Leading Intercultural Teams

Potentials and Risks

Seminar Paper, 2019

13 Pages, Grade: 2,0

Konstantin Klaus (Author)



1. Introduction

2. Teams and Team characteristics
2.1 Definitions and key characteristics of teams
2.2 Special features of teams
2.3 Types of teams

3. Internationalization of Human Resource Management
3.1 Forms of international cooperation
3.2 Leading intercultural teams

4. Cultural influences on intercultural teams – Definition of Culture
4.1 Cultural dimension according to Hofstede
4.1.1 Power distance
4.1.2 Individualism versus collectivism
4.1.3 Masculinity versus femininity
4.1.4 Uncertainty avoidance

5. Advantages, disadvantages and problems of intercultural teams
5.1 Advantages of intercultural teams
5.2 Benefits for decision – making
5.3 Disadvantages in terms of work results
5.4 Disadvantages in decision – making
5.5 Problem factors of intercultural teamwork
5.6 Problem factors at the level of the individual
5.7 Problem factors at intercultural team leve

6. Success factors intercultural teams

7. Conclusion



The working world has become much more complex, volatile and unpredictable in the past two decades. For the success of organizations will be the ability to be sensitive, fast and to deal adequately with changes in the global context to the decisive factor. This also increases the demands placed on executives, especially with regards to their “versatility” ambiguity and uncertainty in their work environment and at the same time remain capable of acting. Intercultural encounters additionally increase the complexity. The way executives interact in a dynamic environment with their employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders from differen cultures has a significant impact the performance of an organization. Intercultural competence is an important prerequisite for the professional success of global executives. Which aspects are of central importance for the success of leadership in an intercultural context? And how can leader with the necessary skills and abilities be promoted to master cross – cultural encounters in day to day working life and to realize the benefits of diversity. (cf. Gasteiger, 2016, p.1)

2. Teams and Team characteristics

The following chapter will describe the main points of what is exactly a team, the characteristics, the special features and types of teams.

2.1 Definitions and key characteristics of teams

What exactly are teams and what kind of characteristics they have? According to Becker, a team is an artificially created group of people, with the goal to solve a task e.g. to complete successfully a project in a company. A Team is an optimal number of people and their properties for the task to be solved. It is always built about the task, because the task has always priority and should have the following characteristics: (cf. Becker, 2016, p. 6-8)

Several individuals

At least two persons are necessary so you can call it a team.


The persons interact with each other and are not simply on the same place.

Role differentiation and structure

The members of a team have mostly different roles and functions within a team.

Common goal

A team e.g. a project team in a company will always have a common goal. (ibid.)

2.2 Special features of teams

The team goals are aligned to the task.
The number and characteristics of the chosen persons are oriented on the task.
Roles, hierarchy structure and composition of the team are also oriented on the task.
Social interaction primarily serves for the success of the task.
If the task is successful completed, the team will be disbanded most of the times. (cf. Becker, 2016, p. 6-8)

2.3 Types of teams

Classic working groups

Are functional and organized by division of labor. Always lead by a supervisor.

Production teams

In contrast to classic working groups, they take over on indirect functions such as quality assurance, administrative and dispositive tasks, but remain with the supervisor.

Cross – functional teams

Make decisions in lower – level organizational units, as they have connections to different subunits.

Leadership teams

Identify and solve problems, make decisions and set goals for the organizational future.

Consulting teams

Create diagnoses and assessments. Kind of a “parallel team” as they operate outside the usual structures of the company.

Project teams

Mostly heterogeneous compound groups, responsible for development and innovative products or finding solutions.

Teams for extreme situations

Highly qualified employees who solve urgent, unpredictable, interdependet and serious tasks e.g. crisis staffs, in which the team composition remains changeable. (cf. Kauffeld, 2014, p. 145)

3. Internationalization of Human Resource Management

The current business environment of companies crosses national borderds. The competition has developed into global competition, sales of products and services as well, as the flow of people and money worldwide barely set any limits. Internationalization manifests itself in different facets: (cf. Armutat, 2018, p. 77)

Markets for products and services trough cross – border trade.
Productions of enterprises trough cross – border investments.
Labor and financial markets trough cross – border transfers of human and financial resources. (ibid.)

