Developing Leadership Intelligence in an International Context

How Leaders and Managers Perform in Cross-Cultural Companies

Essay, 2018

13 Pages, Grade: A


Developing Leadership Intelligence in an International Context

Heiko Filthuth

Abstract: Leadership and management are not the same and companies might require both to put their leadership into action. Particularly in international environments, leadership needs to reflect and respect cultural differences appropriately. Truly cross-cultural organisations, which recognise the individual requirements of its employees in all countries, require leadership intelligence executed by leaders and managers who authentically interact with their followers around the globe to achieve the desired growth and prosperity. This essay explains how leadership intelligence can be developed in an international context.


Some sort of leadership exists in every company (Prahalad & Hamel, 2006). It may be deliberate or by chance (Keis, 2015), it may follow the latest ideas of leadership and it may be successful (Bolmann & Deal, 2017). Executed leadership needs, however, to match with the leader, the followers, the organisation, and the culture (Chemers, Fiedler, & Mahar, 1984; Den Hartog et al, 1999; Liu, Lepak, Takeuishi, & Sims, 2003). This essay comprises of three parts: The consideration of the importance of leadership from an operational, a growth, a cultural, and an ethical perspective, all of which shows what is important when developing leadership intelligence (Yeung & Ready, 1995; Conger, 2004). This is followed by a comparison and contrast of selected leadership styles to show the variety which is at the disposal of anyone who wants or needs to develop leadership in an international context (Van Engen, Van der Leeden, Willemsen, 2001). The third part covers some conclusions and recommendations which may be applicable when developing leadership intelligence in an international context.

The Importance of Leadership

It is difficult to overjudge the importance of leadership: Its style is said to account for a staggering 30% of a company’s profitability (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2003) and it is the main component of change and vital for its success (Popovici, 2012). Therefore, leadership intelligence is one of the most important subjects in company strategy, nationally and internationally (Johnson, Scholes, & Whittington, 2008).

Leadership styles evolved over time or eras from the initial personality leadership via influence leading, behavioural leading, situational leading, contingency leading, transactional leading, anti-leadership, and leadership culture to what van Seters (1990) considered the most recent, the transformational leadership. Transformational leadership is based on an intrinsic motivation of the leader and his or her followers and is characterised by proactiveness, sometimes radicalness, innovation and creativity (Bass & Bass, 2008). Two decades later, Vroom and Jago (2007) hold contingency leadership the most relevant model for the new century. Another couple of years after that, Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKnee (2013) discussed the idea of emotional intelligence in leadership in which Goleman (1998) recognises leaders and followers as individuals interacting with each other in dependence of their personality and the situation and surrounding in which the interaction takes place.

Another view goes to the evolvement of leadership within a company, which has been described in five phases, each representing a growth against the previous (Greiner, 1998). Greiner underlines the importance of leadership with regards to what it does for the future, resulting from previous stages. He recognises the need to look out for past procedures that foster present and future developments and to make sure they are not eliminated by leadership (Greiner, 1998). Greiner’s theory will be covered in more details further down in the section on growth.

But not only leaders take influence on international organisations; organisations also influence leaders (Horner, 1997), creating an important interdependency. This is covered when leadership traits and behaviours are seen as both universal and influenced by the company (Jago, 1982; Horner, 1997) and do not dependent on a particular situation. This definition is, however, doubted for the lack of a clear definition of traits (Zaccaro, Kemp, & Bader, 2004) because of the broad effects these have in leadership. And it is contradicted by Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKnee’s concept of leadership intelligence (2013). The following sections will very briefly critically evaluate the effects of leadership in the five key subjects of leadership (Yukl, 1999): (1) leadership and management, (2) the role of growth in leadership, (3) national vs. international leadership, and (4) leadership and ethics.

