Leaders' Qualifications in the Logistics Industry - Are there differences between the requirements for leaders depending on their culture?

Bachelor Thesis, 2006

53 Pages, Grade: 1,0 (A)


Table of contents

Table of figures

Table of tables

1 Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Field of study
1.3 Purpose of the study
1.4 Choosing the topic
1.5 Concept

2 Culture, Logistics and Leadership
2.1 Internalisation within a cultural background
2.1.1 The decision of acting abroad
2.1.2 Definition of culture as a background for interpersonal relationships
2.1.3 National variations in relation to Hofstede’s dimensions of culture
2.1.4 Précis
2.2 Logistics
2.2.1 Historical development of logistics
2.2.2 Definition
2.2.3 Logistical disciplines
2.2.4 Précis
2.3 Leadership
2.3.1 Definition
2.3.2 Distinction to other terms
2.3.3 Requirements for leaders
2.3.4 Précis
2.4 Special leadership requirements in Germany and Sweden
2.4.1 Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and inferences on German and Swedish leadership behaviour
2.4.2 The leadership behaviour study by Suutari
2.4.3 Implications for the research
2.4.4 Précis
2.5 Summary
2.6 The effect of culture on requirements for leaders
2.6.1 Requirements for leaders in the transport logistics industry in Germany and Sweden
2.6.2 Conclusion
2.7 Research model

3 Method
3.1 Purpose of research
3.2 Primary data collection
3.2.1 Research approach
3.2.2 Contact method
3.2.3 Sampling plan
3.2.4 Contact medium: questionnaire Hofstede’s dimensions Kienbaum’s categories of competences Logistics industry Intercultural aspect
3.3 Execution of the survey
3.3.1 Pretest
3.3.2 First series
3.3.3 Second series
3.4 Processing the data
3.4.1 Removal of irregularities
3.4.2 Statistical processing
3.5 Evaluating the data
3.6 Limitations of the study
3.6.1 General limitations
3.6.2 Objectivity
3.6.3 Validity Internal validity Construct validity External validity
3.6.4 Reliability

4 Comparison of empiricism and theory
4.1 Part one: Hofstede
4.1.1 Power distance
4.1.2 Individualism
4.1.3 Masculinity
4.1.4 Uncertainty avoidance
4.2 Part two: Kienbaum
4.2.1 Knowledge competence
4.2.2 Organisation competence
4.2.3 Stress ability competence
4.2.4 Problem solving competence
4.2.5 Experience in the logistics industry
4.2.6 Customer orientation
4.2.7 Importance of Kienbaum’s competences
4.3 Part three: Logistics industry
4.3.1 Empirical results
4.3.2 Analysis

5 Critical consideration
5.1 Hofstede
5.2 Leaders’ competences
5.3 Implications of the special requirements
5.4 Implications for the requirements in a cultural context

6 Conclusion
6.1 Summary
6.2 Personal reflection
6.3 Further development


Internet References


Table of figures

Fig. 2–1 Requirements for leaders

Fig. 2–2 Development of requirements

Fig. 3–1 Research design

Fig. 3–2 Preparation of study

Fig. 3–3 Execution of study

Fig. 3–4 Processing the data

Fig. 3–5 Evaluating the data

Fig. 4–1 Power distance according to the empirical data

Fig. 4–2 Individualism according to the empirical data

Fig. 4–3 Masculinity according to the empirical data

Fig. 4–4 Uncertainty avoidance according to the empirical data

Fig. 4–5 Importance of competences according to the empirical data

Table of tables

Tab. 2–1 Hofstede’s cultural dimension values

Tab. 3–1 Categories of respondents

Tab. 5–1 Ranking of Kienbaum’s competences

1 Introduction

1.1 Background

During the last decades two factors had a great influence on organisations: First the development of computers and second the globalisation. With computers the relative importance of information increased rapidly compared with other resources as ownership of land, materials or work. Globalisation might be seen as a consequence of the developments in computer sciences but the changing of political systems with the opening of borders also had a great impact on this progress. [Cle2004, p. 19f] In Europe the globalisation process was intensified by the political changes and the enlargement of the European Union.

As one effect, business relations are getting more and more international. Not only do the big global players act on different markets but they also use smaller markets outside their home country to develop their business. The internationalisation process leads to a greater shipping volume of goods and to more specific transport concepts such as cross-border and just-in-time delivery. Hence, the transport industry is heavily infected by international business relations and the all-embracing supply chains rely on the operativeness of the logistics.

