The Leadership Style of Yoshihiko Noda and Vladimir Putin

An Intercultural Comparison

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2013

18 Pages, Grade: 1.3


Table of Contents

I. Introduction
1. What is Leadership?
2. What is Culture?

II. Main Body
1. Leadership in Japan
1.1 Japan, an Introduction
1.2 The Leadershipstyle of Yoshihiko Noda
2. Leadership in Russia
2.1 The Culture of Russia
2.2. The Leadershipstyle of Vladimir Putin
3. A Comparison of Putin’s and Noda’s Leadershipstyles

III. Conclusion and Forecast

IV. Bibliography
1. Literature
2. Articles
3. Figures

I. Introduction

When asking people in Germany randomly:”Have you noticed the elections in Japan two month ago (Date of Election 16th December 2012)” it is most likely they neither know the two competing major parties, nor they know the outcome. Not to mention the names assets and agenda of the two candidates. In Russia instead it seems like every move of the acting presi- dent especially in times of election is closely observed by the media. One may argue that the reason for this must be the geographical distance from Germany to Japan. To a certain degree there is a truth in this argument, however the more essential difference lies in the essence of leadership of these two countries.

Leadership is conceived fundamentally different in western and eastern cultures. In Russia effective leadership is generally provided by a strong and authoritarian leader in a centralized power system whereas Japan is defined by a polycentric system where powers are divided and politicians appear as consensus oriented “broker” (Calder 1982 p.2). These contrasts are reflected but also shaped by the national leaders of the country.

Vladimir Putin, voted by “The Times Magazine” in 2007 as the person of the year and standing at the helm of global politics, is shaping Russia’s fate on his own terms by any means since he got elected in 2000. Faced by problems of corruption, a changing demography and a major transition of the economical and political system, Putin has rather been criticized for his leadership style (especially in western media) than a lack of success.

Yoshihiko Noda had been elected in 2011 at the peak of the so-called lost decade as the 6th Prime Minister in 5 years, indicating Japans major economical and political struggles at the edge of a nuclear meltdown. In later paragraphs it will be discussed if Noda’s traditional leadership style can survive in the structurally changing society of Japan.

In order to compare the western and eastern perspectives of leadership this paper will juxtapose the individual leadership styles of Vladimir Putin as the president Russia and Yoshihiko Noda as the former Prime Minister of Japan.

1. What is Leadership?

The word ‘leadership’ comprises a certain atmosphere of fascination and enigmatical attrac- tion to many people. Being a topic of great concern and interest in the last century, the ques- tion what makes a leader ‘a leader’ roots in the antiquity - history's greatest philosophical writings from Plato's Republic to Plutarch's Lives have explored the question "What qualities distinguish an individual as a leader?" (Ashgate, 2009)

Thus many people so far have tried to define leadership1 making it a “diffuse and difficult to define concept” (Yukl, 2006, p.2). Studies of leadership have produced various theories in- volving traits, situational interaction, function, behavior, power, vision and values, charisma, and intelligence, among others. This paper however, will be orientated along the lines of the following definition:

“Leadership is the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do it, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives” (Yukl, 2006, p. 8)

In leadership research there are various approaches to explain the phenomena of leadership. The approaches differ in their object, method or theory2. For this paper the ‘Integrative ap- proach’ will provide the most complete picture explaining the different levels of leadership.

The Integrative Approach as its name implies, integrates parts of the other approaches to a system of different dimensions of leadership shaped into a systems of layers. The four layers are 1. intra-individual, 2. dyadic process (relationship between leader and follower and leadership effectiveness), 3. group processes and 4. organizational processes (leadership in a larger open system in which groups are subsystems) (Fleisman et al.,1991)

The integrative Approach also matches in parts with the methodological approach of political leadership given by Nye (2008):

“To understand, explain and predict patterns of political leadership >…it] inquirers need to analyze the beliefs, values, characters, powers relations, ethical/unethical values, attitudes and actions of leaders and followers, as well as their historical situation and cultural institutional context”( as cited in Ashgate 2009, p. 4)

Since politics have been ‘more personalized’ in the last years (Aarts et al., p.187) and political leaders partially transcend cultural and institutional structures and context’. (Ashgate, 2009) individual aspects and traits of political leaders like Charismatic leadership3, transformational leadership4, sources of power and skills of a leader must not be forgotten.

Summarizing the facts being said by Nye, Ashgate, Yukl and Fleisman the leaders success is depended on the alternating factors of cultural context, the traits of a leader as well as the state of the nation(history, economy, political structure) forming an ‘interdependence triangle’

2. What is Culture?

“Every civilization sees itself as the center of the world and writes its history as the central drama of human history”

- Samuel P. Huntington-

The dimension of culture is another very important, yet not easy to define concept. For the purpose of a comparison of Russia and Japan and a deeper comprehension of the term culture the following definitions and approaches developed in cross cultural studies are from great importance. From an ethnographic point of view ‘culture >…] is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by a man as a member of society’ (Taylor, 1874, p.1) But what kind of impact has culture on a political leader and how does it affect his leadership style?

