This is a 500-word Journal article review, it needs to read the whole article carefully and answer the following 3 questions in 500 words in total. The theories are based on Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and Trompenaars’ cultural dimensions.
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Journal Article review requirements
The aim of this task is to encourage students to read and reflect on topics of interest, and to assess understanding and
knowledge acquired in key areas covered in the course. To complete this task, choose ONE JOURNAL ARTICLE from those
recommended in your course MGMT5602. The journal article could have been or could not have been discussed in class.
The intention is you to choose an article in which you have an interest or want to know more about!
Read and critically review the article in a summary of 500 words (+/- 10%), using the template provided to write you review.
The template will ensure that you include the required information. Ensure that you submit the review on time via Moodle.
Your summary should identify:
The title and author of the article, and reason(s) for selecting the article;
What you have learned from it (key theories, principles, frameworks etc.);
What aspects will be most useful to you (or others) when working or living in cross-cultural or global contexts (or you
may also wish to comment on what aspects are not so useful);
Examples of how you (or other in International Business and Management) might apply the knowledge to manage
cross-cultural issues (even if hypothetically).
Harvard Business Review
Being the Boss in Brussels,
Boston, and Beijing
by Erin Meyer
FROM THE JULY-AUGUST 2017 ISSUE
ultural differences in leadership styles often create unexpected misunderstandings.
Americans, for example, are used to thinking of the Japanese as hierarchical
while considering themselves egalitarian. Yet the Japanese find Americans confusing to
deal with. Although American bosses are outwardly egalitarian-encouraging
subordinates to use first names and to speak up in meetings-they seem to the Japanese to be
extremely autocratic in the way they make decisions. As a Japanese manager living in the United
States and working for Mitsubishi put it: “I couldn’t figure out how to adapt my approach from one
day to the next, because the culture was so contradictory and puzzling.”
Problems like this manager’s are widespread. In many years of researching, consulting, and teaching
executives and managers in hundreds of global companies, I’ve found that it’s common for people
from different countries to grapple with mutual incomprehension. Often that’s because managers
fail to distinguish between two important dimensions of leadership culture.
The first of these is the one we’re most familiar with: authority. How much attention do we pay to
the rank or status of a person, and how much respect and deference do we pay to that status? On this
dimension, the Japanese are clearly more hierarchical than Americans. The positions are reversed,
however, when we look at the second dimension: decision making. Who calls the shots, and how?
Does the boss decide, or does the team decide collectively? On this dimension, which is often
overlooked, the Japanese are more consensual than Americans.
The management approach that works in
Lagos won’t be as effective in Stockholm.
Approaches to authority and decision making are not the only ways in which cultures differ, but they
are arguably the most important in the leadership context. And if international managers confound
the two, they will make mistakes in adapting their leadership styles to the cultures and situations at
hand. (For a more general treatment of cultural differences, take a look at my May 2014 HBR article,
“Navigating the Cultural Minefield.”)
In this article, I explore the two dimensions and how they affect global leadership effectiveness,
focusing particularly on how attitudes toward decision making impact global teamwork. I conclude
by mapping selected cultures along both dimensions and comparing the resulting expectations
about the role of the leader.
Attitudes Toward Authority
Over the past century, the biggest leadership trend in the U.S. and parts of Western Europe has been
the abandoning of hierarchical management processes for a more facilitative, egalitarian approach.
Command-and-control has been replaced with empowerment. Managers have been trained to stop
telling their employees what to do and instead move to “management by objective,” open-door
policies, and 360-degree feedback. Early on, addressing the boss by first name rather than title
became the norm. Company hierarchy further dissolved when the CEO began “management by
walking around,” having impromptu discussions with people at all levels without even letting their
supervisors know. Then the corner office yielded to open-plan spaces. Since most management
literature and research still come out of the U.S., business school education has largely reinforced
But attitude toward authority is one of the most striking points of difference across cultures. In
Nigeria a child learns to kneel or even lie down as a sign of respect when an elder enters the room. In
Sweden a student calls her teachers by their first names and, without implying any disrespect, feels
free to contradict them in front of her classmates. Unsurprisingly, the management approach that
works in Lagos will not get the best results in Stockholm.
Understanding this disconnect is important. In general, the greatest business opportunities lie in the
big emerging economies, which include Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, and Turkey. In
nearly every case, these are cultures where hierarchy and deference to authority are deeply woven
into the national psyche. The management orthodoxy of pushing authority down in the organization
does not fit easily into the emerging-market context and often trips up Western companies on their
first ventures abroad.
Take the case of an American firm I worked with two years ago. I’ll call it Chill Factor, as it delivers
innovative cooling solutions to consumers and small businesses. For the previous 15 years, Chill
Factor had been training its employees in the latest egalitarian leadership methods, encouraging
low-level workers to show initiative, while teaching the bosses to leave their doors open, accept
360-degree feedback, and set objectives rather than issue edicts. Additionally, the business had set
up the flattest organizational structure possible. This progressive culture helped the company
attract talent and keep employees inspired and engaged. The entire workforce was humming with
creativity and innovation.