The problems concerning the transportation are not only the longer distances and the smaller time windows but also cultural based reasons. Working with people from different cultural backgrounds might lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. The problems derived from the internationalisation process might not be so dramatic on the workers’ level but more intensive on the leaders’ one as they need to interact with people having another cultural background. Therefore the qualifications of leaders in the logistics industry should include intercultural and international competences.

The question remains whether it is so easy to change from one employer to another with the perspective on the employers’ requirements. Has globalisation affected the qualifications for jobs in a similar manner as it influenced the dealing with information and goods? If the requirements of employers vary between different countries it can be assumed that it will be difficult for employees to meet these requirements abroad and to get an appropriate job there according to the importance of competences mentioned.

1.2 Field of study

First it should be considered whether there are any crucial differences between the requirements concerning leading positions in companies by asking:

- Are there differences between the requirements for leaders within the logistics industry depending on their culture?

This question poses further questions about the understanding of culture, leadership and logistics and the way they work together and lead to certain requirements.

1.3 Purpose of the study

The aim of this study is to investigate the requirements for leaders in the logistics industry in an international perspective in order to explore whether there are important differences between different cultures.

1.4 Choosing the topic

We chose to explore the requirements for leaders in the logistics industry in different cultures as this is an interesting question that the course “Scandinavian Management and Organizational Culture” at Mid Sweden University did not answer. Moreover we had already studied culture and logistics in our previous studies in Germany. Therefore we are very interested in the fact whether we could, regarding our personal, behavioural and professional competences, also act as a leader in an international and intercultural environment.

1.5 Concept

The next part of the thesis deals with the theoretical background. The keywords are defined and their understanding in this special context will be explained. Moreover results of former studies are explained and set into the context of this study. Part three deals with the method conducting the thesis: The way of execution as well as the reasons are explained. Furthermore, the advantages and disadvantages of the chosen method are considered. In the fourth part the empirical data is presented and analysed. Subsequently, the findings are critically considered in part five. Finally, the results are presented in the conclusion (part six) which also contains a personal reflection of the subject and the further development of this research field.

2 Culture, Logistics and Leadership

There are different opinions how to understand culture, logistics and leadership. Therefore these terms shall be defined first, including setting them into the context as a framework of the following steps. Culture and leadership are to be seen together in part 2.4 with the focus on Germany and Sweden. A summary recapitulates the theory. The logistical view on this subject is strengthened afterwards in part 2.6.

2.1 Internalisation within a cultural background

2.1.1 The decision of acting abroad

Acting in an international environment has to be well thought out. Basis for decision-making whether to internationalise or not should be serious considerations about formulated strategic goals, extent of risk taking, available resources and organizational preconditions as well as cultural comprehension within the company [Hol2001, p. 7]. Regarding these mentioned factors, especially the understanding of foreign cultural distinctiveness as a prerequisite for effective and efficient business relationships is important to this study.

2.1.2 Definition of culture as a background for interpersonal relationships

Culture as an all-embracing term can be seen as the sum of humankind’s activities [Dud2003]. As a consequence this definition offers a wide range of views within different fields of science. Regarding the context of this study a further discussion of culture within its plurality of meanings will be necessary.

The origin of a culture goes back to the very early stages of humankind’s development. Ever since “culture is transmitted [among people], through language, material objects, ritual, institutions, and art, from one generation to the next.” [Is02]. A long-term learning process is required to build up a certain pattern of behavioural rules. As a result culture can be understood as a “shared and learned world of experiences, meanings, values, and understandings which inform people and which are expressed, reproduced, and communicated partly in symbolic form [Alv02, p. 6]”. Both authors highlight the social function of culture which represents a framework how to think, behave and act in a certain environment.

2.1.3 National variations in relation to Hofstede’s dimensions of culture

In 1979 Geert Hofstede started to explore the norms of thinking and social action in 50 nations by asking IBM employees [Hof1997, p. 13]. Therefore he investigated different fields of life like family, school, state and, important to this study, the workplace behaviour and clustered, as a result of his study, the world’s countries into groups with similar scores within the dimensions. His study can be seen as a basis for the scientific research of cultures. Although the study is well-known the original meaning of Hofstede’s five dimensions of culture shall be quoted in order to avoid misinterpretation:

1. Power Distance focuses on the degree of equality or inequality between people in a country's society.”

2. Individualism grasps “on the degree the society reinforces individual or collective achievement and interpersonal relationships.”

3. Masculinity vs. femininity “focuses on the degree the society reinforces, or does not reinforce, the traditional masculine work role model of male achievement, control and power.”

4. Uncertainty Avoidance describes “the level of tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity within the society - i.e. unstructured situations.”

