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Home » Africa, Asia, Europe, Expat Life, Middle East, Relocations, Rest of the World, Russia - CIS, headline

Cultural Influences on Management Style

Different cultures may determine various management styles

By Relocation Expert
November 24, 2011

You may, or may not, have noticed by now that leadership and management style differs from country to country. There are of course many similarities in the way  business is conducted, still cultural influence can be quite diverse. Therefore, in most cases, local culture plays an important role in management around the world.

For example, management styles valued in the Netherlands may be perceived as weak in Romania, where authoritative leadership prevails. Or, calling subordinates by their first names is seen as a gesture of friendliness in the United States, but will be considered rude or impolite in France or Germany. High level of punctuality of someone from the United States may seem “pushy” for someone from Latin countries. Still, the indifferent response to time by a Latin person can be wrongly interpreted as being lazy or unresponsive. And when it comes to actual planning of activities, in British firms, for example, the planning staff is often reduced when anticipating future events becomes more difficult, but Germans would rather increase their planning activities in such a case.

There are certain role models of managers in each country, mostly determined by the cultural characteristic of a nation. For example, in the United States the most readily available role model for the head of a company is the corporate CEO. In China, it is the head of the family. In France it remains the military general. In Japan, it is the consensus builder. In Germany, it is the coalition builder.

In post-communist countries, there are still some management aspects inherited from the previous era. Among older generation of managers, after-effects are still evident, often resulting in a lack of drive and energy. However, younger generations takes a different approach, driven by western management style, open market economy and global industries.

Globalization of the market, political changes, high level of mobility, and progress of technology, have influenced many changes in management styles in various cultures and nations. Many business leaders today share similar values and leadership styles, as the world becomes one unique market and business arena. Nevertheless, the following manager stereotypes are only to illustrate the pattern of conducting the business that originates from the culture of a certain nation.

Managers in Afghanistan are often rather paternalistic and their interest may extend outside of the workplace into the personal lives of their employees. For Afghanistan managers, the concept of personal strength is very important, and any demonstration of ‘weaknesses’ is considered not good for business.

As for the Chinese management style, it tends towards the directive, with the senior managers providing instructions to their subordinates who pass on the instructions down the line. It is not expected, and would be considered disrespectful, for subordinates to question any of their superiors decision. The Chinese manager is seen as a type of traditional father figure, and often functions autocratically. It is not common for a Chinese manager to compliment or chastise an employee publicly.

Management style in the UAE is rather directive and paternalistic. Good managers in the UAE are those who give clear and direct instructions to their employees. Accordingly, subordinates are expected to carry out the instructions given. Any lack of clear directorial management is considered as poor leadership. Although such a paternalistic approach is very common at this part of the world, it can result in the lack of employees’ initiative.

Ukrainians tend to show great respect for age and status, which is represented by position or wealth. The management style in Ukraine may sometimes seem dictatorial or autocratic. Subordinates are expected to follow established procedures.

In Iraq, which is considered a hierarchical society, managers mostly have a paternalistic attitude to their employees. It is not rare that they show a concern for employees that goes beyond the workplace, such as involvement in their family, health, housing, or some other practical life matters.

In Russia, many businesses preserved a strong hierarchical structure. Russians tend to have a great respect to age, rank, and protocol. In general, Russian managers are often described as dictatorial and autocratic. If an employee publicly challenges a manager’s decision, it could result in the loss of the manager’s dignity and respect.

Economic transition in Slovakia has changed the business culture to certain extent. In businesses that preserved a strong hierarchical structure, managers mostly have an autocratic approach, and subordinates are expected to follow standard procedures. Nevertheless, in more entrepreneurial companies, individual initiative is valued more, and employees are actually expected to choose the best course of action by exploring all the opportunities that are offered, in accomplishing the work goals.

Hungarian management style highly depends on the corporate culture of specific companies. Therefore, the corporate influence to management style prevails over the influence of national culture. Hungarian management style ranges from autocratic to democratic.

Nevertheless, management styles will also highly depend on education, corporate culture, economic development or available technology. The stereotypical management styles as described above may fade in time, as the global economy takes its full swing. The cross culture management style could become the ultimate approach for new professionals, as the world becomes one single business arena.


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