Is Great Leadership Culture Independent?

There’s a very interesting post over on the HBR blogs on Leading Across Borders that suggests that if you want to get it right, you don’t change a thing. The author, who has managed in India, the U.S., Europe, and Asia, states that while he was always advised that you don’t live in <blank> anymore, and the quicker you figure out the differences, the better, experience taught him that their warnings were totally misguided.

The author states that regardless of geographic location or culture, what drives people to the highest level of engagement is innately human and universal and that great leadership looks the same wherever you are because the most effective executives are the ones who draw energy from a clear sense of purpose and a set of deeply held personal values. Furthermore, they also energize their employees by ensuring that their expectations about three overarching elements of work — the natoure of the role, the work environment, and their professional development (RED) — are in line with the organization’s purpose. (In fact, the blog post author wrote a book on this theme: Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders.)

It’s a very interesting post, esepcially when he draws the similarities between Tony Fernandes, founder of Air Asia, and Howard Schultz, founder and CEO of Starbucks, and their companies and how similar styles have led to success. I think I agree with the first commenter though — the what is definitely the same across cultures, the “how” probably does varie with local norms and values. For example, in Japan, the “role” is very dependent upon what the “group” wants, but in America, the “role” is very depndent upon what the boss wants. The environment needs to be very well defined in some eastern cultures, but can be wild west in some western cultures. And professional development desires vary too. Some people want to become “manager” as soon as possible to impress the future father-in-law, and some just want to cut code until the day they croak. It’s definitely worth reading and thinking about as you transition to a global operation in your quest to be a true Next Level Supply Management organization.