Culture shapes how we think about what is good leadership, and the definitions of an 'effective leader' vary from one culture to another. In fact, effective leadership behavior in one culture could (and will) be completely ineffective in others." (ITAP International, p. 1)
Here, we can see that the interrelation of Culture and Leadership Effectiveness is one of relativity. Such is to say that leadership effectiveness will be substantially shaped by how well leadership is equipped to manage cross-cultural expectations and perceptions of leadership.
Defining Concept: GLOBE Study
What is GLOBE?
Before entering into a more extensive analysis of the role and future of GLOBE, it is necessary to provide some basic background details on the project's founding and primary initiatives. According to the text provided by Knowledge @ Wharton (1999), GLOBE was founded by its first director, Robert J. House. House, a social scientist conducting research primarily at the Wharton School in the University of Pennsylvania, was engaged in a decade long study on how different world cultures define and formulate organizational leadership. In doing so, House became increasingly convinced that the 'definitions and perceptions of leadership' were fundamentally different from one culture and country to the next. It is thus that House identified the need -- especially in the face of the mounting influence of globalization on international business practices -- to find a singular lens through which to understand these differing conceptions of leadership. In response to this need, Knowledge @ Wharton would report that "In 1993 House launched The Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Research Program (GLOBE) to test leadership hypotheses in various cultures. Over the past six years GLOBE has evolved into a multi-phase, multi-method research project in which some 170 investigators from over 60 cultures representing all major regions of the world collaborate to examine the interrelationships among societal culture, organizational culture and practices and organizational leadership." (Knowledge @ Wharton, p. 1)
The investigators called upon for involvement in the project were generally culled from the ranks of social scientists representing each of the countries involved. Using four distinct Phases, GLOBE would set out across its first 15 years in operation to develop metrics for universal leadership attributes that could be used to identify common ground between the organizational cultures of the various participant nations. In addition, these phases would be used to identify some of the common stumbling blocks before nations and their corporations as they attempt to adapt to the notion of more universal leadership standards. According to Knowledge @ Wharton, Phase II of the study, complete in 1998, found that "there are attributes that are universally seen as impediments to outstanding leadership. The most important finding, however, is that there are culturally-contingent attributes that can help or hinder leadership." (Knowledge @ Wharton, p. 1)
This denotes that at its basis, the GLOBE project was established to help decipher between those attributes which may be valued as universal and those which are culturally contingent. Moreover, the GLOBE project attempts to bring nuance to this discussion by deconstructing those values which may be culturally contingent so as to determine which dimensions of these values might be universal and which might be culturally contingent. The offshoot is that GLOBE works to provide a set of metrics that can be directly applied by individuals facing leadership challenges that are compounded by the presence of cross-cultural impediments. Knowledge @ Wharton provides a useful example from the qualitative results of GLOBE's Phase II of how the deconstruction of culturally relative leadership traits can produce a sense of that which may be universally relevant within. Here, Knowledge @ Wharton reports that for instance, "several attributes reflecting charismatic/transformational leadership are universally endorsed as contributing to outstanding leadership. These attributes include: foresight, a willingness to encourage colleagues and staff, communicativeness, trustworthiness, a dynamic presence, a positive attitude, and being seen as a confidence builder. Certain charismatic attributes are perceived to be culturally contingent. These include enthusiasm, risk-taking, ambition, humility, sincerity, sensitivity, and compassion." (Knowledge @ Wharton, p. 2)
From the outset, GLOBE would receive endorsement and support from several different public agencies originating in the United States. According to a progress report by GLOBE founder Robert J. House (1999), GLOBE was launched with a $625,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education and a grant from for an additional $100,000 from the National Science Foundation. These would be granted in response to a grant proposal that pooled together 753 questionnaire items to demonstrate the intended scope of the project. (House, p. 2) House would go on to report that the leadership structure at GLOBE was centered around several key units. House notes that "the activities of the project as a whole are coordinated by the GLOBE Coordinating Team (GCT). The Principal Investigator and the Co-Principal Investigators are members of the GCT" along with a list of social scientists representing an array of universities from the U.S., Sweden, German, India, Canada, Colombia and South Africa. (House, p. 3)
The Present Condition of World Trends:
For concise demonstration of the way that GLOBE's evaluation tools produce indexes relating to distinct Culture Clusters (defined in the section hereafter entitled "GLOBE's Contributions"), we consider some of the World Trend's in leadership values as reported in the text by House et al. (2004). Here, in a published report following up on the survey measurement of the Cultural Dimensions of leadership (also defined hereafter in the section entitled "GLOBE's Contributions), House et al. demonstrate the specific connections between cultures and leadership values.
For instance, House et al. report that Anglo cultures such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom place a high level of emphasis on Performance Orientation, In-Group Collectivism and, to a slightly lesser extent, Gender Egalitarianism. Anglo cultures are shown to place a comparatively lesser emphasis on the leadership values found in Power Distance or Uncertainty Avoidance. (House et al., p. 32)
Confucian Asian cultures, which would include China, Japan and South Korea, among others, would by contrast place higher emphasis on Future Orientation and Human Orientation while placing lower emphases on Gender Egalitarianism or Institutional Collectivism. This denotes that the GLOBE evaluation tool allows for observations in trends according to individual clusters. However, the tool is also designed to allow for some measure of inter-cultural comparison. Using the GLOBE instrument, it is possible to observe certain commonalities across otherwise distinct clusters. Accordingly, we find that such values as Future Orientation and Human Orientation, identified as high in Confucian cultures, are also identified as being roughly the equivalent measure in the Latin Europe and Latin American clusters. From this, we can identify a certain potential for compatibility in terms of business coalescence. (House et al., p. 33-37)
Similarly, German Europe and Latin Europe share the Anglo cluster's emphasis on Performance Orientation and likewise all three clusters place a low emphasis on Power Distance. This low emphasis on Power Distance is also shared by Nordic Europe, Latin American and Confucian Asian cultures. This denotes that the World Trend is largely toward a diminished emphasis on power distance and more egalitarian distributions of authority and engagement. (House et al., p. 33-37) The finding also highlights the power of the GLOBE instrument to help uncover such parallels. This is of use in determining the compatibility of intercultural business endeavors and helps to predict the level of adjustment likely required by engaging parties to cultural distinctions.
GLOBE as a Policy Framework:
The notion of using GLOBE as a policy framework has particular value to the international trade groups and world governing agencies that are attempting to bring a leveling effect to the developing and developed spheres through the process of globalization. This denotes that there may be a distinct usefulness to such agencies in employing the findings of GLOBE as a way to develop legislation on matters of increasing importance such as gender equality, protection of worker's rights or responsibility for environmental degradation. Where dimensions of corporate behavior represent challenges to the progress of the collective global community, and where imperatives exist already for the intervention of the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and even the United Nations, GLOBE's identification of leadership values as they differ from one nation to another can help to point to specific nations and specific areas within said nations where change can be sought.
As the text by House et al. (2002) reports, "besides practical needs, there are important reasons to examine the impact of culture on leadership. There is a need for leadership and organizational theories that transcend cultures to understand what works and what does not work in different cultural settings (Triandis, 1993). Furthermore, a focus on cross-cultural issues can help researchers uncover new relationships by forcing investigators to include a much broader range of variables often not considered in contemporary leadership theories, such as the importance of religion, language, ethnic background, history, or political systems." (House et al., p. 3) From this perspective,…