Leadership styles in multicultural groups: Americans and East Asians working together.

Topic: Leadership Communication

Authors, Title and Publication

Aritz, J., & Walker, R. C. (2014). Leadership styles in multicultural groups: Americans and East Asians working together. Journal of Business Communication51(1), 72-92.


The global economy has created new realities for businesses, and the need for understanding differing communication practices and cultural values is greater than ever, particularly with regard to the surging economies in the East. Working in multicultural work groups is a new workplace reality that has created a greater need to understand how to lead these groups to maximize their quality and effectiveness. Cultural differences exist regarding the importance and value of leadership. Still, much remains to be understood as to how culture influences leadership and organizational processes. This article addresses two questions: 1) To what extent do cultural forces influence the expectations that individuals have for leaders and their behavior? 2) What principles of leadership and organizational processes transcend cultures?

The study uses a discursive approach to understand how different leadership styles affect group member interaction in multicultural groups involving participants from American and East Asian cultures. An attitude survey was administered to 146 participants, and transcript analysis was conducted to interpret the qualitative data. The results demonstrate that differing discursive leadership styles can affect the participation and contribution of members and may affect their feelings of inclusion and satisfaction within the group. It also provides evidence that particular styles of, and approaches to leadership may not be as successful with all cultural groups. For example, the cooperative style of leadership generated more balanced participation and contributions among East Asian participants, since it better reflected the values of consideration and respect for others. In contrast, the directive style was seen as too aggressive, and given the fact that language proficiency might be another obstacle to equal participation in decision making, this style prevented Asian participants from being equal partners in decision making.

Implications for Practice

Four implications are important for organizations and leaders: 1) There is no one-size-for-all leadership style that works for every cultural group. 2) In multicultural work groups, leaders should understand the unique cultural norms of each ethnicity group and adjust their leadership styles. 3) Organizations and leaders should develop greater cultural sensitivity in this globalized workplace. 4) Organizations should invest in cross-cultural leadership communication training to equip leaders with effective communication skills and relevant knowledge.

Location of Article

The article is available online at: The article is available online at: http://job.sagepub.com/content/51/1/72.full.pdf


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