Impact of culture on the style and process of management and leadership in India

Seminar Paper, 2003

33 Pages, Grade: 1,0 (A)



1. Introduction

2. Socio-demographic Features of India
2.1 Religions in India
2.2 The Caste System

3. Characterisation of the Indian Culture
3.1 National Culture
3.1.1 Hofstede’s Analysis
3.1.2 Cultural Dimensions by Hampden-Turner/ Trompenaars
3.1.3 The Concept of High and Low Context Cultures by Hall
3.1.4 The Concept of Monochromic and Polychronic Cultures by Lewis
3.1.5 Fukuyama: Trust
3.2 Business Culture
3.2.1 Values and Behaviour in Organisations
3.2.2 Communication
3.2.3 Industry Structure
3.3 The Family Culture in India/ Kartaisation

4. Principles of Management
4.1 Styles of Management in India
4.2 Styles of Leadership in India
4.2.1 Definition of Leadership
4.2.2 Impact of Kartaisation on Leadership
4.2.3 Styles of Leadership by Sinha Authoritarian Leadership Nurturant Task Leadership (NTL) Participative Leadership
4.2.4 Consultative Style of Managerial Leadership by Kalra (CSML)
4.2.5 Discussion: Effectiveness of Leadership Styles in India

5. Conclusion


1. Introduction

Since the liberalisation of India many international players have entered the Indian market either on joint ventures with some Indian companies or independently. India has emerged as a major participant in the global market. For example, in the field of information technology it has become an important force in the world. Given this kind of development, management researchers in the recent past have also started showing interest in the Indian business environment and in finding out effective ways of doing business as well as managing people in their Indian operations. They have realised that many of the management practices and managerial styles as applied in the west can not be transplanted exactly in the same manner in the Indian context.

The role of culture as it relates to norms, values and behaviour patterns has become increasingly important in the field of management issues. There is considerable evidence (e.g. of Hofstede[1] and Trompenaars/Hampden-Turner[2] ) that people of different regions hold different work-related values.

Such knowledge is important for international as well as national companies. Norms and values create assumptions and expectations. If they are not the same for people working together, troubles may arise. Such mismatches of perception are of special interest in the field of leadership, particularly regarding the relationship between leaders and subordinates. The ability to understand and interpret such situations is the basic prerequisite for being able to behave and communicate in an effective manner.

After giving basic social-demographic features about the country, this paper examines the impact of culture on the style and process of management and leadership in India.

The characteristics of the Indian culture are identified, analysed and interpreted. Culture is described from the general to the specific. Starting with national culture, the cultural dimensions of India are appraised using the models of Hofstede, Trompenaars/Hamden-Turner, Hall, Lewis and Fukuyama, moving on to the business culture and then family culture.

The second part of the paper defines and discusses the different leadership styles and their effectiveness in the Indian environment in order to reach a conclusion as to how managers should actually do their job.

2. Socio-demographic Features of India

India can be described as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-lingual federal republic of 26 states and 7 union territories.[3] Its population of over 1027 million people (2001) is the second largest in the world.[4]

Linguistically, English enjoys associate status but is the most important language for national, political and commercial communication. As a national language and primary tongue Hindi is used by 30% of the people. Altogether there are 24 languages each spoken by a million or more people.[5]

India has had a more or less centrally planned economic system for almost four decades since independence in 1947. Although there was a fairly well-developed and strong private sector, prior to the early 1990s the overall economy was controlled and regulated by the government. While some initial steps towards easing of controls were taken in the mid 1980s, a mature exercise in restructuring and liberalisation of the economy was undertaken from 1991 onwards. Far-reaching changes in the economic environment have taken place in the last few years. Globalisation and materialism are becoming often-used expressions.

It is significant that broad economic policies have continued without any serious disturbance despite frequent changes in the government with political parties of different ideologies being in power.