5. Long-Term Orientation focuses on the degree the society embraces, or does not embrace, long-term devotion to traditional, forward thinking values.” [Is03]

As a result Hofstede argues that “[…] national cultures distinguish similar people, institutions and organizations in different countries […]” [Is04]. This study and its outstanding findings can be seen as the starting point of intercultural research. No other study was based on such a large sample before. The information population was controlled across the different countries by IBM and consequently the data was comparable.

Nevertheless, weaknesses were noticeable. Hofstede used national territories which were supposed to correspond with culture areas. This can be seen as a problem in countries with a wide range of subcultures. The questionnaire was exclusively answered by IBM-employees, thus a lack of representation can be recognized. Additionally, some overlapping between Hofstede’s dimensions of culture can lead to explanation difficulties. Furthermore, Hofstede’s results reflect a mixture of different fields of life and the exact impact of one part, e.g. the working place behaviour, can not be retraced. [Hol2001, p. 207] On a more profound level it can be questioned if the content of Hofstede nowadays still is reliable, e.g. regarding the time difference.

Since 1996 the Global Leadership and Organizational Behaviour Effectiveness Research Project (GLOBE) has explored “the impact of specific cultural variables on leadership and organisational processes” [Hou2002, p. 4]. As a starting point of their survey, nine different dimensions (uncertainty avoidance, power distance, collectivism I and II, gender egalitarianism, assertiveness, future orientation, humane orientation, and performance orientation) were distinguished whereof the first six dimensions have their origin in Hofstede’s theory. Therefore, Hofstede’s dimensions seem to be still contemporary and a landmark for today’s intercultural researches.

2.1.4 Précis

According to Alvesson, culture can be defined as a “shared and learned world of experiences, meanings, values, and understandings which inform people and which are expressed, reproduced, and communicated partly in symbolic form”. Since today’s culture is based on a long-term learning process differences between cultural areas are existing. Hofstede clustered the world’s countries due to his five cultural dimensions into country groups of shared behaviour styles and values. Despite of the time elapsed since the survey was conducted, Hofstede’s cultural dimensions are still effectual and used as a basis for today’s intercultural researches, e.g. the GLOBE project.

2.2 Logistics

2.2.1 Historical development of logistics

The meaning of the term logistics has changed strongly during the last decades. In the 1970s logistics concentrated on optimisation of separated functions, for example transport, transshipment and storage. Then in the 80s logistics was seen as combining link between the different corporate departments such as procurement, production and sales. The aim of logistics was to optimise the connecting processes. The development of logistics changed the understanding of the term during the 90s. In this time logistics concentrated on the development and optimisation of process chains inside the company. This step can be seen as functional integration on account of the process orientation. Later the integration went further to integration of processes of different companies. The improvements were not only on process chains but on value chains. The process orientation brought the customer closer into the logistics environment as business processes start and end at the customer. Today logistics works in the context of world wide integration of value chains through development and optimisation of global networks. [Is05] [Las2004, p. 14]

2.2.2 Definition

There are several definitions of the term logistics. Pfohl defines logistics in a classical way as all activities concerning the spatial and temporal transformation of goods […] [Pfo2004,S.12]. A more managerial orientated approach understands logistics as the holistic and market orientated planning, controlling and execution of all flows of material, goods and information from the customer into the company, within the company as well as from the company to the customer [Las2004, p. 1]. Plowman’s seven rights definition is a more practical approach: Logistics means the availability of the right good, in the right quantity and quality, at the right place, at the right time, for the right customer and with the right costs [Is06]. A development of this approach also includes the availability of reverse material flows (recycling).

According to the context and similar to the Bundesvereinigung Logistik e. V. (BVL) we understand logistics – integrating the mentioned approaches – as the holistic coordination and execution of all flows of information and goods in companies and supply chains with considerable impact on the companies’ success [Is07]. This definition emphasizes process orientation, internationalisation of processes and importance of logistics.

2.2.3 Logistical disciplines

The corporate logistics can be divided in different disciplines. Production logistics can be seen as the core logistics of most companies. Procurement logistics is a supplier to production logistics, distribution logistics is the subsequently step after production logistics. [Pfo2004, p. 18] The procurement logistics of one company is related to the distribution logistics of the supplier. Therefore transportation logistics can be seen as the connection between different companies.

Nowadays transportation logistics has to be seen in an international perspective. It connects other logistical fields and therefore has to be adapted to changes in other logistical disciplines. It manages not only the physical transport of goods but also all the related tasks such as container management [Klu2004,p.92] and the customers’ business processes fitting transponder technology [LfU10/04, p. 87].

