Geert Hofstede (1984; 2001) was one of the pioneers who began to view leadership as a cultural issue in organizations and proposed that subordinates’ work related cultural values can affect their expected leadership styles. Hofstede analyzed the results and found clear patterns of similarity and difference amid the responses along these five dimensions. Interestingly, his research was done on employees of IBM only, which allowed him to attribute the patterns to national differences in culture, largely eliminating the problem of differences in company culture.

Hofstede (1984; 1990; 2001) proposed five work-related cultural dimensions to study organizational behaviors in a global context—uncertainty avoidance, power distance, masculinity, collectivism. and Confucian work dynamics. In his most recent Culture‘s Consequences book, Hofstede (2001) argued that “in the past 30 years there has been altogether too much reliance on American-made management and theories for countries in which neither the social conditions nor the mental programming of the population were similar to the United States” (p. 462).

Development of the theory

Lynn and Peta (1997) conducted an empirical investigation of culture’s consequences for the leadership behaviors of managers from 39 diverse national cultures. They examined the relationships between these managers’ cultural values and their leadership practices as assessed by subordinates. The results of the study demonstrated that Hofstede’s cultural dimensions (specifically power distance and uncertainty avoidance) were correlated with certain leadership behaviors. According to Lynn and Peta (1997), “Power distance was significantly and negatively associated with leader communication, delegation, approachability, and team building; uncertainty avoidance was significantly associated with more leader control, but less delegation and approachability” (p. 342). They investigated the relationship between Hofstede’s dimensions and leadership behaviors.

Based on Hofstede’s (1984; 2001) theory and the results of previous studies, two theoretical models were developed to investigate cultural influences on subordinates’ leadership expectations. The first model (see Figure 1) specifies the relationships among subordinates’ work-related cultural values and subordinates’ expected leadership communication styles in the decision-making process.

Hofstede (1984; 2001) specified the relationship between power distance and decision making styles. According to him, in a high power distance culture, subordinates expect their supervisors to act like autocrats or panelists. Ideal supervisors in low power distance cultures, however, are democratic. Hackman and Johnson (1996) discussed how Hofstede’s (1984; 2001) for cultural dimensions affect leadership decision-making styles and proposed several implications for leadership. First, as they noted, authoritarian leadership style is more common in high power-distance cultures, whereas a democratic leadership style is well accepted in low power-distance cultures. Second, leaders in feminine cultures tend to emphasize consensus, which means they obtain more opinions from subordinates and attempt to have them adapt mutually agreeable decisions. Third, decisions are more likely to be made by groups through participate decision making in collectivistic cultures, whereas decisions may be made by a single leader in individualistic cultures. Although it was not discussed by Hackman and Johnson (1996), we propose that uncertainty avoidance and Confucian work dynamics will also affect the leadership decision-making process. First, subordinates will appreciate participate leadership decision-making in high uncertainty avoidance cultures because they want to know how decisions are made. Second, decisions may be made by a single leader in cultures with high Confucianism cultural values because leaders have higher status than subordinates and the ordering relationship is important in these cultures. In addition to discussing the relationships between subordinates’ work-related cultural values and expected decision-making styles, this study also explores the relationship between subordinates’ work-related cultural values and their expected conflict management styles because both decision-making and conflict-management are important responsibilities for organizational leaders.

Previous literature has focused primarily on the relationship between individualism, uncertainty avoidance and conflict management styles. For instance, Gabrielidid, Stephan, Ybarra, Pearson, and Villareal (1997) demonstrated that other-oriented conflict management styles are preferable in highly collectivistic cultures. It seems, then, that collectivism is positively related to the relational-oriented conflict management style. The relationship between other cultural dimensions and conflict management styles can also be predicted. First, it is predicted that masculinity will be positively correlated with task-oriented leadership style because leaders with high masculinity values could be expected to take a more forceful approach to solving organizational problems. Second, Confucian work dynamics will be positively correlated with relational-oriented leadership style because relationship is a key concept of Confucianism. The relationship between cultural dimensions and laissez-faire leadership has received

Main Concept

Hofstede’s (1984; 2001) Cultural Theory served as the theoretical foundation for this study. Hofstede (1984) proposed four cultural dimensions called power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism-collectivism, and masculinity-femininity. The first dimension, power distance, refers to power inequality in a culture. In high power distance cultures, subordinates are afraid of expressing their opinions to their managers. Low power distance cultures means that power is shared and well dispersed. It also means that society members view themselves as equals. According to Hofsteds’s model, Malaysia (104) in a high power distance cultures country. Where would probably send reports only to top management and have closed-door meetings where only a select few, powerful leaders where attendance. The second dimension, uncertainty avoidance, refers to people’s tolerance for ambiguity, in order to reduce uncertainty, there are more written rules and regulations in high uncertainty avoidance cultures. Low uncertainty avoidance indicate the society enjoys novels events and values differences. There are very few rules and people are encouraged to discover their own truth. The third dimension, masculinity/femininity, describes the gender roles in cultures. In high masculinity cultures, there may be a glass ceiling for women in organizations. Men are expected to be tough, provider, assertive and strong. However, in high femininity cultures do not reverse the gender role. Men and women are often treated more equally in organizations. Women and men working together equally across many professions. Men are allowed to be sensitive and women can work hard for professional success. The fourth dimension, individualism/collectivism, refers to how people value themselves and their groups/organizations. Organizational goals are viewed as more important than individual goals in collectivistic cultures. A society in collectivistic cultures would have strong group cohesion and they would be a large amount of loyalty and respect for members of the group. However, individual achievements are viewed as more important than organizational/group goals in individualism. In countries with high individualism score there is lack of interpersonal connection and little sharing of responsibility, beyond family and perhaps a few close friends. Hofstede and Bond (1990) proposed a fifth cultural dimension called Confucian work dynamics after finding that Asian countries with a strong link to Confucian philosophy acted differently from Western cultures. This dimension represents four important Chinese values including ordering relationships, persistence, thrift, and having a sense of shame. This dimension was also called long-term orientation dimension (Hofstede, 2001). In countries with a high long-term orientation cultures, delivering on social obligations and avoiding “loss of face” are considered very important.


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Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions,  and organizations across nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Lynn R. O., & Peta, S. H. (1997). Culture’s consequences for leadership behavior: National values in action. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 28, 342-351.

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