2.1 Religions in India

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. Government policy does not favour any religious group. However, tension between Muslims and Hindus, and to a lesser extent between Hindus and Christians, continues to pose a challenge to the secular foundation of the State. There are many religions and a large variety of denominations, groups, and subgroups in the country. According to 1998 government statistics, Hindus constitute 82.4 percent of the population, Muslims 12.7 percent, Christians 2.3 percent, Sikhs 2.0 percent, Buddhists 0.7 percent, Jains 0.4 percent, and others, including Parsis, Jews, and Baha'is, 0.4 percent.[6] Owing to the fact that Hinduism has been identified as the dominant religion of India, it is necessary to focus on that religion.

Hinduism has been defined as “…a complex of beliefs and values and customs including worship of many gods especially the Trimurti composed of Brahma the Creator; Vishnu the preserver; and Shiva the destroyer”.[7] Furthermore it has been characterized by a caste system and belief in reincarnation.

Basham described this religion as a very broad-based, tolerant, and resilient faith.[8] In Nehru's words, Hinduism is vague, amorphous, many sided, all things to all men.[9] It is hardly possible to define it, or indeed to say definitely whether it is a religion or not, in the usual sense of the word. In its present form, and even in the past, it embraces many beliefs and practices, often contradicting each other. Its essential spirit seems to be to live and let live.

These factors have to be considered because the religion influences social, cultural and political issues as well as the relationship between subordinate and superior.

2.2 The Caste System

One of the most widely known and commented upon features of Indian society is the caste system which deeply divides society. The origin of this particular usage of the term ‘caste’ is traced by Basham to the 16th century when the Portuguese came to India and found the Hindu community divided into many separate groups which they (the Portuguese) called castas, meaning tribes, clans or families. The well known four-fold classification - Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras – in descending order of social status, is believed to have been first used by the ancient law-giver Manu some time in the Vedic period (1500-1000 B.C.).[10]

According to Basham ‘caste’ is often defined as a system of groups within the class which are normally endogamous, commensal and craft-exclusive.[11] The mentioned characteristics state that marriages are legitimated only within the group, that food can be received from and eaten only in the presence of members of the same or a higher group and that each man is allowed only to take up the trade or profession of his own group.

The caste system, being the basis of social and economic structuring of society has obviously influenced the practice of leadership in India over centuries. The ability to lead in wars with other states being a major defence requirement, warrior-kings belonging to the martial group, Kshatriya, were very common. The kings, however, were often guided by the high priest, who belonged to the highest group, Brahmin, and had an exalted position in the king’s court. Business, trading, and commerce, not being considered very noble activities, were left to the third level, Vaisya.

These patterns of leadership can still be seen in operation today. A lot of social and political leaders have been from the so-called higher castes, whereas a number of business leaders continue to be from the lower castes. However, there has been a distinct, though gradual, shift in political leadership with more leaders from the lower castes emerging, possibly as a result of the universal franchise system introduced since independence. The continued existence of the caste system is one of the major sources of the high power distance index for India found in Hofstede’s studies.[12]

3. Characterisation of the Indian Culture

In the following, light is shed on the characteristics of the national, business and family cultures of India.

3.1 National Culture

Several research studies are examined using the models, concepts and theories of leading researchers in the area of national culture. As stated by researchers such as Hofstede[13] Hampden-Turner/ Trompenaars[14], Hall[15], Lewis[16] and Fukuyama[17], cultural differences have an impact on the process of leadership and management in a specific country. A study by Sinha[18] on the Indian culture identified that culturally specific phenomena such as personalized and dependency relationship, power distance, care, consideration, and familiar attachment, were found to affect leadership practices.

3.1.1 Hofstede’s Analysis

Geert Hofstede defines national culture as a collective mental programming.[19]

He suggests that people of any particular nationality are conditioned by particular patterns in cultural influences at many different levels (family, education, work group etc.). It can be seen as a special national character which represents the cultural mental programming of the country. This mental programming shapes values, attitudes, competencies, behaviours and perception of priority.