2.2.4 Précis

The logistics industry, including transportation logistics which this study concentrates on, made great developments and improvements during the last decades. Today logistics has a considerable impact on the companies’ success emphasising the holistic coordination of information, goods and material flows. It is no longer seen as a separate corporate function but as an important discipline connecting the companies’ production with the suppliers and customers in the supply chain on a high technological standard.

2.3 Leadership

2.3.1 Definition

To consider the way leadership and culture work together, leadership has to be defined first. Several definition of leadership can be found in the literature depending on the subject the researcher was working on. Regarding the context of this study the definition according to Rauch & Behling will be appropriated: “Leadership is the process of influencing the activities of an organized group towards goal achievement [Yuk2001, p. 3]”. In comparison to Northouse’s definition whereupon “[l]eadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal [Nor2001, p. 3]” Rauch & Behling do not limit the leader role to one single person. Depending on the culture the leader role might be shared in some way. Moreover the goal might not be a common goal of all the group members, some of them might disagree. Even in such situations the leader has to keep an eye on the goal achievement. Other definitions[1] try to grasp more the behavioural aspect of leadership but the goal achievement can be seen as essential in a corporate environment.

According to the definition of leadership by Rauch & Behling the main characteristics shall be explained:

- Leadership is a process and therefore not linear. The process is interactive between the leader and the group.
- Leadership functions through influencing, the leader has to affect the followers.
- The group is defined by a common purpose; this might vary as well as the size of the group from case to case.
- The final aim is goal achievement. The leader shall direct the group towards accomplishing the goals. [Nor2001, p. 3]

2.3.2 Distinction to other terms

As there are so many ways of defining leadership it seems helpful to strengthen the definition by demarcating leadership from other terms. This can also be seen in relation to Foucault: “It rejects its identity, without previously statement: I am neither this nor that [Fou1969, p. 18]”. The list of related terms is not complete but helps to understand the definition.

The difference between management and leadership is described by Kotter as “managers […] are relying on their formal position and working with bureaucratic processes such as planning, budgeting, organizing and controlling, [but] leaders […] rely on their personal abilities, work with visions, agendas and coalition building and mainly through non-coercive means affect people’s feelings and thinking [Alv2002, p. 100]”. Management emphasizes order and consistency but leadership aims change and movement. Similarly, Bennis & Nanus clearly see the differences in that way, that management performs activities and commands routines, whereas leadership influences other persons and creates visions for change [Ben2003, p. 203].

Besides these important differences it should be kept in mind that leadership and management also have similarities. Both are processes which use influence and work with people [Nor2001, p. 9]. Moreover management and leadership are not separable if, for example, leaders are involved in planning and organisation or managers influence the aims of a group [Nor2001, p. 10] or the management and leadership is executed by the same person. Thus, we will treat the roles of managers and leaders as equal but emphasizes on the leadership activities.

Especially autocratic leadership might be seen in connection with power. Power, in form of position power or personal power, is the capacity of influence. It is not directly connected to a process or a certain goal [Nor2001, p. 6]. In another perspective “power indicates that certain interests and voices are either not respected or never raised and some opinions and degrees of freedom become blocked. While the term leadership typically is used in ways that trigger association in a ‘positive’ direction, many people talking about power […] raise doubts over the legitimacy of arrangements and acts in which power is expressed [Alv2002, p.124]”.

Resembling to the difference between power and leadership authority refers to a high level of distance between the leader and those who are led and has a negative meaning in this context. Authority is more connected with formal organisational matters and therefore is distinguished from leadership by the definition of management.

According to the definition of leadership the aim of leadership is to achieve goals in an organised group. Control only cannot influence people to achieve certain goals. It might be a tool for leadership.

2.3.3 Requirements for leaders

The theory of leadership was connected to the traits that characterise leaders from the beginning as it can be seen from the great man theory of the early 1900s [Nor2001, p. 15]. Different approaches were made as well as different studies of leadership traits and characteristics. Comparing the approaches it is unquestioned that a successful leadership depends (besides other things) on the qualifications of the leader. According to the definition he must be able to influence others interactive in a way that goals are achieved. Which traits are supposed to be factors for a good leader today?

Studies made by university researchers provide general information about traits[2] but the assessment of new (potential) leaders is mostly made by the industry. Consequently the question shall be here: Which traits are supposed to be factors for a good leader today from the industry’s perspective? Therefore categories of a consultancy shall be used to evaluate the requirements.

