Cultural expectations and leadership

Read an article about the different cultural expectations of a leader to practise and improve your reading skills.

Instructions

Do the preparation task first. Then read the text and do the exercises.

Reading text

Gabriela worked for a multinational company as a successful project manager in Brazil and was transferred to manage a team in Sweden. She was excited about her new role but soon realised that managing her new team would be a challenge.

Despite their friendliness, Gabriela didn't feel respected as a leader. Her new staff would question her proposals openly in meetings, and when she gave them instructions on how to carry out a task, they would often go about it in their own way without checking with her. When she announced her decisions on the project, they would continue giving their opinions as if it was still up for discussion.

After weeks of frustration, Gabriela emailed her Swedish manager about the issues she was facing with her team. Her manager simply asked her if she felt her team was still performing, and what she thought would help her better collaborate with her team members. Gabriela found her manager vague and didn't feel as if he was managing the situation satisfactorily.

What Gabriela was experiencing was a cultural clash in expectations. She was used to a more hierarchical framework where the team leader and manager took control and gave specific instructions on how things were to be done. This more directive management style worked well for her and her team in Brazil but did not transfer well to her new team in Sweden, who were more used to a flatter hierarchy where decision making was more democratic. When Gabriela took the issue to her Swedish manager, rather than stepping in with directions about what to do, her manager took on the role of coach and focused on getting her to come up with her own solutions instead.

Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede uses the concept of 'power distance' to describe how power is distributed and how hierarchy is perceived in different cultures. In her previous work environment, Gabriela was used to a high power distance culture where power and authority are respected and everyone has their rightful place. In such a culture, leaders make the big decisions and are not often challenged. Her Swedish team, however, were used to working in a low power distance culture where subordinates often work together with their bosses to find solutions and make decisions. Here, leaders act as coaches or mentors who encourage independent thought and expect to be challenged.

When Gabriela became aware of the cultural differences between her and her team, she took the initiative to have an open conversation with them about their feelings about her leadership. Pleased to be asked for their thoughts, Gabriela's team openly expressed that they were not used to being told what to do. They enjoyed having more room for initiative and creative freedom. When she told her team exactly what she needed them to do, they felt that she didn't trust them to do their job well. They realised that Gabriela was taking it personally when they tried to challenge or make changes to her decisions, and were able to explain that it was how they'd always worked.

With a better understanding of the underlying reasons behind each other's behaviour, Gabriela and her team were able to adapt their way of working. Gabriela was then able to make adjustments to her management style so as to better fit the expectations of her team and more effectively motivate her team to achieve their goals.

Discussion

Download
Worksheet86.47 KB

Language level

Do you need to improve your English reading skills?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English reading skills with our online courses.
No votes yet

Submitted by GabeV. on Tue, 11/10/2022 - 19:34

Permalink

I believe this error is very common. This happens because sometimes the managers are not prepared to face a complete different culture. To deal with this correctly it is necessery that manager studies the culture of the contry and of the company.

PS: tell me if i wrote something wrong. I am trying get better my writing skills

Hi GabeV,

Thanks for your comment! We don't generally correct language use in comments, but if you have a specific question, feel free to ask it and we'll do our best to respond :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nour Jrad on Thu, 08/09/2022 - 13:58

Permalink

I think a manager should identify the kind of team in order to obtain the better of each one member, because if he is going to take decision based on the hierarchy it is not going to end good a manager has to be ready to learn new things from his team members because its a way to success

Submitted by ze-lal on Wed, 10/08/2022 - 07:27

Permalink

I think every company and team work job have the capacity to accept and hear the idea of each member. Through this process they feel important and efficient.

Submitted by ricardomunoz2703 on Tue, 26/07/2022 - 11:34

Permalink

Thanks for this reading.
I think a leader have to be the capacity to adapt to the people and culture. For instance. It depends of the knowlegde and experience have the person how he/she is managing. If there is an internship he/she has to teach how to work but if it is people who knows how to perform their jobs, I think the manager have to be more democratic and coach. At the same time It is important that the manager could set up his/her approach to be successfull.

Submitted by Birema 2020 on Tue, 28/06/2022 - 08:19

Permalink

I think managers need to understand the difference between employers and flow each of the management styles' expectations in a high-power distance culture or a lower-power distance culture, because for each style, there are various methodologies that should be applied. for instance, hierarchy is more likely to to fit with low power distance culture. However, a democratic system can fit with a high power distance culture because the manager does not have to be vague and employers are expected to not falter.

Submitted by AL ZARA on Tue, 31/05/2022 - 11:26

Permalink

In my opinion, no matter what is the culture and how it is different, the manager has to show his control to the team. if the manager become in control that does not mean there is no trust between the manager and the employees. in fact, it will be easy to the manager to manage anything and manage his people. not all employee are the same some people have to be under control otherwise manager will suffer from their attitudes.

Submitted by Imma-1 on Thu, 05/05/2022 - 09:44

Permalink

In my opinion the role of a manager is to get the best out of his employees and help them release their creativity and great powers. A good manager is a good leader who works with his employees not lets them work for him.

Submitted by Corentin on Wed, 19/01/2022 - 12:35

Permalink

I think that the manager must ensure that the final goal I well complete. He has to support his team, with different strategy, to finish the objective. I think that manager should trust his team to leave them liberty and know when his team need help.