Hofstede’s initial research data were obtained by comparing the beliefs and values of employees of 40 countries. He proposes the four variables: power distance; uncertainty avoidance; individualism versus collectivism and masculinity versus femininity, which have an effect on the work environment. To characterize the Indian culture by means of the mentioned variables the research results have to be compared with different countries. In Table 1 the data of four global players in contrast to India are shown.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 1 Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension Scores: Comparison of four global players with India[20]

Power distance represents the degree to which people accept and expect differences in authority. With an index of 77 India has been identified as a high power-distance culture, therefore inequalities are common and well accepted.[21] Concerning the workplace the role pairs parent-child and teacher-student are complemented by the role pair boss-subordinate.[22] Thus, this role behaviour is part of each stage of an Indian’s life. The hierarchical system is felt to be based on existential inequality. Therefore an ideal boss would behave as a benevolent autocrat or ‘good father’. But if a person experienced a ‘bad father’ in childhood, this would be ideologically transferred towards the boss. In this case, the authority of the superior would be rejected.

Compared with the other countries, India has a low index of 40 concerning uncertainty avoidance.[23] A low uncertainty avoidance ranking indicates that India has less concern about ambiguity and uncertainty and has more tolerance for a variety of opinions. This is reflected in the Indian society, which is less rule-oriented, more readily accepts change, and takes more and greater risks. According to Hofstede, people in a low-uncertainty-avoidance culture tend to work hard only when needed and are motivated by achievements, esteem or belongingness.

Hofstede[24] postulated with an index of 48 a bipolar dimension of collectivism-individualism on which Indian culture was found to be inclined more towards the collectivist end. Others (J. B. P. Sinha[25], Verma[26] ) affirm this position. However. D. Sinha and Tripathi[27] reported that Indians are both collectivists and individualists at the same time. Collectivistic features includes for example a strong family relationship (q. v. chapter 3.3 the ‘joint family’), a strong identity with social networks and high-context communication (q. v. chapter 3.1.3).

On the other hand, the influence of modernisation, globalisation and urbanisation brings individualistic thinking as well as material independence in the life of an Indian. However, the traditional and less affluent collectivist culture maintains interdependence in emotional relationships leading to a strong focus on human relationships, e.g. on families further co-existing as an individualistic feature.[28]

Indian society continues to be male-dominated despite the fact that the ascertained index by Hofstede scores only 56.[29] Compared with the mean of 50 of all examined countries it can be allocated to a medium level of masculinity. The high masculinity is shown in the large majority of national and social heroes who are male. A large majority of women continue to be homemakers and are expected to be so, especially in rural areas. In contrast, in urban areas more women work outside their homes often in caring professions. There are no professions which women are legally prevented from entering. India has women working as commercial pilots, as officers in the army, for example. Even if they work as professionals outside the home responsibility for housework and child caring continues to rest almost entirely with women.[30] As far as management and leadership, are concerned, the influences of women owning a business or occupying a managerial position is less common.

3.1.2 Cultural Dimensions by Hampden-Turner/ Trompenaars

Another model to analyse the Indian culture is given by Hampden-Turner/ Trompenaars who identifies the cultural specific characteristics by using different dimensions. With the help of a data base numbering 30.000 participants it provides information about the cultural differences of various countries including India. Very specific examples point towards trends in categorising the Indian culture.

In the case of universalism versus particularism, it is shown that India cannot be allocated to one specific end of the spectrum. However, there is a tendency towards particular social groups.[31]

Concerning the prime orientation to the self versus common goals and objectives (individualism versus communitarism) Indians feel more confident in a group. That is supported by 63 percent of the Indian participants who answered “…that life will improve for everyone even if it constructs individual freedom and development, if individuals are continuously taking care of their fellow human beings”.[32] Hofstede also proves and supports this.