The Kienbaum Management Consulting GmbH classifies the requirements for leaders in three categories that can be described by a pyramid (fig. 2–1):

- Personal competence is the base of a successful leader. This includes integrity, entrepreneurship, customer orientation, motivation, stress ability and dynamism.
- Behaviour competence builds on the personal competence and includes problem solving competence, leading in form of motivation, delegating and coaching, ability to communicate as well as organisation and project management.
- Professional competence is the top of the pyramid. It includes the experiences, skills and knowledge. [Kie2002, p. 7]

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig. 2–1 Requirements for leaders, according to [Kie2002, p. 7]

The three categories are distinguished by the level of variability. The personal competence is formed during the socialisation process and, according to Hofstede, these values (including integrity and motivation) are developed and nearly fixed in an early age [Hof1997, p. 33]. The behaviour competence can be changed in some way, for example the problem solving and delegating competence can be taught through case study trainings and coaching programmes. Besides all theoretical knowledge one’s style of leadership is still connected to the personal competence, e. g. stress ability. The professional competence is most changeable. New knowledge can be added with relative less effort, the set of experiences is continuous enlarging through one’s life. [Kie2002, p. 7]

The scientific background of this practical model has to be seen in a combination of different behaviour models. According to the great man theory, the leader has special traits that do not depend on the situation or the task (personal competence). Besides this, the person-situation model expresses that the behaviour is not only depending on the traits but also on the situation (behaviour competence) [Ehn2004,p.7]. The Kienbaum pyramid refers to leaders in companies and therefore accomplishes the categories with the professional competence that is connected to the environment of the company.

2.3.4 Précis

Leadership, the process of influencing the activities of an organised group towards goal achievement, is theoretically distinguishable from management but both processes have overlap as leaders often act as managers. Thus, the terms are to be used equally in this study with focus on leadership. In relation to scientific behavioural models, the Kienbaum Management Consulting GmbH developed a model of requirements for leaders which fits to the practical and industry orientated research question of this study. It categorises personal, behavioural and professional competences through the level of changeability.

After defining and explaining culture as well as leadership, the next part relates both fields to each other. Subsequently the logistical dimension will be added to the field of study.

2.4 Special leadership requirements in Germany and Sweden

This part deals with qualities and requirements for leaders based on cultural conditions in Germany and Sweden. For this purpose a study[3] by Suutari with leadership experiences of 36 Finnish expatriates in four European Countries (Germany, Sweden, UK and France) is besides Hofstede’s cultural theory an important scientific reference dealing with this theme. The study also relies on the first four cultural dimensions of Hofstede and focuses on leadership behaviour among different cultural clusters (i.e. the German, Nordic, Latin Europe and Anglo clusters).

The expatriates are seen to be very suitable for that cross-cultural exploration because “they can appreciate the differences in managerial behaviour and manager-employee relations at first hand. Expatriates are also the ones who can describe their own culture and compare it to others […]” [Suu1996, p. 2]. The data was collected during the year 1994 with personnel interviews and questionnaires among the Finnish expatriates who worked in four different multinational companies with sizes between 1,000 and 20,000 employees.

2.4.1 Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and inferences on German and Swedish leadership behaviour

The results of Hofstede’s research show that there are both differences and similarities in the cultural dimensions of Sweden and Germany. Measured with the indices which Hofstede has developed the comparison comes to the following values [Is08]:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Tab. 2–1 Hofstede’s cultural dimension values

What are the consequences of these values? How can they be explained?

Sweden and Germany have nearly the same results in power distance, individualism and long-term orientation. In particular, they have a low power distance, meaning that the society de-emphasize differences between people (egalitarism). Moreover, equality and opportunities for everyone are stressed.

In the individualism dimension both countries can be considered as more individualistic, whereby Sweden got a few points more in this direction. Thus, similarities should occur on the behavioural level at least rest upon Hofstede’s values. But slight differences were also found out. Swedish leaders are expected to provide information to their subordinates more actively, because Swedes have been reported to have a higher willingness in sharing their objectives and information with subordinates. [Hai1966, p. 22].

Obviously, most differences exist in the extent of masculinity and uncertainty avoidance. Sweden is an extremely feminine culture and Germany clearly is a masculine one. This responds to the consensus-seeking Swedish attitude with discussions, whereas the German one would be more result and competition driven. German leaders emphasize and try to improve productivity and effectiveness as well as provide recognition for well-done work, whereby they are dealing in a less friendly, supportive and considerate manner with subordinates. In contrast the Swedish leaders value social need very highly trying to encourage teamwork and subordinates co-operation [Hai1966, p. 23].