After decades of success in the U.S., Chill Factor took a big jump and negotiated a joint venture with a
company in Hangzhou, China. But within weeks the Chill Factor managers were complaining about
the lack of initiative shown by their Chinese staff. As one manager related to me:
My Chinese employees don’t see it as their job to have ideas or make suggestions to their leaders. They
just follow instructions. Subordinates do not volunteer solutions but simply present problems. Their
measure of success is to do what they are told, when they are told, and to do it well. But I expect them to
produce new ideas and to give the bosses information so that we can make the best decisions for the
benefit of the business.
In a session with a group of American executives and a dozen of their Chinese colleagues, I asked the
Chinese managers to work as a small group and give advice to the Americans about how to handle
their Chinese staff more effectively. They huddled and then presented their recommendations:
Because Chill Factor now wants to succeed in China, we hope our American colleagues could kindly
make some changes:
1. Before attending a meeting with your staff, prepare more ideas for yourself
2. Be more specific with directions to your employees.
3. Have your own plan before allocating work to your subordinates.
The American managers were dumbfounded and asked for elaboration. “The most surprising
comment from our Chinese colleagues,” one Chill Factor executive later explained, “was that we
were perceived not just as incompetent but as arrogant, because we didn’t take the time to explain
to our staff carefully and in detail what we wanted them to do and how.” It was a valuable learning
moment for this firm, which began to pull back on some of the egalitarian practices that it had so
long taken for granted as the best approach.
Of course, those who already have some international experience might not be surprised that
Chinese managers defer to their bosses and that American attitudes toward status don’t travel well.
But understanding differences in attitudes toward hierarchy and status, as we’ve noted, isn’t the
Attitudes Toward Decision Making
Many executives and managers assume that in more-hierarchical societies, decisions will be made at
the top by the boss, and in more-egalitarian cultures, decisions will be reached by group consensus.
Yet on a worldwide scale, we find that hierarchies and decision-making methods are not always
The U.S. is a striking example. American business culture has become more and more egalitarian
over recent decades, but consensual decision making is clearly not the norm. American companies
favor quick and flexible decisions, so decision-making power is vested in the individual (usually the
boss). With a disdain for “analysis paralysis” and a belief that “any decision is better than no
decision,” the American manager may solicit input from his or her team but ultimately is the one to
make the final determination. And in most cases, the team members not only are fine with this but
expect it. The U.S. can thus be described as an egalitarian culture where decisions are made topdown.
In top-down decision-making cultures (India, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, and Russia are other
examples), decisions are made quickly, but they are subject to change as new input or arguments
arise. When people in these cultures say they’ve reached a decision, the decision is not a firm
commitment but a placeholder that can later be adjusted.
Contrast that with what happens in Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, and Sweden. If you’ve
collaborated with companies in those countries, you might have noticed that a lot of people seem to
be involved in the decision-making process, and it takes a long time to negotiate group agreement.
However, once a decision gets made, implementation is surprisingly quick, because details and
stakeholders were aligned while consensus was being reached. In these consensual cultures, it’s as if
the word “Decision” has a capital “D,” representing a commitment that can’t (and shouldn’t) be easily
If groups reach decisions in different ways, be explicit
about the process.
Either system can work well, and both have their advantages. Small “d” top-down decision making is
particularly suited to industries where the pace of change is fast and speed to market trumps
product perfection. Big “D” consensual cultures are great for industries where development
timelines are long and perfection of the product is essential. It’s perhaps no surprise that two big “D”
cultures-Germany and Japan-are among the world’s greatest carmanufacturing nations.
Problems arise, however, when members of a single team have different norms of behavior. What
happens, say, when a consensual big “D” Japanese company acquires a top-down small “d” American
business? This was exactly the situation when Suntory became the majority shareholder in Beam
(maker of Jim Beam whiskey). The success of this acquisition reveals some useful strategies for
navigating safely through big “D”/small “d” collaboration.
As is the tradition in Japan, Suntory managers used a consensual big “D” system of decision making.
One of them explained:
In Suntory the management structure is hierarchical, but decisions are most often made by group
consensus. Mid-level managers discuss a proposal among themselves and come to a consensus before
presenting it to managers one level higher. The next-higher-ranking managers then discuss the
proposal themselves and come also to an agreement. If they collectively believe in the initiative, they
pass it on for approval at the next level, until it gets to the top.
Two words define this consensual process, so common in Japanese companies. The first is
nemawashi-the practice of speaking with each individual stakeholder before a meeting in order to
shape the group decision and develop agreement in advance. The second is ringi, which involves
passing a proposal around level by level, starting at the bottom and then working through the layers
of middle and senior management before arriving at the top.
This system works beautifully, provided everyone understands and follows it. The problems at
Suntory and Beam arose because managers on one side didn’t understand how managers on the
other side made decisions. The experience of one American manager from Beam provides a nice
There was a problem and a decision had to be made, which required a trip to Japan. The Japanese
director in charge would be present, so I thought this would be the perfect moment to impact his
direction. I prepared some slides for a meeting, along with my proposal. During the meeting, it became
apparent that the decision had already been made by the group beforehand and was different from my
proposal. Trying to discuss and convince during the meeting had no effect at all.