Besides, Indian people tend to be affective (versus neutral) and specific (versus diffuse) i.e. they show their feelings more openly even in the workplace and separate their work and private lives less from each other. It can be concluded that Indians have a strong sense of hierarchy. Concerning the perception of time, Indians are short-term orientated and focus on the present rather than on the future. This explains why activities and enjoyments of the moment are most important in the Indian culture. Compared with the other countries India can be allocated to a middle level of achievements versus ascriptions.[33]

3.1.3 The Concept of High and Low Context Cultures by Hall

Concerning management and leadership, it is necessary to analyse ‘how individuals and their society seek information and knowledge’. Hall, who differentiates between high and low context cultures, defines this process. According to his demographic ranking, India can be seen as a high-context culture.[34] People from high context cultures obtain information from personal information networks. Hence the decision-making process in India depends on the information received from parents, relatives and close friends, in comparison with low context cultures which seek their information from, for example, research bases.

It can be concluded that if the superior has adopted the role of the ‘good father’ which is described in chapter 3.3, he or she can theoretically influence the subordinate concerning the information he or she receives.

3.1.4 The Concept of Monochromic and Polychronic Cultures by Lewis

According to Lewis[35], India is suggested to be a polychronic (versus monochronic) culture. In such cultures people are flexible and do many things at once, often in an unplanned or opportunistic sequence. They consider that time is not a resource nor a cost factor. Therefore, the ‘reality’ of events and opportunities are more important. The polychronic characteristic explains also the work value of the Indian people (q.v. chapter 3.2.1).


[1] Hofstede, G. (1984). Cultures Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values.

[2] Trompenaars, F., & Hampden-Turner, C. (1999). Riding the Waves of Culture.

[3] India Economic Studies (Sep2000). Cultural and Demographic Risks in India.

[4] Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner (2001). Census of India.

[5] India Economic Studies (Sep2000). Cultural and Demographic Risks in India.

[6] India Economic Studies (2000). Cultural and demographic risks in India.

[7] Hyperdictionary (2003). Hinduism.

[8] Basham, A.L. (1967). The Wonder that was India.

[9] Nehru, J. (1985). The Discovery of India.

[10] Basham, A.L. (1967). The Wonder that was India.

[11] cp. ibidem

[12] Hofstede, G.H. (1980). Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work Related Values

[13] Hofstede, G.H. (2002). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind.

[14] Trompenaars, F., & Hampden-Turner, C. (1999). Riding the Waves of Culture.

[15] Hall, E.T. (1976). Beyond Culture.

[16] Lewis, R.D. (1992). Finland: Cultural Lone Wolf – Consequences in International Business.

[17] Fukuyama, F. (1995). Trust: The Social Virtues an the Creation of Prosperity.

[18] Sinha, J.B.P. (1994). Major Trends in Research on Leadership and Power.

[19] Hofstede, G.H. (2002). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind.

[20] Hofstede, G.H. (2002). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind.

[21] Marchese, M.C. (2001). Matching Management Practices to National Culture in India.

[22] Hofstede, G.H. (2002). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (p35).

[23] Hofstede, G.H. (2002). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (p113).

[24] cp. ibidem, p53

[25] Sinha, J.B.P., & Verma, J. (1987). Structure of Collectivism.

[26] Verma, J. (1999). Collectivism in the Cultural Perspective: The Indian Scene.

[27] Sinha, D., & Tripathi, R.C. (1994). Individualism in a Collectivist Culture.

[28] Kagitcibasi, C. (1997). Individualism and Collectivism.

[29] Hofstede, G.H. (2002). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (p82).

[30] Chhokar, J.S. (2001). Leadership and Culture in India.

[31] Trompenaars, F., & Hampden-Turner, C. (1999). Riding the Waves of Culture.

[32] cp. ibidem

[33] Trompenaars, F., & Hampden-Turner, C. (1999). Riding the Waves of Culture.

[34] Hall, E.T. (1976). Beyond Culture.

[35] Lewis, R.D. (1992). Finland: Cultural Lone Wolf – Consequences in International Business.

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Impact of culture on the style and process of management and leadership in India
University of Teesside  (Teesside Business School)
International Management Styles
1,0 (A)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Impact, India, International, Management, Styles
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Gordon Appel (Author)S. Thomas (Author)V. Schmid (Author), 2003, Impact of culture on the style and process of management and leadership in India, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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