Thesis: Impacts of Culture on Leadership Style

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21st Century Leadership in Japan

Leadership has proved itself to be an interesting topic for researchers. Numerous investigators have studied leadership styles in different cultures, occupations, and organizational settings. While many studies have been developed in the Western contexts, Japan has received little research attention, other than Bass and Avolio's (1997) full-range leadership model which claims to be universal. The paper seeks to explore the leadership styles that are most applicable to today's Japanese society. The data was collected by the qualitative approach including literature reviews, questionnaires and focus group interviews with 52 Japanese workers. The results revealed that some of the traditional values in Japanese culture are currently in transition, and Bass and Avolio's (1997) full-range leadership model is not perfectly applicable to today's Japanese contexts. Findings suggest that, along with some of the transformational leadership approaches developed by Bass and Avolio (1997), Network, Protective and Social leadership approaches are also needed in Japanese culture-specific leadership. Implications have been discussed for leaders and followers who develop their leadership styles for a challenging future.

Chapter I

Introduction

This paper aims to identify the suitability of the well-known leadership approaches to a Japanese context. Principally, this research tries to determine the leadership styles that would be the most applicable to today's Japanese society. It will also attempt to examine the likely impact any culturally specific aspect of values has upon leadership preferences.

In this regard, this paper begins by discussing the background of the study as well as the general objective and aims of this research. Furthermore, the research questions to be answered will also be provided. This is followed by a literature review considering the general relationship between culture and leadership as well as Japanese culture and Bass and Avolio's (1997) full-range leadership model, and a description of the data collection methods employed. It then moves to present the results and offer discussion in relation to the four research questions defined below.

Problem Statement

Leadership is noted to be a well-documented topic in different nations. There are various authors that provide definitions of leaderships. This is because many scholars have dedicated their research to investigate the context of leadership. One of the most well-known leadership theories over the past decades would be Bass and Avolio's (1997) full-range leadership model. Although not many empirical studies have been conducted in Japan (e.g., Yokochi-Bryce, 1989), the full-range leadership model's proponents, particularly Bass (1997), see this model as universal. However, the theories developed by Bass and Avolio seem to be archetypal of the North-American bias. Given the cultural differences that exist (Hofstede, 2001), there may therefore be culture-specific aspects to leadership in Japan that are not covered by North American centered models.

In fact, some authors (Ayman, 1993; Dorfman, 1997) agreed that while the emergence of leadership approaches is widely accepted to be common in different cultures, the manners in which these styles have been operationalized are commonly observed as culturally specified. Unique cultural characteristics such as language, beliefs, values, religion, and social organization are generally presumed to necessitate distinct leadership approaches in different groups of nations. Therefore, there are some arguments that exist regarding the context of leadership styles across cultures, especially in western and eastern cultures, and Bass and Avolio's (1997) model might not be the best applicable to Japan.

Purpose of the Study

The insights regarding the leadership styles used in different nations have been considered one of the most important aspects in management. Because of the differences in cultures and aspects of social values, most countries implement a distinctive and unique leadership styles. Yet, Japanese politics have been characterized by the absence of strong political leadership. With a few exceptions, national leaders have been unable to maintain domestic support in recent years. As of January 2013, Japan has had seven prime ministers in the last 5 years and a total of 14 have cycled in and out of office in the past 20 years. Obviously, Japan has been struggling with a lack in leadership. This political instability has increasingly been reflected in Japan's policymaking, and is made all the more worrying by the immense domestic and international challenges that Japan is facing. It is said that strong leadership is required to deal with the world's most rapidly aging population, the largest debt of any major economy, and the greatest natural disaster to strike a technologically advanced country. Meanwhile, abroad, Japan needs to find ways to better respond to China's rise, a nuclear North Korea, and the challenges of an integrating East Asia.

The same challenge is given to corporations and individuals in Japan. I have personally witnessed many Japanese colleagues struggling with asserting and developing a leadership style that the company expects. During my 10 years at the foreign investment bank in Japan, we were often told to speak up more in meetings as a way of leadership. As an introvert, by nature, suffering from a severe lack of self-confidence, I remember siting in meeting after meeting and being unable to work up the courage to speak while doubting the value of my ideas and opinions. I often ended up upsetting myself when later in the meeting, someone would bring up exactly the same point I had failed to muster the courage to share. In fact, "moderate" is considered a virtue in my culture, so I resisted for many years to assert myself in the workplace, which did not help for my career. It is said that Japanese people do not like to be obtrusive and have a tendency to respect the harmony of the group over individualism. Yet, such characteristics may be resulting a lack of clear leadership in many situations of today's Japanese society.

Now, there is a social awareness of the necessity of strong leadership. However, the question for Japanese leaders, including myself, would be the definition of "strong" leadership needed in Japan.

Research Question

From the brief discussion above, the main objective of this research is to study how cultural differences affect leadership behaviours. In particular, the study aims to attain the following objectives:

1. To identify suitability of the well-known leadership approaches to a Japanese context

2. To suggest the most applicable leadership approaches to today's Japanese society

The aims of this research can therefore be summarized in the following research questions:

Central Question:

1. How suitable are well-known leadership approaches for a Japanese context?

Sub-Questions:

1. How does culture affect effectiveness of leadership styles?

2. What are the impacts of culture on leadership in a Japanese context?

3. What are the perceptions of the Japanese towards Bass and Avolio's leadership model?

4. Are there Japanese specific aspects of leadership, which are not covered by Bass and Avolio's leadership model?

Plan of the Research Study

This research study includes the investigation and analysis of existing secondary data regarding leadership styles as well as relationship between culture and leadership styles. The objectives of the study are to manage and organize the documented literature and review studies about the given subject. For this study, only the qualitative approach will be used. Although this study will focus on leadership styles, relevant literatures, research studies, and experiences of Japan and other countries may be included, as these resources are still relevant to the topic. To that extent, details and information can be gathered and collected from previous studies about leadership, journals, articles, books, published and unpublished reports and various Internet resources.

Chapter II

Literature Review

The focus of this research is on identifying the leadership styles that would be the most applicable to today's Japanese society, considering whether any culturally specific aspects of leadership can be identified. The purpose of this chapter is to review the body of literature relevant to findings of the correlation between leadership and culture. This chapter will be divided into various sections. The first section presents the "Full-Range Leadership Model" developed by Bass (1985) and Bass and Avolio (1997). This is one of the most well-known leadership theories of the past two decades. The next part of this section will review other researchers investigating the correlation between culture and leadership styles. Additionally, in the third section, the cultural description of Japan will be provided to analyze how the cultural dimensions are evidenced in the national characteristics that are related to the type of leadership norms most prevalent in Japan.

Section I: Full-Range Leadership Model

According to Kirkbride (2006) "The full range leadership model is probably the most researched and validated leadership model in use world wide today (pXXX)." The full range leadership model was developed by Bass's (1985) along with a measuring instrument for the same called "The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ)," which consists of five transformational leadership scales, three transactional leadership scales, and one non-leadership scale (see Table 1).

Table 1: Definitions of Bass and Avolio's Nine Leadership Scales

TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP

Idealized Influence Attributed

These leaders have the socialized charisma. They are perceived as being confident and powerful, and viewed as focusing on higher-order ideals and ethics. Followers admire, respect and trust these… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Impacts of Culture on Leadership Style."  Essaytown.com.  May 16, 2013.  Accessed March 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/impacts-culture-leadership-style/5466671.