Premises for successful leadership

How Culture influences leaders

Term Paper, 2008

18 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Index of contents

1. Introduction
1.1 The meaning of leadership
1.2 The importance of successful leadership

2. Premises for successful leadership
2.1 Characteristics of a successful leader
2.2 The importance of implementing a vision
2.3 Finding the apropriate leadership style

3. The impact of culture on leadership
3.1 Assumptions about culture
3.2 Necessary preperations for cultural change within organizations
3.3 Boundaries of intercultural leadership
3.4 Recommendations for a successful, intercultural leadership

4. A comparison between Polish and Dutch leadership

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

1. Introduction

1.1 The meaning of leadership

Looking at the term “leadership” it can be observed that numerous definitions are existing. According to Koontz and Weihrich it “is defined as the process of influencing people so that they will contribute to organization and group goals (1988, p.392).” This way of definition is even more extended by Yukl. He defines leadership as “[…] the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how it can be done effectively, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish the shared objectives (2002, p.7).”

As the universal principle of management and corporate executives, leadership is therefore also of high importance for orchestra conductors, football coaches, army generals and school superintendents (Bennis, 1995). In this sense through the mutual process of interaction between a superior and inferiors leadership is always used for the coordination of activities and memebers within an organization in which labour is divided (Boerner, 2002).

Generally there are two different ways of leadership. According to the way of conducting a group or organisation it can be differentiated between autocratic and democratic leadership. While an autocratic leader is making decisions on his own, democratic leaders prefer their team members being involved in the decision making process (Microsoft® Encarta® Enzyklopädie Professional 2003).

Thus, the aim of this paper is to explain which premises for successful leadership have to be met and which different ways of leadership are existing. In the end, it shall become clear how culture is influencing leadership. Through the comparison of leadership styles in Western and Eastern Europe those assumptions shall be proofed.

1.2 The importance of successful leadership

In times of progressing globalisation companies are continuing to orientate themselves more and more internationally. A focus on just a domestic market is no longer efficient.

In this sense, as indicated in the following figure, the world’s exposure to international trade (except the United States) has risen from about 50% of GDP in 1994 to 70 % in 2005:

illustration not visible in this excerpt


Kevin Kliesen (2007). Trading Barbs: A Primer on Globalization. St.Louis: The Regional Economist; based On World Bank Development Indicators

This development can be explained through the process of expanding possibilities of the international division of labour due to the reduction of communication and transport costs as well as the reduction of trade barriers. As a final result companies are able to enlarge their businesses. Thus, the concentration on its comparative advantage allows them to realise economies of scale and scope by concentrating on products they are able to produce with minor costs. By contrast more expensive goods are imported from other companies in order to save money (Söllner, 2007.).

Even though globalisation contributes to raising profits, companies also have to overcome a lot of struggles in order to remain competitive. Especially the quickening pace of innovation contributes to the shortening of a product’s life-time cycle. Next to that the growing complexity of challenges demands a more collaborative interaction across functions among employees. That is why companies have to be fast and flexible enough in order to find innovative solutions for adjusting to a permanently changing environment (Martin, 2007).

Moreover successful leadership permits to avoid chaos. On that account employees accept guidance through superiors in order to get protection and instruction (Kühlmann, 2008).

As Heidinger has mentioned, whenever enterprises are struggling due to crisis caused by influences from the outside or within the organisation (e.g. non-adequate strategies and structures no longer leading to wanted results) a personality is required which is able to implement a successful reorganization process. Such a long-term orientation process has to include strategic, structural and cultural changes which are relevant for the whole company. Thus, such a person has to balance uncertainty and worries about the future with the help of a charismatic ability of motivating the stuff, a high personal involvement as well as a high talent of improvisation. This threat to existence can just be removed if the need for the restructuring process got understood and accepted by the subordinates.

Technical improvement alone does not lead automatically to growing profits. In order to adapt successfully to a new environment the whole company has to be readjusted strategically so that advantages from globalisation can be generated. Therefore, a real leader who is implementing the management’s activities is necessary (2005, p.26 et sqq.).

This trend is also represented by the following image. According to the diagram more and more companies are nowadays realizing the importance of leadership training.

illustration not visible in this excerpt


Survey “2008 Forecast” (2007),

Human Resource Executive® and

ERC Dataplus

2. Premises for successful leadership

2.1 Characteristics of a successful leader

The leader as a hero-person has in several ways an impact on its employees. Next to motivating the staff and providing role models, he is making success attainable and human (also known as the concern for people). Moreover his task is to symbolize the company to the outside world, to preserve what makes the company special as well as to set a standard of performance (known as the concern for results). In this sense certain competencies are necessary. Through a vision attention is generated. The alignment of people is important for going in a same direction, therefore successful communication is crucial. Reliability finally helps to constitute trust. The deployment of self allows leaders again to use their skills effectively (Bjerke, 2000). Expertise on the other hand allows to guarantee the succesful handling of technical demands. Social competencies help to make communication and cooperation easier. The orientation on methods respects the adaption to certain standards. Personal competencies on the other hand are finally represented in the capability of selforganization as well as to cope with stress and problems during a process of leading (Hofbauer/Kauer, 2008).

