During our leadership group work, it was apparent that culture plays a very important role in leadership. Given that culture is the greatest determinant of the individual belief systems, code of conduct and organizational behavior, any acceptable form of leadership is that which is culturally contingent. Despite the fact that majority might not be aware of the significant role this particular driving force play in quest for a legitimate leadership, organizational culture dictates what leaders may or may not do, what is expected of them and influence as well as status it bestows upon the leader.
Nevertheless, these cultural values vary significantly from one leader to another depending on the organizational culture in which the leadership is provided. It is imperative to note that cultures vary across the continents, as does leadership values. Americans, Africans, Asians, Germans, Russians, French, English, Europeans and Arabs have their own leadership values that are concomitant to their background cultures thus ruling out the notion that there exist standardized leadership values, attributes and qualities. Based on this understanding, therefore, it was evident from our group work that sound leadership should be founded on the prevailing organizational cultures.
Fully aware that globalization has taken its grip on all parts of the world, and that we are living in a global village characterized by cultural diversity, the group came to realize that all the aspiring global leaders are under an obligation to master the predominant cultural views of the world. In this way, specific leadership attributes, universally endorsed and culturally contingent behaviors, the only recipe for an effective leadership, will be inculcated in potential leaders. It is a truly profound revelation that one cannot make a good an effective leader lest he or she gains the cultural approval in the area of operations.
It is equally such a compelling discovery that one can make an effective leader in any part of the world outside his locality more so in the era of globalization. Good mastery and appreciation of foreign cultures in the locality where one is attached is the only avenue of becoming an effective leader owing to the fact that members of a particular culture tends to repel those who resists their ways. The reverse is also true- members of culture will be very receptive and friendly to leaders who embrace or show liking to their cultures no matter their origin, language and ethnicity.
Differing opinion on the Topic of Leadership and Culture
Even though most of the group members were in agreement that culture has a direct influence on leadership and that an effective leader can fit in any cultural set up, some of the members held a different view. In their opinion, they were strongly convicted that culture is the number one barrier to effective leadership. They cited examples of several leaders whose leadership skills were outstanding in Europe and Australia but could not record the same level of performance upon their transfer to the Arabic nations in the Middle East- a phenomenon they attributed to tremendous cultural changes. After a lengthy discussion, however, the group was made to understand that the highlighted prominent corporate managers could have excelled in Europe and Australia but failed in the Middle East mainly because they did not consider the fundamental element of culture in their success strategies.
Similarly, some of the group could also not see how culture affects the qualities of leadership, an attribute they perceive as intrinsic. They were of the view that leadership is an internal feature which can only be influenced by training and acquisition of skills. In this regard, one needs to have the desired levels of relevant qualifications in a bid to perform his duties diligently failure to which he cannot deliver the much needed leadership to the organization. Thus there were suggestions that we change our topic from leadership and culture to leadership and training.