Leadership across High- and Low-Context Cultures

Which Styles are being preferred by Germany and Turkey?

Essay, 2011

25 Pages, Grade: Outstanding


Table of Context

List of Figures

1 Introduction

2 Leadership and Culture: Theoretical Background on Leadership Theories and High- and Low-Context Cultures
2.1 Leadership styles
2.2 High- and Low-Context Cultures

3 Cross-Cultural Leadership: Leading across High- and Low-Context Cultures
3.1 Germany
3.2 Turkey

4 Conclusion


List of Figures

Figure 1: Leadership Theories

Figure 2: One-dimensional Approaches to Leadership

Figure 3: Multidimensional Approaches to Leadership

Figure 4: Systematics of Leadership Styles

Figure 5: High- and Low-Context Cultures

Figure 6: West German Leadership styles

1 Introduction

When you think of great leaders, names like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Bill Gates, Barack Obama or Gordon Brown may come up. But what makes a leader a good leader? Being a good leader requires a lot of things and therefore not everybody can be a successful leader. “Leaders can be born, elected, or trained and groomed; they can seize power or have leadership trust upon them” (Lewis: 2006, p.104). They can be democratic or autocratic, individual or collective, ascribed or merit-based, imposed or desired (Lewis: 2006). Consequently, there is no such thing as a perfect leadership style which works in every situation and with all followers; there usually is no ideal way of leading - there is only a better or worse way (Larkin: 2008). That is one of the reasons why a good leader needs to have the ability to use many different styles in order to succeed (Broadbent, Kitzis: 2005). It is a false conclusion that the well-adopted hard skills of a manager inevitably lead to economic success. Those hard skills form the foundation of a strong, effective and recognized leader, but nowadays further acquirements are an absolute must. Endurance, universalism, knowledge of human nature, communications, collaboration and work input are inevitable (Eckert, Drath: 2009). Additionally to the fact that it is in any case difficult to find the ideal style for every situation and every follower, cultural differences set up another challenge: communication styles, gender, uncertainty avoidance, power distance, individualistic versus collectivistic, etc. play an important role if it comes to finding the most ideal style (Ledlow, Coppola: 2011). Several scientists support the idea of “a culture specific view of leadership indicating that unique cultural” (Pa a, Kabasakal, Bodur: 2001, p.565) traits such as religion, language and values require explicit leadership approaches in unequal societies.

This work deals with the most common leadership theories in due consideration of their applicability in high- and low-context cultures, more precisely with the leadership styles which are mainly being used Turkey and Germany. Chapter 2 sets the theoretical background on leadership styles, and the differentiation between high- and low-context cultures. Since it would go beyond the scope of this work to cover all existing styles and theories, only a small selection of leadership theories are being explained. For this purpose existing literature on leadership, organisational behaviour, cross-cultural communication and culture are examined. Being aware of the existence of numerous definitions of leadership, the working definition of leadership used in this work, based on the ideas of Wild (1974) and Wunderer and Grunwald (1980), is as follows: Leadership is defined as a function which involves controlling and organisation of other people’s action. It is targeted, interactive and social interaction in order to fulfil combined duties within and with a structured labour situation. All this takes place between different hierarchical status individuals. It is important to mention that leadership and management are not the same: “Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right things” (Bennis, Nanus: 2003, p.21). Leaders establish direction, align people, motivate and inspire, produce positive and sometimes dramatic changes, whereas a manager plans and budgets, organises and staffs, controls and solves problems and produces order, predictability and consistency. Consequently, leadership is just one facet of management (Buchanan, Huczynski: 2010).

Chapter 3 covers a critical examination of leadership styles in Germany and Turkey, and answers the question of which leadership styles are most likely being used in the two counties. For this purpose literature on cross-cultural leadership, leadership studies as well as personal experience are examined. Additionally to the fact that personal experience does only picture a small sample, personal involvement, so to say a lack of objectiveness, as well as the observer paradox, influence the findings. Nevertheless, personal experience is still being included in order to support the researched. The work concludes with a short review and further perspectives.

2 Leadership and Culture: Theoretical Background on Leadership

Theories and High- and Low-Context Cultures

2.1 Leadership styles

Leadership theories, strongly influenced by the human-relations movement, have their origin in the beginning of the 20th century (Sergiovanni: 1986). Leadership describes an in the long term relatively stable situational invariant behavioural pattern of the leader. From the perspective of the led, leadership is always seen as something holistic and leadership quality does not only base on the leader’s traits and therefore, it can actually only be judged on the behaviour towards the employees. Various leadership theories derived from the idea that there are styles which are connected to a higher leadership success than others. In this context, it needs to be mentioned that it is not about traits (anymore), but patterns (Hungenberg, Wulf: 2007). The development of leadership started about 90 years ago, which has been visualised in the following figure:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: Leadership Theories (Author's own, following Marquis, Huston: 2009; Buchanan, Huczynski: 2010; Glynn, DeJordy: 2010; Williams: 1983)

Before 1940, leadership approaches concentrated on traits and believed that certain characteristics were a must for a successful leader. Theories which aroused during this epoch are the “great man” theory, also called ‘trait theory’. The second approach, the behavioural theories or style theories, tried to explain leadership in terms of the leader’s behaviour. These theories believed that specific behaviour decided whether a leader was good or bad. Nevertheless, they were not able to deliver consistent enough output, which led to the third approach: the situational and contingency theories which explain the unsuitability of all previous theories. These approaches act on the assumption that effectiveness of any leader’s behaviour depends on the demand that has been imposed by the situation. Hereupon, the next era builds up: more visionary and heroic approaches had been introduced over the last years. Leadership models such as self leadership, charismatic leadership, the super leader or transformational leadership keep researchers busy (Singh: 2011).

