completion

Paternalistic Theory Y where there is a mutual, two-way flow of information and influence between boss and subordinates.

Seek and accept responsibilities.


Theory Z

Americans are motivated by a powerful commitment to be part of a greater whole in general, and more specifically to their organization

Though individualistic, Americans derive satisfaction while contributing to their company’s success.

Employees seek out responsibility and strive for opportunities to advance in an organization.

Both leaders and subordinates are motivated by a strong sense of commitment to be part of a greater whole (the Japanese organization in which they work).

People are -satisfied when they contribute to organizational success through teamwork.

In return for the organization’s long-term commitment to providing job security (often for life), workers develop strong bonds of loyalty towards their employer.

Communication flows between leaders and subordinates

Because Theory Z is participative, Japanese organizations show continuous interaction and exchange of information and influence between leader and subordinates, as well as among subordinates.

The multidirectional flow of communication n the more project-oriented Japanese organizational culture is different from leader and subordinate behaviour

Table 2: Showing factors that make up theories Y and Z in America and Japan.


The problems that an American manager will face in Japan will basically be on the issues raised based on the theory Y which are absent in Japan. The table above gives a general overview on some issues that could be conflicting between the two cultures. Some other problems likely to be faced include:

Culture Shock

Conflicts in interest of the manager and the subordinate (Americans seek job satisfaction and individuality while Japanese seek personal goals achievement and collectivism).

Frustration on inability to make decisions and having less autonomy.

Adaptation to Japanese work/organizational culture.

Inability to hire efficient staff and fire non-performing ones.


The major cause of such problem however is cultural differences amongst this two country as the national cultural has direct impact on citizens and affects their leadership style and every part of their lives. As a result, difference in leadership style will also cause problems. Most important effect will be the impact on performance/productivity. Positive effects will lead to improved performance/productivity and negative effects, vice versa. (McColl-Kennedy and Anderson, 2002).


To solve problems associated with difference in leadership style, the American manager has to be trained to understand the Japanese culture, work culture and be aware of differences that exist between the two cultures before being deployed. The following should also be done:

The manager should look at researches (particularly current ones) done about leadership/leading in Japan

Learn leadership styles Japanese employees are used to; their preferred leadership

style and incorporate both to his/her leadership style as House and Dessler (1974)

found that only leadership behaviour seen to bring satisfaction or with future

potential will be seen as acceptable to employees

Ask for feedback on his performance/style from employees to where and when to

make changes

Incorporate Ouchi’s theory Z (Integration) designed to make doing business in

Japan easier for Americans (England, 1983).

Type Z (integration)

Long-run employment

Job rotation in particular areas

Majority decisions

Responsibility for group members

Develop specialists and generalists

Source: Adapted from Mohr, 2010


In conclusion, leadership styles and theories have been considered both generally and specifically as it pertains to this piece of work, the role of culture in determining leadership style has been considered, problems faced have been noted and possible solutions have been highlighted.

In order to cope with the conflicts/problems, solutions highlighted above should be considered. The manager should also develop trust with his subordinates as he/she might still be ineffective if the subordinates do not accept him/her.

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