Hierarchical Leadership VS Egalitarian Leadership in a multi-cultural society

Hierarchical Leadership VS Egalitarian Leadership in a Multi-cultural society

Japan, China, The United states, Germany and the Netherlands we all have different kind of leadership styles. The leadership style that you choose in multi-cultural businesses are critical for efficient and desired outcome of your business goals. This article describes two leadership styles hierarchical leadership and egalitarian leadership. As a leader or manager in a diverse cultural company it is from high importance to know how to manage these cultures. Implementing different leadership strategies are key to get your team on board and on the same level. Hierarchical leadership is compared with egalitarian leadership and after reading this article you should been provided with tips and tricks to lead different cultures in multinational companies.

Hierarchical leadership

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor hierarchy pictures

In figure 4.1 Erin Meyer states the positioning of Egalitarian leading style of nations and Hierarchal style. In the scale you can see that Poland, China and Korea are on the right side of the scale. The ideal distance between employees, managers and directors are high. These countries emphasize managers who have a strong presence. The managers take full responsibility for their actions and status is important. In hierarchical leadership the approach of leading is mainly via the Top-down approach. However, there are rare situations where nations or companies are hierarchical but use top down approach. As for instance China.  As seen as in the figure there are many nations who have a hierarchical leading style. When you are a manager or director in these kinds of countries you must adjust yourself towards this type of leader style. The employees of this nations demand and aspect such a kind of leadership and seen it as failure when you fail.

Leading scale

For example, a sales director of Heineken from Sweden moves to Japan to get the sales units up in Tokyo. The Swedish sales director made huge profits for Heineken in Sweden and was excited for his next step in Tokyo. He never managed a group of Japanese employees before. However, he was confident that his egalitarian leadership style that have had worked in Sweden for many years would been effective in Japan as well. His door was always open. In fact, he did not even have a door, so employees could always come in and have input for new creative ideas. Nevertheless, while he was working in Tokyo he founds the staff not innovative and the sales units decreased instead of increased in the first few months. The staff treated him as a king and called him Mr. President. This was something he was not used to and not comfortable with. The staff founded the new sales-director irresponsible and not clear in his directions and needs. This is an example where cross-culture management should be implemented well to create effective leadership. Because, of the fact the low-key and open-door policy leadership style worked for this director in his native country does not mean this style will succeed in another. To be fully successful in the global market you must consider the leadership style that is expected and most efficient for the team. In hierarchical leadership style countries the employees expect order and power distance. The manager or director tells clearly what they want from the employees. The employees will execute the task than the best. This leadership style is less creative and status is seen as very important. For instance, when having a business dinner with different kind of employees with different kind of nations who prefer hierarchy must sit with people from their same kind of level as expertise. Otherwise the dinner would not be effective. People can even get insulted if different kind of statuses are mixed together.

Characteristics egalitarian leadership style. Low power distance


Egalitarian leadership

On the left side of the scale in figure 4.1 egalitarian leadership countries are shown. As for instance the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia. The ideal distance between employees, managers and directors are low. These countries emphasize leaders with a low-key presence. They value leadership where every staff member can have their opinion. Communication does not have to go via the classified ladder as in Hierarchy leadership. As egalitarian leadership managers are taking responsibility for their actions as well they seem to see the workload more as a group effort. In many countries the decision style of egalitarian leadership is consensual. However, in countries as for instance the united states of American where they have an egalitarian leadership style their decision style is top-down [check out my next blog for more information about top-down and consensual decision styles]. Going back to Egalitarian leadership styles and their difficulties here is another example.

A Chinese marketing manager of Samsung is hired in the Netherlands to manage a new marketing campaign for a brand-new product. The Chinese manager targeted his groups in China very-well and is known as a strict but efficient leader. He is brought to the Netherlands to coordinate a group of Dutch employees and provide a clear marketing strategy for Samsung. After three weeks the Chinese marketing manager finds already difficulties managing his group. He finds the Dutch staff unmotivated, arrogant and rude. The Dutch employers sees their New manager as to strict, controlled and they feel their opinion is not valued. When a leader comes to an egalitarian leadership nation they must adjust to the culture of the country. As Dutch people do not like authority and prefer a flat organizational or better said horizontal structure the leader should anticipate on this cultural business aspect. Moreover, this will lead to more successful business. For this case, to a better marketing strategy for Samsung. Wrong leadership style will lead to mis understanding between staff and leaders. This resolves in conflict and lot of money and time is being missed.

To conclude, I would like to sum up a few traits of egalitarian leadership cultures and hierarchical leadership cultures. By this module you can determine yourself if a company culture is egalitarian or hierarchical.

General Traits of Egalitarian cultures General traits of Hierarchical cultures
Employees can disagree and discuss openly with their managers/leaders Employees can’t disagree and discuss openly with their bosses
Employees implement new processes without improve from their superiors Employees want to have their leaders approval before they implement new plans
You can approach employees from different kind of hierarchical levels You can not approach different employees of different kind of levels. Everything goes in a strict order. For instance, as you are a supervisor the Front-office Hotel in SO Sofitel Bangkok. You can not send directly an email to the General Manager. This should first be sent to your Front office manager.
When having client meetings every voice is heard. Ranking of the employees is not seen as important. Communication  follows the hierarchical chain

So now you know a little more about the two different leadership styles and even some characteristics. Working in cross-culture cultures is not easy and hopefully this provide you with some tools to become a global leader! Want to know more about cross-cultural management? Check out my previous blog to click on the link below!



Meyer, E. (2014). Culture Map. ingram services US.




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