The graph only shows the four major eras of leadership approaches. However, there are further approaches, such as the functional approach, the role theories and the inspirational leadership approach, but these could not prevail (Rayner, Adam-Smith: 2009; Jung: 2006). The changes in the last century were caused by several factors such as worldwide political changes, increased globalisation, demographic changes and employee expectations (Nahavandi: 2006).

Before going deeper into the different leadership styles, it is important to gain an overview of the three basic leadership styles, which can be found in relevant literature: autocratic, also called authoritarian; democratic and laissez-faire (Capon: 2008). All three styles are supposed to lead to leadership success. Nevertheless, according to the IOWA studies1 of Lewin and Lippitt in the 1930’s only the autocratic and democratic styles showed satisfying productivity.

Additionally to the three just mentioned styles, literature (Jung: 2006; Gertsen, Søderberg, Torp: 1998) refers to further typologies of leadership styles:

The Patriarchal leadership style, the most traditional of all leadership styles, is a style “where authority is closely related to family and kinship groups. The male head of the clan, tribe, or village acts in patriarchy as the head of a family and the group becomes the family” (Payne, Nassar: 2008, p.217).

Charismatic leadership style: According to the German sociologist Max Weber, a ‘charismatic leader’ “derives his authority from the popular belief in his supernatural inspiration and guidance and the conviction that he cannot fail in his public undertakings” (Kumar: 1998, p.100). It is an attribution which is based on the followers’ perceptions of the behaviour of their leader (Conger, Kanungo, Menon: 2000).

The Bureaucratic leadership style develops from the autocratic leadership style: But instead of the leader being around all the time, it is a book that manages everything. Everything is done according to a certain policy or procedure (Ogbonna, Harris: 2000).

In literature one can also find further styles such as coercive, affiliative, pacesetting and coaching (Goleman: 2000)

As a matter of principle, leadership styles can be divided into one-dimensional (Fig.2) and multidimensional styles (Fig.3). A one-dimensional approach of leadership can either be relationship-oriented or task-oriented, whereas a multi-dimensional one can be both at the same time (Adekola, Sergi: 2007).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2: One-dimensional Approaches to Leadership (Author's own)

One-dimensional approaches are the traditional ones; both ‘ends’ are mutually exclusive and therefore acts on the assumption that there is only a one-dimensional continuum. A leader giving top priority to relationships and employees’ needs is a considerate leader; whereas a leader structuring work for his/her subordinates is job- or task-centred. The considerate leader, a trustful, respectful and warm leader, listens to and shows interested in his/her followers; he allows participation in decision-making; is approachable and friendly, while supporting followers in all respects.


1 The IOWA studies (1939) are a classic study on leadership which has been conducted with four groups of ten-year old school boys, who all attended a hobby-club after school. “Each group’s member had been matched on characteristics such as age, personality, IQ, physical and socio-economic status, to be as similar as possible. The adult leaders were” (Buachanan, Huczynski: 2010, p.342) then trained in the three leadership styles: authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire. The autocratic style, a rather direct leadership style, which does not include participation on the part of the follower, leads to a low satisfaction with the leader. Despite the fact that personal feedback is given, the assessment criteria seem to be quite vague and the group atmosphere appeared to be dependent, aggressive and people were self-oriented. The leader only focused on achievement, gave orders criticised or praised without mentioning reasons, and kept a cold impersonal distance to the children. When the leader was present the productivity was high, once he was absent the productivity sank to a minimum. In contrast the democratic approach: The leader was liked by nearly all participants, due to the fact that he explained things, included discussions, and supported the boys; the atmosphere within the group was friendly, task-oriented and group-centred; and the productivity was throughout high, even if the leader was not there. The third approach was not appreciated by the boys; the boys were more or less left on their own, praise or blame did not exist and the children did not receive support unless they had asked. Although, the group atmosphere was friendly, play-oriented and group- centred, the productivity was low, but increased in absence of the leader (Buchanan, Huczynski: 2010).

Excerpt out of 25 pages


Leadership across High- and Low-Context Cultures
Which Styles are being preferred by Germany and Turkey?
The University of Surrey
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Leadership, High-Context, Low-Context, Culture, Germany, Turkey, Style, Hofstede, Hall, Communication, leading
Quote paper
B.A. Corinna Colette Vellnagel (Author), 2011, Leadership across High- and Low-Context Cultures, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/174792


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