Leadership and Management: Are leaders being made (Adair, 1979) or rather born (Popovici, 2012)? And are leadership and management the same? Many sources agree that companies require both leadership and management (Weathersby, 1999; Einarsen, Schanke-Aasland, Skogstad, 2007; Hein, 2012; Gregory, 2016), but some say that a company could work without leadership (Maccoby, 2000) but would lack the energising factor that encourages motivation and change. One view is that the natural leader is empowering people using direction and inspiration but may need a manager in order to implement his goals (Burke, 1986), making leadership and management interdependent. In this model the manager has different characteristics and behaviours but can, too, give employees a feeling of empowerment via his actions and his invitations to participate (Burke, 1986). A connection between management and leadership is also implied in the statement that all styles of leadership must mean working on public, private and personal levels (Scouller, 2016). On the other hand, the manager is seen as a hired professional to match with the company’s required leadership style (Răducan & Răducan, 2014), being a mere employed professional in difference to the charismatic leader whose responsibility lies in motivation and change management. The emerging of professional managers (Horner, 1997) acting more deliberately, consciously and planned to stimulate ideas on a day-to-day business (De Jong & Den Harton, 2007) is sometimes seen necessary for administering a company (Maccoby, 2000). It has also been pointed out that sometimes individuals are made managers due to their expertise, knowledge or duration with the company (Stanley, 2006) rather than their managerial or leading skills. Popovici (2012) stressed the difference between leaders and managers from the view of their employees in pointing out the differences between the position as a result of a career (manager) or of a calling (leader) with the first being obeyed whereas the latter being followed, a motive that will reoccur later in this report.

The Role of Growth in Leadership: A solid leadership is vital to growth, one of the key purposes of a company (Johnson, Scholes, & Whittington, 2008). It can translate values into actions which are supposed to lead to the desired growth along with enduring values (Ciulla, 1999). Also, leadership is substantially about encouraging and motivating people which is considered one of the core requirements to growth (Koryak, et al., 2015) as it the ability of leaders to anticipate change, make decisions and learn from each situation (Schoemaker, Krupp, & Howland, 2013). As mentioned earlier, Greiner states (initially in 1972 already) that companies grow in five phases (Greiner, 1998), a model which is widely reflected and agreed upon in literature. Each phase starts with an evolution and ends with a revolution on a core management problem which has to be solved before the next phase is reached (Greiner, 1998). Solving these managerial or leadership problems can enable the growth of business, making leadership a core requirement (Schoemaker, Krupp, & Howland, 2013).

Leadership and growth are also strongly connected in political and country’s contexts (Brady & Spence, 2010), a complex area with direct influence on a company’s growth but which will not be covered in this essay.

National vs. International Leadership: In light of multi-national companies and the development of leadership intelligence in an international context, the difference between the leaderships of a national organisation and a global or international organisation is of key importance (Horner, 1997). Diversity and the cross-cultural context have many pitfalls that can seriously harm a company’s success (Kearney & Gebert, 2009). Only a responsible leader will be able to address globalisation (Voegtlin, Patzer, & Scherer, 2012) and Manfred Kets de Vries warns to apply local or national culture and leadership in a global context (Kippenberger, 2002). In researching on and comparing typical leadership styles in different countries and their companies he underlines this important statement (Kets de Vries, 1994). A consensual leadership is often seen in Scandinavia and may directly contradict to France’s elitist leadership in which groups discuss but decisions are made in complex power networks (Suutari, 1996). Equally, the Germanic technocratic leadership of sticking to processes may not go along with the Anglo-Saxon charismatic leadership approach of decisive acting which might correspond more to the consensual model (Suutari, 1996). All of these might have difficulties with the Russian democratic centralism of open discussions on leaders but no opposition after they have been elected - or the Chinese approach of continuous adoption at any time, coming from the Daoist tradition (Capurro, 2013).

Leadership is a core cultural issue (Sanchez-Runde, Nardon, & Steers, 2011) and needs cultural intelligence to be adopted for a global context. This includes but is not limited to cultural differences, stereotypes and gender issues (Ayman & Korabik, 2010) raising from different cultural backgrounds.

Leadership and Ethics: Leadership is closely bound with ethical and cultural questions raising from the intrinsic motivation of many leaders and requiring companies to search for leaders with strong ethics and/or train their managers on ethical questions (Eubanks, Brown, & Ybema, 2012). The often-desired ethics of general responsibility, care and positive impacts (Adair, 1979) are accepted universally but need leaders to be reflective as well as engaged and rational; these are, however, not necessarily attributes of leaders (Grandy & Sliwa, 2015). Looking into historical psychology, Aronson (2001) distinguishes between transformational leaders acting adhesive to rules (deontological) on the one side – they could perhaps be called trained leaders – and on the other side transactional leaders, working for the greater good, and directive leaders, driven by egoism (both teleological). Macro- and micro contingencies are seen to affect leaders and create unwanted ethical behaviour (Davis & Luthans, 1979. Tumasjan, Strobel and Welpe (2011) said that the higher the social difference between the leaders and those led is, the more severe any immoral behaviour is criticised. Lastly, leadership and ethics are strongly related to the formal Corporate Social Responsibility, covering the areas of responsibility of a company against the outside world (Roddy, 2016); this complex topic is recognised by the writer but will not be discussed in this essay.