Considering the uncertainty avoidance dimension German behaviour is more role and rules oriented and functional. Congruent with other structural studies, the formalisation degree or the preference for formalisation is considered very high among German leadership[4]. In comparison, the importance of formalisation of roles and structures is considered low and a higher acceptance towards innovations is common in Sweden[5].

The fifth dimension (long term orientation) is based on a survey with the Chinese Value Survey instrument. This dimension, according to researchers, is related to the teaching of Confucius and differentiates Asian countries, for example, from European ones. However, it is not seen as relevant to this study which includes only European countries and was neither seen as relevant for Suutari’s study. [Suu1996, p. 7]

2.4.2 The leadership behaviour study by Suutari

It is possible to excerpt important specific features of the German and Swedish leadership style and to gain the required qualities of leaders limited to these countries from Suutari’s research that compared different leadership behaviour between Finland and the other four European Countries. Determining relevant leadership behaviour the study used a categorisation “formed in earlier comparative studies by Suutari (1995b, 1995c)” [Suu1996, p. 3] which consisted of 19 variables that are comparable with the top and middle level of the Kienbaum Management Consulting GmbH categories.

Most Finnish expatriates reported that typical German leaders highly reward good work performance and criticize bad performance as well as give value to improvements in effectiveness and productivity. Also in line with Hofstede’s uncertainty avoidance dimension they came to the result that German leaders are more actively in clarifying roles, planning, coordinating and goal-setting. The high uncertainty avoidance in Germany is a signal for strong role clarification behaviour that means “a leader clarifies roles by seeing to it that the work group has detailed job description and clearly defined functions” [Suu1996, p. 4]. Furthermore, all expatriates considered the Germans “to be less active in decision-participation and autonomy-delegation behaviours” [Suu1996, p. 17]. Additionally, the Germans are also expected to indicate less initiation behaviour, a higher emphasis of planning-coordination and conflict management behaviour [Suu1996, p. 8]. Another explored quality is the German timidity towards innovation and initiation of new ideas and practices.

Reported features of the Swedish leaders are a higher consideration level (friendly, supportive and considerate behaviour towards subordinates) and the encouragement of working in teams. They normally provide more vision of where the organisation is going and what is important for the future and they spread more information among subordinates. In accordance to the feminine dimension the Swedish were reported not to criticize low work performance obviously, but to be more active in decision-participation and also autonomy-delegation behaviours. Moreover they are less active in emphasizing effectiveness and productivity [Suu1996, p. 19]. Referred to the low uncertainty avoidance dimension the Swedish leaders are less active in setting goals [Suu1996, p. 10].

2.4.3 Implications for the research

The implications of the researched behaviours based on a cultural background are that these behaviour styles simultaneously have to be requirements for leaders. This view is e.g. strengthened by the fact that “pressure to change a leadership style during foreign assignment has been reported[6] […]. If expatriates are aware of such variation beforehand and prepared to modify their behaviour according to different expectations they could partly avoid misunderstandings and work more effectively from the beginning of an assignment[7] ” [Suu1996, p. 25]. Hence, culture might influence the requirements for leaders. According to the culture-bound theory it seems to be rather relevant as a leader to be more like the determining leadership environment and to adapt certain behaviour. In contrast the culture-free theory describes how leaders can act constantly beyond boundaries rather influencing the foreign culture. [Wel2003, p. 35] However, these assumptions will be more appropriate for whole organisations or leadership teams than for single leaders acting in different cultures. The first theory additionally gets affirmation from experiences of the study, because “there were more expatriates who described how they had to change their own style before they could carry out their job and some of them also commented that one should adapt oneself because one cannot change the foreign culture” [Suu1996, p. 25].

Considering the preceding internationalisation process and the variation among leadership requirements and behaviour it is necessary to take these differences into account e.g. in “cross-border acquisitions and other forms of international business activities” [Suu1996, p. 26] and to learn more about cross-cultural skills.

With respect to our study these results provide a basis to assess and understand the underlying features of culture-given attitudes and values in both investigated countries. Herein, the theory gives insight how the actors – the leaders – conduct substantiated on their cultural origin. The objectivity of the Finnish expatriates might be questioned, because their evaluation only could be a personal reflection how they feel in presence of German and Swedish leaders and that could differ from evaluations of other neutral cultures. However they were experienced working with other cultures and they were supposed to evaluate the behaviour better than the members of the other culture would do it themselves. Although a time difference between the two regarded behaviour studies exist both of them ended in almost the same consequences and it will be interesting if after approximately one respectively two decades similar behavioural attributes could influence leadership requirements. For this purpose the requirements derived from the studies will be with use of the Kienbaum scheme the starting point to investigate present leadership requirements in Germany and Sweden by means of an own survey. We attempt to get today’s confirmation of these theoretical results or at least detect only few deviations.

