‘Leadership is like beauty; it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it’.
Open up any Cross-Cultural training manual, watch any Intercultural management video, or simply listen to a seasoned trainer, and one theme will consistently emerge; being an effective leader in one culture does not automatically make you an effective leader in all cultures. This notion is usually followed by the terrifically understated idea that leadership is “important”. Leadership is not important, leadership is a necessity that has existed in our societies since the dawn of man, and is intrinsically connected with status and power.
However, all too often our industry places too much emphasis on highlighting and comparing leadership traits across cultures, at the expense of truly understanding how power is wielded by leaders and, crucially, how it is received by subordinates in those cultures.