This trend is accelerated by advance in information and communication technology. So how does human resource management react to this trend? (cf. Armutat, 2018, p. 79)

International standardization of human resource processes.
Employer branding.
International recruitment.
Intercultural training.
Expatriate management. (ibid.) Internationalization ist thus omnipresent. (ibid.)

3.1 Forms of international cooperation

The functioning of multinational companys depends on intercultural communication and cooperation. (cf. Hofstede, 2012, p. 444)

Markets and customers are changing rapidly. Currently companies compete not only locally and regionally but also worldwide. More and more companies are looking abroad for acquisition targets or merger partners to achieve their growth. Different production and infrastructure costs in many parts of the world have different investment environments and context asllow companies to realize cost benefits. Whether in producrion, sales, marketing or HR, companies must increasingly act and thing globally. As customers become more and more international, intercultural ans biographic. The interest in projects becomes more and more central. In addidtion, information and communication technologies create ideal opportnunities for performing physical and virtueal projets teams. (cf. Gronholz, 2013, p. 149)

3.2 Leading intercultural teams

Leading an intercultural team presents you with new challenges. The intercultural context determines the action. In addition to economic, ecologic and technological influences, a number of other factors determine the working environment. (cf. Rothlauf, 2012, p. 234)

Different thought patterns in connection with different language systems of the respective native language.
Different working and living habits.
Different views on appropriate leadership behaviour.
Divergent understanding of roles or divergent management style. (cf. Rothlauf, 2012, p. 235)

The task associated with intercultural human recourse management is given an additional level of complexity when the required decisions making processes are organized cooperatively and set in a multicultural framework. Manager of different backrounds have to make decisions that they have to vote in advance. Under such conditions, the requirements receive multidimensional character. The communication and mediation processes run between several reference system and are correspondingly complex. Among other things, it is necessary to “translate” attitudes, strategies, goals and methods. The leader have to mediate between the involved worlds; it has to translate and transform each other. (cf. Rothlauf, 2012, p. 236)

4. Cultural influences on intercultural teams – Definition of Culture

In two different cultures, completely different rules apply to interpersonal relationships. If you don’t know the rules or use them wrong, you will fail. According to Kroeber and Kluckhohn culture covers a wide range. Culture ia an universal phenomenon. All people live a specific culture and develop it further. Culture structure a field of action specific to the population, ranging from created and used objects to institutions, ideas and values. Culture always manifests itself in an orientation system typical of a nation, society, organization or group. (cf. Thomas, 2005, p. 22 – 23)

4.1 Cultural dimension according to Hofstede

In order to get to the bottom of the cultural difference, comparative cultural research began by using cultural questionnaires measure up. The scientists first asked each other what kind of problems Companies are common. The evaluation of the data revealed four basic problem areas, so called cultural dimensons. The four cultural dimensions are: (cf. Boersch, 2007, p. 204)

Power distance
Individualism versus collectivism
Masculinity versus femininity
Uncertainty avoidance (ibid.)

4.1.1 Power distance

Power distance provides information about inequality within a culture. There are inequalities everywhere, but the differences between different societies are the way their members deal with inequality. This specific approach can be done with the help of questions and assessments such as assessing the behavoir of superiors to be determined. In countries with a high power distance, such Malaysia, Russia or Guatemala, people expect and accept that power is unevenly distributed. For example, there is a high dependency of epmloyees on their supervisors. In countries with a low value ist is different. The emotional distance between employees and their superios is lower here. The power distance is also reflected in the relationship of the citizien to the state: If this is large, then power is often right, then the income differences are large, the education level is low and corruption is flourishes. (cf. Boersch, 2007, p. 205)


Excerpt out of 13 pages


Leading Intercultural Teams
Potentials and Risks
University of applied sciences Frankfurt a. M.
Intercultural competence
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
The author is not a native speaker.
Intercultural competence, leading, intercultural, teams, team leading, intercultural teams, team bulding
Quote paper
Konstantin Klaus (Author), 2019, Leading Intercultural Teams, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/462249


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