Identifying, Explaining and Evaluating Three Leadership Styles

Traits, behaviour and contingency are three approaches reflected as the foundation in many sources on leadership styles (Roddy, 2016). They are preoccupied in literature with strong personality versus the gender issue (traits), learned behaviour versus the problem of measuring the results (behaviour), and flexibility versus the challenge to really adopt to situations (contingency) (Adair, 1979). The different styles introduced below are only a selection of many more styles and versions of the same styles (Oshagbemi & Ocholi, 2006), some underpinned with academic evidence, others merely developed by HR-consultants and promoted along with their services. What can be seen as a prerequisite is that (1) people are generally prepared and willing to follow different leadership styles albeit obviously not with the same results and (2) charismatic leaders can be dangerous (Maccoby, 2000).

Theories and Models of Leadership: Companies, nationally and internationally, gradually move towards leaner structures, opening the desire for more cooperative leading such as leadership by influence and support or participative leadership models (Horner, 1997). The same requirement was identified slightly later with the creating of followership (Howell & Costley, 2006) and the stressing of transformational leadership (Gumusluoglu & Ilsev, 2009) which at their time where seen as emerging models. With the recognition of individual needs, leadership intelligence (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKnee, 2013) supported the focus on personality features of the leaders and their followers in a leadership concept (Zadel, 2006). Nevertheless, the leadership models remain fairly stable (Avolio, Sosik, Jung, & Berson, 2003) and four of them have been chosen for a more detailed explanation:

The first model of traits, behaviour, and contingency leadership is rather a set of theories which not necessarily deliver leadership styles but should still be remembered in this context (Van Seters, 1990). The following table condenses subjects raised in different sources (Ayman & Korabik, 2010; Roddy, 2016).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Traits, behavioural, and contingency theories in comparison (Filthuth, 2016)

The table shows that different leadership styles come with advantages and challenges which, depending on the adopted theory, can suit or contradict the leadership style (Ayman & Korabik, 2010). It also shows that in practice aspects of all leadership styles may be executed, creating one marker of intelligent leadership (Derue, Nahrgang, Wellmann, & Humphrey, 2011).

The second model is that of Goleman (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2003), based on the recognition that leaders have to amend their styles depending on the situation (Goleman, 2000). He recognises that successful leaders need to be aware of themselves and need to be able to regulate themselves, they need to be empathic and motivating towards those they lead, and they have to have extensive social skills (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2013). The model is both fairly recent and complex and describes six leadership styles not only with their pros and cons but also with phrases to point out their core characteristic.

The adoption of different styles not only in different situation but in the entire variety of human interaction between leaders and followers makes this an intelligent concept, particularly suitable for an international context (Dickson, den Hartog, & Mitchelson, 2003). The third model was composed by Roddy (2016) with suitability, advantages and challenges for each of the four leadership styles autocratic, paternalistic, democratic, and laissez-faire (Johnson, Scholes, & Whittington, 2008).

In comparing and contrasting these styles, Roddy shows advantages which can be linked to cultural stances creating a link for the suitability of each leadership style in a different culture and thus for an international context (Euwema, Wendt, & van Emmerick, 2007). The cultural aspect of leadership is reflected in the fourth model which characterises the three different approaches of universal, normative, and contingency in this regard (Sanchez-Runde, Nardon, & Steers, 2011). Again, the aspect of cultural intelligence (Goleman, 1998) is adopted for an international context, recognising its individualistic style as suitable for an international context (Ang & van Dyne, 2015).

It is indeed notable that aspects of autocratic, democratic, visionary leadership styles as well as the intelligence approach appear repetitively in the different models and are provided therein with similar characteristics and the link to internationality (van Seters, 1990; Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2003; Roddy, 2016; Sanchez-Runde, Nardon, & Steers, 2011). Thus, the following section will explain these for styles in their stances, with reference to their intelligence and their suitability in an international context.


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Developing Leadership Intelligence in an International Context
How Leaders and Managers Perform in Cross-Cultural Companies
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ISBN (eBook)
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Cultural issues in leadership, leadership intelligence, international leadership, leadership versus management, cultural differences in leadership, leadership in cross-cultural companies
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Heiko Filthuth (Author), 2018, Developing Leadership Intelligence in an International Context, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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