Today, it is not uncommon for managerial leadership to be drawn from one pool and placed in the other in order to facilitate greater intimacy between operational aspects separated by geography and culture. Though this strategy brings with it a number of notable benefits with regard to the coordination of global operations, it does also bear with it a number of challenges which fall upon the Human Resources department to address.
Employing an expatriate as a leader in an otherwise nationally homogenous organization, for one example, will tend to require a conscientious acknowledgement of cultural differences which are likely to enter into engagements -- both in terms of the awareness of personnel and the individual in question. This will be intended to invoke dual sensitivities to inherent differences that might impact interpersonal relations, communication and managerial philosophy. Therefore, the HR Department must be prepared to bridge any gaps which might occur in this scenario by choosing the appropriate managerial candidate, devising goals which assume close parallels between differing national faces of the operation and by ensuring proper cultural training is in place within the existing organization.
Difficulties to this strategy of international management are demonstrably present. Specifically, it often difficult for personnel to adapt to a management style which is derived from an unfamiliar culture. This is reinforced further where gender is concerned, with the initiation of expatriate female managers into this equation only occurring in very recent times. (Linehan, 433) According to Hofstede, there are inherent differences likely in the cultural outlooks of interacting nations in the global market, particularly in such areas as gender orientation. Here, the association which the theorist draws between masculine and feminine cultural roles translates directly into organizational goals. He argues that this dimension "indicates the degree to which a culture values such behaviors as assertiveness, achievement, acquisition of wealth or caring for others, social supports and the quality of life. This dimension tends to draw unwarranted criticism for its name alone. It basically refers to expected gender roles in a culture." (Hofstede, 2)
It appears that often, in light of these concerns, organizations are ill-prepared to make the appropriate adjustments to enjoy the strategic benefits of the selected approach. This is to indicate that "many organisations have a clear outline of the expatriates' costs but a vague or unclear picture of their related return on investments." (Schiuma, 1) the result is that procedural adjustments rarely account for new opportunities in terms of the organization's versatility and diversity of perspective, instead focusing on what our research finds is the more burdensome process of taking on the integration of a new managerial culture.
This notion, though, is countered by the reality that "companies who manage the entire process well - beginning with assignment-specific goal setting, identifying appropriate candidates, and ending with securing appropriate jobs for expats upon repatriation - have a better return on investment." (KPMG, 1) it is true that the companies which fail to take into account these considerations are more commonplace than the company which does plan accordingly. For the purposes of our discussion, a recommendation emerges here to ensure above all that the managerial candidate is suited for the cultural acuity needed to proactively bridge the above-noted gaps.
The era of globalization has precipitated this quality in company leadership irregardless. but, as the discussion here will illustrate, globalization has produced some of the problems which do arise from this corporate integration. Particularly, as nations and their domestic companies develop partnerships with one another, often divergent goals will become mutually dependent. This will require a shared positive focus from managerial leaders at the corporate level to induce a sustainable fairness of practices betwixt one another. Given the qualities which produce successful partnerships, it should seem a matter of practicality to pursue a responsible implementation of globalizing goals. This is because, "the institutional environment -- and in particular, corporate governance stakeholders -- will shape firms' globalization patterns." (Aguilera et al., 56) Such patterns are directly implicated by the quality of international assignments such as those invoking expatriate managerial leadership.
Of course, where the issue of leadership is concerned especially, the way that cultures differently approach authority becomes distinctly relevant. According to Hofstede, "power distance reflects the degree to which a culture believes how institutional and organizational...
Indeed, evidence demonstrates that "the type of work goals whose pursuit is encouraged and rewarded depend in part on the prevailing cultural value emphasized in society." (Jaw et al., 2) This is consistent with our findings here thus far, which may be read to suggest that the exact manifestation of work values will be reflected on a larger social level. To some extent, the ethnocentrism of the United States, as well as its dominant economic scale, had produced the impression that its educational and professional structures are somehow uniquely conducive to managerial leadership. However, this impression is subsiding in the face of changes produced by globalization.
Though the U.S. had enjoyed hegemony in this capacity for several generations of corporate evolution, a "disruptive trend may be the fast-rising tide of white-collar jobs shifting to cheap-labor countries. The fact that programming, engineering, and other high-skilled jobs are jumping to places such as China and India seems to conflict head-on with the 200-year-old doctrine of comparative advantage. With these countries now graduating more college students than the U.S. every year, economists are increasingly uncertain about just where the U.S. has an advantage anymore." (Bernstein, 1) as a result, it is increasingly common for effective leadership to be drawn from such nations as those identified in this example.
And to this point it is also increasingly incumbent upon the globalizing organization to "provide localized solutions on a global basis, customized to accommodate language and culture differences." (IBM, 1) This means that those lacking the economic or structural resources to establish a presence and independently functioning operations in localized settings throughout the globe may be ill-suited for a strategy of globalization. A major challenge to the internationalization of business specifically effects the smaller enterprise, where a desire to grow outside of domestic borders may be overshadowed by the heavy economic demands of such a transition. Otherwise, globalization may prove a fatal tactical leap, spreading a company's leadership, personnel and resources thin in order to compete with organization's that are far more likely to possess the needed capital and infrastructural qualities to remain viable in a wide range of social, cultural and geopolitical contexts.
This economic concern highlights an obstacle though, that for companies large and small, is likely the most daunting challenge in constructing the bridges which might improve the efficacy of globalization strategies. Increasingly, even as nations find that they share common economic interests, corporate personnel in every nation are faced with the often unforeseen obstacles of cultural divergence. Languages, customs, political ideologies, shared religious values and general business customs will vary significantly from one nation to another, with the currently prominent model in the relationship between China and the United States demonstrating just such a paradox. In Hofstede's dimensions, we are given a clear spectrum through which to view the differences that make cross-cultural business interaction inherently challenging and simultaneously rewarding. To the point, for many American firms, where a clear awareness exists of the demands for improved cultural communication abilities, it is nonetheless true that issues such as language and behavior differences will have the impact of isolating those of cultural distinction.
Gudykunst's (2006) theory is a fundamental building block to understanding the disconnect which intervenes in effective cross-cultural interaction. The underlying notion in his theoretical framework is the assertion that we are inclined to engage a variety of defensive devices in order to facilitate either more effective communication with cultural "others" or to at least reduce the anxiety which he notes is inherent to interactions obstructed by ethnic, linguistic, ideological, social or aesthetic differences.
In appealing to any from this spectrum of devices, the theorist notes, a message originator imperils the effectiveness or credibility of a meaningfully communicative dynamic by couching the exchange in compensatory internal explanations for ideas and behavior which may be seen as personally alien. As Gudykunst explains, "anxiety and uncertainty are the basic causes of all communication failure in intercultural situations."(Griffin, 410) Thus, it is not specifically the compensatory devices, such as nonverbal culture-affiliate identifiers or concerted verbal reciprocity, which are the cause of the failed intercultural communication attempts. More, it is an underlying anxiety produced by the uncertainty of encountering the unknown, the unfamiliar or the uncontextualized. Certainly, this is something which we can see in the example of the mortgage office which I have discussed above. Here, we can see that there…
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