2.4.4 Précis

In this part it was shown that Sweden and Germany, mainly based on Hofstede’s cultural theory and Suutari’s study, have similarities and differences in leadership behaviour. Although there are some similarities, especially in power distance and individualism, also slight differences in these respective specifications occur. Rather stronger distinctions exist in realisations of masculinity and uncertainty avoidance. Thereby, Suutari’s research provides similar results comparable with those of Hofstede.

Regarding the culture-bound theory, the leadership behaviour styles can be transferred into certain requirements for leaders that are necessary for effective and successful mission fulfilment depending on the culture.

2.5 Summary

Culture as a shared and learnt world of experiences, meanings, values, and understandings which inform people and which are expressed, reproduced and communicated is a scientific research field at least since Hofstede’s study. Today the GLOBE project follows Hofstede’s approach.

The logistical performance, the holistic coordination and execution of all flows of information and goods in companies and supply chains, has considerable impact on the companies’ success. The logistics industry is changing through the internationalisation taking place as well as through the increasing demands for technology and performance.

Leadership, the process of influencing the activities of an organized group towards goal achievement, strongly depends on the qualifications of the leader. The qualifications can be divided in personal competence, behavioural competence and professional competence by the level of variability. They are reflected by the requirements that companies have for (new) leaders.

Focusing on Germany and Sweden there should be similarities and differences in the requirements in the investigated countries according to Hofstede's cultural dimensions. The quintessence of Hofstede’s culture study is that Sweden and Germany are close to each other in low power distance and individualism but differ in the masculinity and uncertainty avoidance index significantly. In relation to Suutari’s study and the other used literature it is questioned whether these values can be taken for granted in business life or reflect more the general culture.

As the success depends on the leaders’ qualifications, the logistics industry, here with focus on the transport logistics, is an interesting field to study the requirements for leaders conditional the culture. The aim is to investigate how the similarities and differences are reflected in the requirements with focus on the logistics industry. This shall be done in the next part on account of the theoretical background and subsequently in an empirical study.

2.6 The effect of culture on requirements for leaders

2.6.1 Requirements for leaders in the transport logistics industry in Germany and Sweden

Are there differences between the requirements for leaders within the logistics industry depending on their culture? To answer this question those three requirements of every level of the Kienbaum pyramid shall be discussed that are most significant for the logistics industry or the culture of Sweden and Germany.

On the level of personal competence the stress ability and dynamism is supposed to be a key factor for logistics. This can easily be seen from the fact that time is very important in transport logistics, even more today with the mentioned just-in-time delivery. Problems have to be solved quickly which might cause stress. Motivation and customer orientation as other competences help to deal with the stress in a more positive way. Besides this some of the behaviour competences are of assistance dealing with the stress. Those show the differences between the German and the Swedish culture.

There are three main competences on the behaviour level in this context: organisation, problem solving competence and the ability to communicate. Organisation is one of the terms that are strongly connected with the German culture. This is shown in Hofstede’s study by the high level of uncertainty avoidance. According to Suutari Germans tend to more planning than others. These facts might show an advantage for the Germans compared with Swedish leaders but one should not ignore that it is not possible to plan everything in such a way that it works without any problems. The Swedes are more flexible due to the lower uncertainty avoidance. Not planning everything in detail might generate a more flexible way of dealing with problems.

The problem solving competence has to be seen in the same way. The Swedes are supposed to be better in participative problem solving but Germans will general use more organised methods and one person has to make a decision. Moreover, according to the higher masculinity, Germans focus more on the results than on the process. If problem solving competence concentrates on the results, the Germans will score higher, but if it centres on the process than the Swedes care more about it. Following, Germans come faster to a decision but Swedes have less resistance during the realisation. Comparing organisation and problem solving competence German employers might have more requirements concerning organisational competence and results whereas the Swedish ones might focus on the problem solving competence in a process perspective.

The ability to communicate is very important in transport logistics as delays in supply chain transport can cause production standstill and high penalties. But there are differences in the way communication shall be done. According to the studies, Germans prefer direct orders by the leader and do not avoid conflicts. Swedes on the other hand favour group orientated communication and try to avoid conflicts by finding compromises.

Finally, on the level of professional competence we assume all three competences to be important but not in the same order of importance in Sweden and Germany. As already mentioned the difference in uncertainty avoidance leads to different requirements. The Swedes are considered to prefer rather skills than knowledge. But the Germans might attach more importance to knowledge. This can be suggested from the fact that titles are more important; they show the graduation and herewith the level of knowledge.

