Managerial Styles: A German-Chinese Comparison

Essay, 2009

15 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of contents:

1. Introduction

2. Socio-cultural Differences
2.1. Cultural determinism in managerial styles
2.2. Socio-cultural variables
2.2.1. Holistic vs. Analytical thinking
2.2.2. Communication: contextual meaning
2.2.3. Individualism vs. collectivism

3. Management Differences
3.1. Organizational structure
3.1.1. Vertical vs. Horizontal
3.1.2. Laws and Contracts
3.2. Managing Processes
3.2.1. Decision-making
3.2.2. Planning
3.3. Interpersonal relations
3.3.1. Guanxi and Mianzi
3.3.2. Public vs. Private life

4. Conclusion

1. Introduction

The paramount goal of intercultural management is to revise organizational patterns in order to provide an understanding of the different approaches used by managers worldwide. Identifying significant differences in management in Germany and China is established through comparison of socio-cultural and managerial variables. Chinese leadership is characterized by more authorial rather than participative management style. This is explained by Chinese historical and cultural background. The Confucius heritage, legacy of communism, synthetic view of the world and interrelatedness of life in China are some of the essential determinants of managerial styles and social roles at all. Rationalism and objectivism, search for certainty, traditional individualism and analytical thinking are some of the key variables to shape the German managerial styles. Socio-cultural differences are examined in terms of way of thinking and perception of the world; contextual meaning and degree of group-orientation. Managerial differences are divided into three categories: organizational structure, managing processes and interpersonal relations.

2. Socio-cultural Differences

2.1. Cultural determinism in managerial styles

The correlation of culture and managerial styles can be visualized more effectively using the theory of cultural determinism. The theory of cultural determinism is developed by different scientists, who saw deterministic influence on practical managerial actions. Farmer/Richman developed a model, where culture is considered an important variable, which have impact on managerial effectiveness. Farmer and Richman recognize, some external constraints, such as educational, sociological, legal-political and economical factors, which shapes the managerial effectiveness.1

Fig. 1. Farmer/Richmann model of socio-cultural influence on management (Source: Lang, Nikolaus S. (1998), Intercultural management in China, p. 25)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Nancy Adler specified cultural determinism by three aspects of management: leadership, motivation and decision-making. Concerning participative management style, it appears that it can not be applicable to East Asian cultures, where employees expect their superior to give orders and lead instead of delegate tasks. Adler looks at motivation as achievement motivation, security motivation and social motivation. She argues that all types of motivation can also be the ultimate work goals according to the degree of uncertainty avoidance and masculinity in the given country. With regard to decision-making process:”Western managers proceed logically, using their five senses, whereas Asian managers proceed intuitively”.2

2.2. Socio-cultural variables

To carry out a complete analysis and to pivot the managerial styles in Germany and China, it is essential to identify the characteristics in a sense of socio-cultural background in both counties. Management in China is strongly influenced by centuries-old philosophies and more modern conceptions, both of which radically differ from values in Germany. The following table illustrates the most important features of German and Chinese culture.

Table 1: Socio-cultural background of European and Chinese managers (Source: Lang, Nikolaus S. (1998), Intercultural management in China, p. 71)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

2.2.1. Holistic vs. Analytical thinking

Chinese forms of cognition differ from the Western perception of the world. The Western way of thinking is characterized by its analytical approach: fragments of reality are seen as independent objects. A problem is seen as different sub-components, which have to be solved individually rather than as an “integrative whole”. This also can be understood from Greek roots of the word “analysis”, which denotes to “breaking apart” or “loosing up”. 3 Chinese perception, by contrast, can be seen as integral, holistic view of the world. Holism denotes to the consideration of elements as integrated and interdependent, which form inseparable whole. Nikolaus Lang relates the reason for Chinese synthetic vision with the language and writing system. Chinese communicate by defined ideograms, which represent pictures rather than words. He explains that the problem is not seen as an isolated fact but rather all aspects are linked in a network.4 Chinese exploration for solutions is not governed by a will to find one optimal answer; rather they try to find practical solutions that fit into the given environment. Germans emphasis on the perception of concrete, thus a high level of abstraction is due to the analytical thinking.

Fig. 2. “Encircling” strategy in Chinese problem definition ((Source: Lang, Nikolaus S. (1998), Intercultural management in China, p. 41)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

2.2.2. Communication: contextual meaning

Another significant difference between Germany and China is the degree of contextual meaning in the exchange of information. In low context cultures, such as Germany, meaning is explicitly expressed. The message is carried more by words than non-verbal signs. Conflicts are depersonalized and work can proceed in the face of disagreement. In low context cultures, such as China, being able to read non-verbal signs and body language is crucial. Ambiguity and subtlety are expected. Chinese people tend to be reserved which is considered as active behavior in collectivistic cultures. They first need to build up an interpersonal relationship - a foundation where it is possible to find the right level of context. In contrast, low-context cultures argue about each other's opinion within the decision-making process and discuss the problem in order to reach an agreement.

2.2.3. Individualism vs. collectivism

Individualism is often described by numerous studies as the most fundamental feature of Germany and of Western cultures at all. The prime orientation in individualistic societies stresses on independence and the importance of individual self-reliance. The atomistic conception of individualism looks upon society as a group of individuals, while collectivism stresses on human interdependence and the importance of a collective, rather than the importance of separate individuals. Asian - collectivist cultures like China, view other societies with less collectivistic philosophy as cold and not supportive. Collectivistic cultures have a great emphasize on groups and think more in terms of "we". Harmony and loyalty within a company is very important and should always be maintained and confrontation should be avoided. Many authors search the roots in Chinese collectivism in the Confucius heritage and the legacy of communism. Today, various studies indicate that the Chinese society is in transition towards individualism. Chinese can be positioned between the strong collectivism of Japanese society and traditional individualism in European cultures.


1 Lang, Nikolaus S. (1998), Intercultural management in China

2 Adler, N.J. (1991), Intercultural Dimensions of Organizational Behaviour

3 Lang, Nikolaus S. (1998), Intercultural management in China

4 Lang, Nikolaus S. (1998), Intercultural management in China

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Managerial Styles: A German-Chinese Comparison
Furtwangen University; Villingen-Schwenningen
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managerial, styles, german-chinese, comparison
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Veronika Minkova (Author), 2009, Managerial Styles: A German-Chinese Comparison, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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