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Power Distance Essay

551 words - 3 pages

Geert Hofstede’s concept of national culture (Hofstede, 1980; 2001) made a great breakthrough in understanding the relationship between organizational
behavior and cultural factors. Hofstede examined differences between national
(societal) cultures through four dimensions: Power distance, Individualism, Masculinity vs. Femininity and Uncertainty Avoidance. Power Distance is a crucial dimension of national culture that influences leadership and subcultures in organizations and will therefore be discussed in more detail here.

Power Distance Index (PDI) scores inform us about dependence relationships in a country. In small power distance countries there is limited dependence of subordinates on bosses, and a preference for consultation, that is interdependence between boss and subordinate. The emotional distance between them is relatively small: subordinates will quite readily approach and contradict their bosses. In large power distance countries there is considerable ...view middle of the document...

Recent cross-cultural organizational theory leave no doubt that behavior in organizations is culturally contingent. For example, Jung et al. (1995) hypothesize that transformational leadership emerges more easily and is more effective in collectivistic cultures than in individualistic cultures. High uncertainty avoidance cultures, with the resulting emphasis on rules and procedures, may place other demands on leaders than low uncertainty avoidance cultures, with the resulting attitude of tolerance of ambiguity and innovative behavior. Also, more “masculine” cultures are probably more tolerant of strong, directive leaders than “feminine” cultures, where a preference for more consultative, considerate leaders seems more likely. Further, preferences for low power distances in societies could result in other desired leader attributes than a preference for high power distance. For instance, a less negative attitude towards authoritarian leaders may be found in high power distance societies. In such societies, dominance and strong displays of power might be appropriate for leaders. In contrast, in more egalitarian societies leaders should perhaps emphasize their equality to others (Den Hartog et al, 1999).

The Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Research Program
(GLOBE) is a cross-cultural research project, conceived by Robert House and funded in
October 1993. Since then, GLOBE has evolved into a multi-phase, multi-method research
project in which some 170 investigators from over 60 nations representing all major cultural
regions in the world collaborate to examine the inter-relationships between societal culture,
organisational culture and organisational leadership.

The objectives of GLOBE are to answer five fundamental questions (House, Hanges,
Ruiz-Quintanilla, 1997): Are there leader attributes and behaviours, and organisational
practices that are universally accepted and effective across cultures? Are there leader
attributes and behaviours, and organisational practices that are nation or culture specific? In
what way do cultural differences affect the kinds of leader and organisational practices that
are effective?

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