It is difficult to give a statement about experiences from a student’s perspective because it is not easy to measure which experiences leaders have in certain positions without a field study or own experience in a corporate environment. Therefore we can just mention that experience is one of the main competences according to Kienbaum.

Summing up, it turns out that a nation’s culture does influence the requirements for leaders. There are competences that are important in the logistics industry in Sweden as well as in Germany. But the way the leaders deal with business is different. This leads to different preferences regarding the competences. According to higher uncertainty avoidance and masculinity Germans focus on organisation, results and knowledge whereas Swedes have problem solving competence as a process and the leaders’ skills as main requirements.

2.6.2 Conclusion

Although leaders shall have international experience and be intercultural competent it is not possible to change between different cultural systems without adaptation even if the cultures are that close as Sweden and Germany. The requirements for leaders depend on the cultural background. We cannot expect them to become similar through the globalisation as they are connected with the basics of their culture. But the leaders, chosen by the special requirements wanted, are one of the key factors for success. Therefore these requirements might have an impact on the success of a national industry if there is a global competition.

An empirical study shall prove whether the suggestions made about the requirements in Sweden and Germany were right. Are there still differences or will the data tell us that we are living in a global cultural village?

2.7 Research model

The theory can be summed up in the following model which we developed. It strengthens the definition of the research field:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig. 2–2 Development of requirements

Culture, industry type and leadership as a triangular substructure have an impact on the requirements for leaders. They interrelate to each other as

- A certain culture might lead to the development of a certain industry:
Like defined, culture refers to shared and learned values and experiences which also imply what kind of businesses are common in each culture and which ones are forbidden or unusual based on their tradition. Thus, the development of industry types in a culture could be predetermined on a certain degree.
- Leadership is affected by culture:
The influence of culture on the leadership was already conversant long before the mentioned behaviour studies. It is a deed that strong varying cultures do business in different ways and hence the kind of leading differs.
The leadership style refers to the environment of the industry:

Each certain industry has several unique tasks and challenges influencing the dealing with them. The leadership has to adapt to each situation and to act in the way it will be the best in the industry.

Although we can assume the certain impacts of the three base variables on the requirements, two of them will not be investigated within this study for narrowing the field of research down to one considered variable. Both the industry type and the leadership style will be fixed. Regarding the theoretical basis the research will take place within the logistics industry excluding the restriction on certain leadership styles like they are common in other scientific literature.[8] The reason is that the different leadership styles might demand discriminative leader personalities making the view on the interesting variable – the culture – more difficult and too spacious. Therefore, this research will only investigate the impact of culture on the requirements for leaders.

For this reason we will follow the arrow in the research pyramid from the culture to the requirements on the top. This leads to an investigation that will expose the impact of cultural circumstances on the way how leaders are seen and are supposed to be, however it will not contain any explorations of repercussions on the culture.


[1] a list of definitions can be found at [Yuk2001, p. 3]

[2] see [Nor2001, p. 18] for summarised traits of several studies, Stogdill (1948), Mann (1959), Stogdill (1974), Lord, Devader and Alliger (1986), Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991)

[3] The study was published in The International Journal of Human Resource Management 7:3 September 1996

[4] further information in Hor1981, Kuc1981, Lau1985

[5] this refers also to active initiation behaviour according to Suutari’s study

[6] Suutari refers to Brewster, Lundmar and Holden (1993: 100)

[7] Suutari mentions for example Black and Porter (1990) and Stewart et al. (1994: 195)

[8] several leadership theories are mentioned in Nor2001, p. 75, p. 89, p. 131

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Leaders' Qualifications in the Logistics Industry - Are there differences between the requirements for leaders depending on their culture?
Mid Sweden University
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Diese Bachelorarbeit befasst sich mit den Anforderungen an Führungskräfte in der Logistikindustrie in Schweden und Deutschland. Es wird genauer untersucht, inwieweit die Anforderungen durch die Kultur beziehungsweise die Branche (hier: Transportlogistik) beeinflusst werden. Eine Studie wurde in Form eines Fragebogeninterviews in 29 Unternehmen durchgeführt.
Industry, Führungskräfte, Schweden, Deutschland, Kultur, Hofstede, Logistik, Studie, Suutari, Kienbaum, Qualifikation, Teammanagement, Requirements of leaders, Survey, power distance, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, individualism
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Andreas Mothes (Author)Heiko Ulrich (Author)Daniela Kramer (Author), 2006, Leaders' Qualifications in the Logistics Industry - Are there differences between the requirements for leaders depending on their culture?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/58099


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