Similar to the methods used in the research of leadership many scientists have tried to create approaches that can describe and measure cultural aspects. For this research paper the ‘Cultural dimensions’ approach by Geerd Hofstede5, appears to be the best, being one of the most quoted and used in Management, cross cultural studies and social psychology (Rothlauf, 2006). With this approach it is possible to classify and compare two countries, making it useful to draw a comparison. Hofstede defined the following four dimensions6:

1. Power Distance (PDI) describes the hierarchical order in a society and the acceptance of unequally distributed power i.e. in a culture with a high power distance for example people distinctively tend to integrate themselves to hierarchical structures and acknowledge them.
2. Individualism vs. collectivism (IDV) represents the tendency of an individual to see it- self more or less as part of a social framework. In other words how much - how much do you feel integrated in a cultural or a group collective?7
3. Masculinity vs. femininity (MAS) describes the scale between the preference for achievement, material reward for success and competition (masculinity) in contrast to a preference for cooperation, modesty and consensus (femininity).

4. Uncertainty avoidance (UAI) expresses the degree of discomfort of a society member, facing uncertainty in the future.

Additionally to the ‘Cultural Dimensions’ certain aspects of culture such as language, political culture, meaning of authority and decision making will be discussed in later paragraphs.

1. Leadership in Japan

1.1 Japan, an introduction

‘The stake that sticks out gets hammered down’

-A Japanese saying-

Historically Japan was for many centuries isolated yet a center of cultural and technological inventions. After opening boarders to international trade in 1854 and facing an industrial revolution, followed by a devastating world war two, Japan started an economical rise that lacks any comparison (Rothlauf, 2006). The first decade in the 21st century however, pulled Japan into a deep recession. Additionally various other problems like corruption of politi- cians, a cultural change, political instability and ultimately the tsunami in 2011 as well as its horrible aftermath in the atomic power plant Fukushima-1, leaves Japan with enormous chal- lenges. (Gilson, 2012; Rothlauf, 2006)

One of the most important aspects to understand leadership can be seen in the uniqueness of the Japanese Culture. The reason for this singularity can be identified in the interaction of strong collectivism, harmony and strong authority. Hofstedes’ “Cultural Dimensions” as a basic framework are for this useful to explain these cultural specific phenomena.

Japan is considered to be a very collec- tive Country, which can be deduced from Hofstede’s survey indicating a low Individualism (IDV) Score of 46 (Figure 1). In comparison to western cultures a too individualistic behavior and success is seen as the disturbance source of the group’s success (De Vos, 1985). This is contrasted by a one of the highest scores of Masculinity in the

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Cultural Dimensions of Japan world. Japanese people avoid individualis- tic behavior, but still prone to competition success and material reward. This contradiction is repealed by a very strong sense of harmony. Conflict avoidance and consensus oriented deci- sion are main principles in Japan. This also can be seen in the Japanese language, which is considered to be the most cautiousness language in the world (Dambmann, 1979).8

The Japanese approach to authority in is diametrical different to its approach in western cul- tures. In terms of language for example the words authority and power are semantically not as connected as in the west (Opladen et al, 2000). Moreover the legitimation and source of pow- er is gained by restraint of power and focus on balance and harmony. Self-composure and self-restraint are the main goals of an effective and successful leader. (Opladen et al, 2000)

Another difference to western authority is the distance of relation of leaders and their followers. The relation is affected by a strong interpersonal dependency, a bond of affection and can be described as paternalistic.

The eminently high score of 92 in uncertainty avoidance (UAI) is displayed by a very strong bureaucracy9 and long group decision processes.


1 Stogdill: “there are almost as many definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept” (Stogdill 1974, p. 259)

2 For more interested readers, the book ‘Leadership in Organizations’ by Gary Yukl (2006) gives a more detailed overview about the topic.

3 A charismatic leader conveys a compelling attractiveness that can inspire devotion in followers. It is also strongly connected to a radical vision.

4 Transformational leadership can be subdivided into transforming- and transactional leadership. Transforming Leadership appeals to moral values of followers, transforming their inner structure whereas transactional leadership appeals to the self-interest of the follower.

5 A collection of the most well-known approaches to measuring cultural aspects can be found in ‘Interkulturelles Management’ by Rothlauf.

6 The fifth dimension Long-term versus short-term orientation will be not explained in detail due to the limited scope of this work as well as an uncompleted database of Hofstede’s work. In later research studies, Hofstede also added the dimension Indulgence versus Restraint to the original five dimensions.

7 One way to identify a collective way of thinking is the Twenty Statements Test (TST) by Kuhn and McPartland (1954) asking an individual to define 20 ‘things’ that he is. (Zimbardo, 2008, p. 534)

8 Due to a very high social desirability generalizations and external validity must questioned in Japan. Thus cultural phenomena must be rather seen as normative (Opladen et al, 2000).

9 Nevertheless Japanese laws are decentralized, highly interpretable and give administrative space for decisions. (Opladen et al, 2000) which is unusual in comparison to western countries as well as other countries with a high UAI( E.g. Russia)

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The Leadership Style of Yoshihiko Noda and Vladimir Putin
An Intercultural Comparison
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
Communication and Leadership – Asian and Western Perspectives
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leadership, style, yoshihiko, noda, vladimir, putin, intercultural, comparison
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Lennart Hellmann (Author), 2013, The Leadership Style of Yoshihiko Noda and Vladimir Putin , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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