As a result succesful leading includes in the end the identification of a problem, the setting of aims as well as planning, deciding, delegating, coordinating, controlling and informing. Especially detecting a certain problem results after all in the capability of leading. In the end leaders are able to motivate employees in a certain way so that tasks can finally be solved in an optimal manner following the general interest of a company (Femppel, 2008).

In this sense especially visions help to generate a precise direction for the future. Persuant to that the following chapter will help to better understand why those images are that crucial.

2.2 The importance of implementing a vision

According to Bennis leaders are especially characterized by the attainment of self-mastery as well as the development of a vision. Through creating a mental image of a possible desirable future state of the organization, a vision, a clear direction of the organization is given. In this way it is guaranteed that individuals are getting their own role in the organization so that they are gaining a sense of importance. Hence, the feeling of being a creative human being results in a higher motivation. As a consequence “the human energies of the organization are aligned toward a common end” (1995, p.51) so that next to the individuals also the organization has the chance of maximizing its rewards. Through a shared vision the effectiveness of the whole organization is finally improved. Employees know where to put the focus on so that the decision-making can be widely distributed. As a result there is no longer any need to appeal to higher levels within the organization. In this sense the behaviour of individuals can be finally coordinated and shaped with the help of an empowering and shared vision.

Moreover an imperative vision, made for the functional success of an organization, helps to overcome this growing complexity in today’s world. Hence, uncertainty as well as a mass of conflicting images in an organization can be avoided (1995, p.49 et sqq.).

Looking at the steps for creating a vision it is crucial to understand what is going on within the organization as well as to know which events will be important for the future. Setting a new direction means to design a credible, realistic and attractive view of this future. As an “all-important bridge from the present to the future of the organization” (1995, p.50) a prospective state which did not exist before has to be created. That is why the attention has to be focussed on attainable and worthwhile achievements.

Guidance is often needed because of the fact that a vision mostly originates from others. Therefore, it is advised to orientate on the following aspects in order to get an idea how to create the vision within the organization (Bennis, 1995):

Orientation on the past:

Personal experiences have to be compared with experiences from others. Moreover it is important to examine what has worked in the past in order to visualize long-term trends.

Orientation on the present:

Investigating the instantaneous environment helps to learn about future. In this sense current resources can be analyzed so that future constraints and opportunities will be easily understood. That is why trend-monitoring among others is a technique providing early warnings.

Orientation on the future:

Through studying possible changes of other competitors as well as conditions which might prevail within the next time, it is possible to assume what the future market will look like. The exploring of intellectual ideas that may shape the future are also helpful in order to get an insight into prospective developments.

Finally the real art of leadership lies in the interpretation of all those information. Through synthesizing these facts, involving a certain degree of creativity, considerable intuition as well as judgement in order to choose the wanted direction, a credible and viable vision can be implemented . Therefore every possible eventuality has to be taken into consideration.

Hence, “foresight” (How might the vision fit?), “hindsight” (not to violate traditions and culture of the organization), an adequate “worldview” in order to interpret the impact of the new developments as well as a “depth perception” (to regard the whole picture in an appropriate perspective) are required capabilities of a leader. Next to that a “peripheral vision” is necessary for the understanding of competitors’ responses. Nevertheless synthesized visions have to be revised regularly due to the fact that the environment is changing permanently.

Boundaries such as to project a vision in time and space also have to be considered by leaders. Another critical point is the different evaluation of the relevant alternatives by your own and others. That is why a mental model being tested in discussions with experts might be helpful in order to realize those boundaries already in the beginning.

Even though a vision might look excellent in the eyes of the leader it is just as good as the commitment therefore is. To guarantee a high commitment within the organization a successful communication as well as an effective institutionalisation are guiding principles. Thus, the creation of an enthusiastic and dedicated commitment to a vision is crucial for the act of persuasion (Bennis, 1995, p.57 et sqq.).

A succesfully implemented vision will finally lead to the creation of a common spirit which is the most important element within an organisation. As a result everybody in the organization is pulling on the same string. Thus, a certain feeling of being a member of a special team is developping. In the next step this state has to be kept going. If everybody is living this certain feeling the spirit will even grow more. For supporting the growth a certain structure maintaining this state of mind is needed (Owen, 2001).


Excerpt out of 18 pages


Premises for successful leadership
How Culture influences leaders
European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)
Leadership. An intercultural approach
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
474 KB
Premises, Leadership, Succesful leadership, Culture and leadership, Coordination of activities, Contemporary leadership styles
Quote paper
Bachelor Martin Koenig (Author), 2008, Premises for successful leadership, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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