by Robert House, Paul Hanges, Mansour Javid, eds.
How many of us have attempted to teach modern management techniques in another culture only to find nationals invariably returning to their accustomed norms and practices?
Sage Publication, 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA, 2004, 848 pages, $130.00.
—Reviewed by Steve M. Irvin, C&MA missionary, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
How many of us have attempted to teach modern management techniques in another culture only to find nationals invariably returning to their accustomed norms and practices? The GLOBE study reveals how culture influences practices of planning, decision-making and leadership in sixty-two societies, offering to the missions community an unprecedented source of research findings to apply to the task of cross-cultural leadership and leadership development.
Compiled by 170 scholars over a 10-year period, GLOBE analyzes cultures in relation to nine broad cultural attributes termed “dimensions.” These dimensions include, among others, power distance (the social distance that followers expect between themselves and their leaders), collectivism (the degree to which individuals are tied to strong in-groups) and future orientation (the degree to which planning for the future is encouraged).
GLOBE helps readers understand: (1) why in some cultures leaders are privileged, while in other cultures leaders are considered to be equal to the followers; (2) why some cultures prefer direct communication, and others prefer more indirect, subtle communication; and (3) why some cultures strive to plan and eliminate uncertainty, while other cultures seem to just “go with the flow.”
In addition to the cultural dimensions, GLOBE develops a leadership profile for each society in relation to six leadership behaviors. Although each culture has its distinct leadership profile, two of the behaviors are identified universally as desirable: charismatic/value-based leadership (demonstrated by the leader’s integrity and inspirational attributes) and team-oriented leadership.
GLOBE is an intimidating tome of more than eight hundred pages jammed with statistical analyses and theoretical overviews that can make even the most academically prone think twice before wading into it. It is best used as a reference book to access specific findings on items of interest, beginning with the dimension scores of each country. The societies studied are grouped into clusters (e.g., the Latin America cluster), allowing for generalization to some countries that are not included in the study (e.g., Peru and Chile).
Many missionaries will question the validity of conducting cultural studies on a country level. The relationship between cultural “values” and “practices” as defined in GLOBE is sometimes confusing and does not seem beneficial. I was disappointed that only one chapter was dedicated to the leadership profiles. The next phase of GLOBE, due out in 2007, promises to focus on this area. Nevertheless, GLOBE is a valuable resource for students, missions professors and field missionaries wrestling with the ever-present need for leadership development.
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