Even if you’re living in a galaxy far, far away, you’re probably familiar with the scene: In an imperial star ship, a lower ranked Admiral talks to Darth Vader. Darth Vader disagrees, turns to his higher ranked General and says “General Veers, prepare your men”. General turns to his Admiral and says “Admiral”… That’s all! Now, you may think this is the way things normally work, so nothing strange there, or you may think that it’s stupid; why didn’t Darth Vader give the command to the Admiral he was talking to directly, but instead gave the command through his General?
Well, the answer is simple: Not every culture responds to the same management / leadership style. In many cases - army for example, it’s not even about the societal or business culture: the differentiating factor is the organization itself. But in cases of multinational companies, operating in several places of the world, this is really an interesting and important point to understand.
The detailed Globe Study about culture, leadership and organizations, focused on 62 societies in 10 regions over a period of more than ten years and identified the 6 global leadership dimensions and the importance they have on managing people from different cultures.
Common in today’s business environment is western / Anglo-American companies outsourcing to South-Asian countries, or nearshoring to the Eastern Europe. However, one of the most crucial things for this to succeed is to appoint team leaders and managers who understand and - most importantly - can adapt to the needs and expectations of these cultures, instead of just using any management style that they are familiar with and that used to work with their previous same-culture teams.
Participatory leadership, common and highly valued in Anglo-American and Germanic cultures, is not so important in Eastern European, Confucian and South-Asian cultures, where in contrast, self-protective leadership (looking out for yourself) is so much higher valued than in western cultures. Now, if your teams are multi-cultural, your challenge is even bigger, since the leader has to treat each cultural group different, within the same team. Couple that with the necessary adaptation of the management style to the individual’s unique personality, and you really have a different task at hand, regardless of what the team is doing / focusing on. In that whole context, the knowledge of the team’s function, becomes less and less important.
In conclusion, if you want your outsourcing or nearshoring strategy to succeed and be efficient, make sure you choose the appropriate Star Leaders and Managers for your international and multi national teams and projects, because it’s not as easy as Star Wars makes it look.