Is there a universal effective leadership style or is effective leadership a function of the local culture? If culture determines the effectiveness of leadership style, then is societal culture more important than organizational culture?
These are the questions that initially drove the GLOBE project. GLOBE stands for the “Global Leadership and Organizational BehaviorEffectiveness.” The project started in 1993 and over the years over 200 social scientists and management scholars around the world have contributed and were country co-investigators of the GLOBE project. Three books, numerous journal papers, and presentations at national conferences have have been published describing these results. The first and third books (House, Hanges, Dorfman, Javidan, & Gupta, 2004; House, Dorfman, Javidan, Hanges, & Sully, 2014) were published by SAGE publications. The second book (Chhokar, Brodbeck & House, 2006) was published by Psychological Press.
In project GLOBE we use multiple research methods (e.g., questionnaires, focus interviews, media analyses) to understand the inter-relationships between societal culture, organizational culture, and organizational leadership.
Results from the first project (House et al, 2004; Chhokar et al, 2006) showed that:
Some leadership attributes were universally endorsed. For example, being trustworthy, planful, dynamic, and communicative are examples of attributes universally rated as facilitating outstanding leadership.
Some leadership attributes were universally rejected. For example, being asocial, irritable, egocentric, and dictatorial are examples of attributes universally rated as inhibiting outstanding leadership.
Even though some leadership attributes were universally endorsed or rejected, the majority of leadership is culturally contingent.
Both organizational culture and societal culture influence effective leadership styles. For example:
Societies that were rated higher on performance orientation cultural values were associated with Charismatic/Value-Based, Team Oriented, Participative, Humane Oriented, and Autonomous leadership.
Societies that were rated higher on uncertainty avoidance cultural values were associated with Self-protective, Team Oriented, and Humane Oriented leadership.
We also found that organizational cultural practices were influenced by societal culture. However, the importance of societal culture varied as a function of the industry type.
In 2014, we published the results of a study on 1000 CEOs from around the world. This study was designed to connect CEO leadership behavior and organizational effectiveness to the culturally endorsed leadership styles measured in 2004. This study showed that:
- Cultural values indirectly influence CEO leadership behavior. Specifically, culture directly influences the style of leadership desired and seen as effective in a society. Actual leadership behavior is subsequently shaped by these culturally desired/expected leadership styles.
- Leadership matters. More specifically, CEO leadership behavior is linked to organizational effectiveness. It affects the dedication (i.e., effort, commitment, and solidarity) of an organization’s top management team (TMT) as well as affects the organizations competitive performance.
- Charismatic leadership is the most impactful leadership behavior on TMT Dedication and organizational competitive performance. Team-Oriented behavior is the next most important leadership behavior.
- CEO leadership behavior is not the only predictor of effectiveness. CEOs need to be cognizant of and sensitive to the desired societal leadership style. Indeed, the most effective CEOs were those whose leadership behavior best matched the desired societal leadership style.
The GLOBE project continues today. We are actively working on the next phase of the project. To learn more about the GLOBE project and foundation, click here.
You can access the 2004 GLOBE leadership and culture questionnaires that we used in the quantitative study below along with the CORRECT syntax statements used to create the GLOBE scales here.