Learning the approach of the other culture and adapting accordingly is obviously important.
Through trial and error and by asking questions, the Beam manager came to see that his
assumptions about how and when decisions would get made was entirely a result of his experience
working in the U.S. Over time, he learned to give his input much earlier at Suntory. But if you’re
managing the collaboration of two groups with different systems for reaching decisions, being
flexible and adapting your individual style are not enough. You must also be explicit about the
process of decision making. Define whether decisions will be made by consensus or by the boss.
Establish whether 100% agreement is needed. Clarify whether a deadline for the decision is
necessary and, if one is set, how much flexibility there will be for changes afterward.
Consider the case of a German-American collaboration I worked on. Early in the project, team
members from both countries discussed a major decision ahead of a meeting with the company’s big
boss in the U.S. The team formed a point of view, and everyone seemed united on it. But during the
actual meeting, after a very short discussion, the boss announced her decision, which ran counter to
the team’s recommendation. The Americans all agreed with the boss without a word of pushback.
The German team members, however, were deeply unhappy about this turn of events, concluding
not only that the American boss was arrogant but also that their American colleagues were twofaced.
Of course, these perceptions weren’t exactly helping the relationships among the team members. But
the situation became particularly fraught when it came to the meaning of the word “decision.” One
German team member explained:
At the end of a short meeting the boss would announce, “Great! We have a decision “For a German,
when you say “We will do this,” it is a promise. You can’t just change your mind casually tomorrow. So
we Germans would spend days working on the implementation. And then one of the Americans would
call us up and casually mention that we were taking another direction, or the boss would show us more
data suggesting a different path.
For the first several months of collaboration, the Germans could not shake the feeling that their
American teammates were disingenuous. One manager spoke to his American boss about the
situation, and the conversation was illuminating for both of them. The German commented, “I then
understood that for an American, a decision is simply an agreement to continue discussions. And if
you are American, you understand that. But for a German, who considers a decision a final
commitment to march forward on a plan, this can cause a lot of confusion.”
In a consensual, egalitarian culture, the boss won’t
jump in and decide.
To get the collaboration on track, the two leaders organized an off-site retreat. The team members
discussed their assumptions about how decisions should get made and what the word “decision”
means in each of their cultures. They developed a system for collectively arriving at decisions and
determining how flexible those would be, using the big “D”/small “d” distinction. In subsequent
meetings, an American might be heard to say, “Great! Decision made!” only to pause and clarify,
“Decision with a small ‘d,’ that is. We still need to run this by our colleagues at home, so don’t start
working on it yet.” With the cultural difference brought to the surface and acknowledged, the
collaboration took off.
The Four Cultures of Leadership
Making a clear distinction between attitudes toward authority (from hierarchical to egalitarian) and
attitudes toward decision making (from top-down to consensual) goes a long way in helping leaders
become more effective in a global context. It turns out that countries are quite broadly scattered
across the two dimensions, as you can see from the exhibit “Mapping Leadership Cultures,” which
plots the positions of 19 countries within four quadrants. Let’s look at the main expectations people
have of leaders in each quadrant.
Mapping Leadership Cultures
Attitudes toward decision making can range along a continuum from strongly top-down to strongly consensual;
attitudes toward authority can vary from extremely egalitarian to extremely hierarchical. The positions for the 19
countries shown on this map were determined from interviews conducted between 2003 and 2016.
Consensual and egalitarian: Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden
Early in my career, I worked as the only non-Dane on an eight-person team. As an egalitarian
American, I thought it was great when my boss told me that decisions would be made by consensus.
But then the e-mails started. First from him: “Hey, team, for the annual face-to-face in December, I
thought we would focus on being more client-centric. What do you think?” Then from a team
member: “Hi, Per. Great idea. But wouldn’t it be better to focus the meeting on how to market our
services more successfully?” And from someone else: “I think it would be most effective to have
presentations from all team members about their individual client strategies.” And then everyone
began sending responses to one another, ending with: “Erin, we haven’t heard from you. What do
you think?” Consensual decision making sounds like a great idea in principle, but people from
fundamentally nonconsensual cultures can find the reality frustratingly time-consuming.
If you are to thrive in this quadrant, therefore, you need to go in with the following approach to
• Expect the decision making to take longer and to involve more meetings and correspondence.
• Do your best to demonstrate patience and commitment throughout the process, even when
diverging opinions lead to lengthy ongoing discussions.
• Don’t expect the boss to jump in and decide for the group. The boss is a facilitator, not the decider.
• Resist the temptation to push for a quick resolution. Take the time to ensure that the decision you
make is the best one possible, because it will be difficult to change later.
Consensual and hierarchical: Belgium, Germany, Japan
A French director of Deutsche Bank once told me: “When I moved to Germany, I was aware that both
our cultures are rather hierarchical. So I continued to make decisions as I would have in France,
which was basically-after some good debate-to tell the group what I’d decided, even when I knew
many people had opposing opi …
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