Proceedings of 8th Asian Business Research Conference

Proceedings of 8th Asian Business Research Conference
1 - 2 April 2013, Bangkok, Thailand, ISBN: 978-1-922069-20-7
Cultural Challenges to Leadership: Work Values in China,
Finland and India
Vesa Routamaa*
This paper compares the relationships between work values in the Chinese,
Finnish and Indian contexts, and provides insights to those professionals who
are attempting to adjust to a new culture and seeking success at working across
cultural boundaries. The cultures of the countries concerned are conceptualized
based on Hofstede’s dimensions. Work goal values are compared to illustrate
possible differences of attitudes and motivation to work. The top rankings of
work values were compared in cultures concerned and using factor analysis,
Maslow’s need hierarchy of the work values in each culture was formed. Based
on the need structures, the demands on situational leadership in each culture
were interpreted. Different emphases of the needs explain situational leadership
challenges in the cultures concerned. The differences found between the
cultures give managers and expatriates tips of how to apply situational
leadership properly in foreign cultures or multicultural domestic environments.
Field of research: Cultures, Work Values, Situational Leadership
1. Introduction
Along with globalization, value types and values from a cross-cultural perspective have
awakened great interest in recent years (e.g. Abramson & Inglehart, 1995; Hofstede, 1980,
1991; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Schwartz, 1992, 1994; Schwartz & Bardi, 1997; Schwartz &
Ros, 1995; Smith & Schwartz, 1997; Inglehart, 1997; Triandis, 1990; Routamaa, Hautala &
Mohsin 2007; Routamaa & Hautala 2008; Routamaa, Hautala & Tsuzuki 2010a; Routamaa,
Hautala & Tsuzuki 2010b; etc.).
Tylor (1871) defined culture as “that complex whole that includes knowledge, beliefs, art,
laws, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”.
Fundamental webs of culture constitute patterned ways of thinking, acting, feeling, and
interpreting (see e.g. Kluckhohn 1951, p.86; Ting-Toomey, 1985, p.75). As Hofstede (1984,
p.21) defines it, culture is “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the
members of one human group from another”. Ronen (1986, p.18) sees culture as “the frame
of reference” of individuals, and Harris and Moran (1987, p.102) discuss the “mental
frameworks” which groups, organizations and nations develop. The more individuals conform
with each other in terms of background variables such as nationality, education and sex, the
more likely it is that they perceive their social environment similarly, and in that way share the
same subjective culture (Hofstede 1984). Dealing with values here, the subjective culture is of
special interest over the objective culture, which is composed of a more concrete
infrastructure (cf. Routamaa & Pollari 1998).
* Prof. Vesa Routamaa, Department of Management, University of Vaasa, Finland
Proceedings of 8th Asian Business Research Conference
1 - 2 April 2013, Bangkok, Thailand, ISBN: 978-1-922069-20-7
Hofstede‟s definition referring to the collective programming is a good frame of reference in
which to analyze values in a cultural context. Studying work-related values at the societal
level, Hofstede (1984) identified four dimensions. Power distance can be defined as the
extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country
expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. Individualism pertains to societies in
which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after himself or
herself and his or her immediate family. Collectivism as its opposite, pertains to societies in
which people are integrated into strong, cohesive groups from birth, which throughout their
lifetimes continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. Uncertainty
avoidance is defined as the extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by
uncertain or unknown situations. This feeling can be expressed through nervous stress and a
need for predictability for example, by a need for written and unwritten rules. Masculinity
pertains to societies in which social gender roles are clearly distinct, and femininity pertains to
societies in which social gender roles overlap. (Hofstede, 1991, p.23-158) Also a fifth
dimension, long-term versus short-term orientation, has been identified in a survey with the
Chinese Value Survey instrument carried out by M. H. Bond (Hofstede, 1993), which could
be of great use if some comparative data across countries were employed. In high uncertainty
avoidance cultures, in organizations the concern is with long term rather than short-run
In spite of the criticism (see e.g. Spector, Cooper & Sparks, 2001; Hofstede, 2002; Spector &
Cooper, 2002), Hofstede‟s studies and cultural dimensions serve the understanding of cultural
differences well. Different cultural contexts may also explain the differences of values of
different countries. Culture, “software of the mind” or “collective programming”, as Hofstede
puts it, may affect our values. However, as Routamaa and Pollari (1998) find, the mutual
relationships between values and personality types may be fairly similar in each culture. They
also find that cultural background affects leadership style. In the masculine culture, the
average manager may favor more dedicated, benevolent autocratic behavior.
Correspondingly, the feminine culture with its negotiating and compromising practices refers
to integrated, even related styles. However, the leadership style differences between
personality types were similar in both cultures except that they were more task oriented in the
masculine culture. Accordingly, a similar relationship between culture, values and personality
types may be assumed.
“Software of the mind” functions as a filter when people interpret what kind of work values
they emphasize. This paper compares the work values in Chinese, Finnish and Indian
contexts in order to find out what kind of needs there are adapt situational leadership in
different cultural contexts.
Next, the study compares China, Finland and India which represent the cultures concerned
here, in relation to Hofstede‟s cultural dimensions and based on Hofstede‟s (1984) results,
and the differences will be characterized to the extent they are relevant to potential work
value differences.
Proceedings of 8th Asian Business Research Conference
1 - 2 April 2013, Bangkok, Thailand, ISBN: 978-1-922069-20-7
2. Cultural Differences between China, Finland and India
Comparison of power distance and masculinity dimensions between China, Finland and India
reveals that both are higher in China and India compared to Finland. Finland is characterized
by a small-power distance, and feminism. In the individualism-collectivism dimension, China
represents high collectivism; Finland is in the individualism cluster whereas individualism is
near to the world average in India. Uncertainty avoidance is higher in Finland compared to
China and India. (See Table 1). In feminine cultures, the preference for resolving conflicts is
compromise and negotiation. In masculine cultures, there is a feeling that a good fight should
resolve conflicts: Let the best man win (Hofstede, 1991, p.92). In feminine cultures a
humanized job gives more opportunities for mutual help and social contacts. The masculine
leadership culture is assertive, decisive, „aggressive‟, and a decision-maker is looking for
facts rather more than a group-discussion leader. The management in a feminine culture is
less visible, more intuitive than decisive and more consensus seeking than the counterpart in
a masculine culture (Hofstede 1991, p.94). In weak uncertainty avoidance, masculine cluster,
achievement and esteem are typical whereas security and belongingness are typical of strong
uncertainty avoidance, feminine cluster (Hofstede 1991, p.125).
On the power distance and uncertainty avoidance dimension, Finland is in the cluster of
small-power distance and strong uncertainty-avoidance, whereas China and India are in the
cluster of large-power distance and weaker uncertainty avoidance. The old caste system and
nearly 200 years under British rule has affected power distance in India, and maybe the Mao
time in China. Countries with strong uncertainty avoidance but small power distance have
organizations like the well-oiled machine model, the activities are structured without
concentrating the authority. In the large-power distance, weak-uncertainty-avoidance
countries, a family organization with an omnipotent owner-manager is characteristic; so a
concentration of authority without structuring of activities may be observed (Hofstede 1991, p.
Table 1. A Comparison of Hofstede´s Cultural Dimensions
Between China, Finland and India.
Cultural dimensions
Power distance
Under medium
High collectivism
Quite high
Uncertainty avoidance
Under average
Under average
It may be noted, however, that India is a country of various cultures, religions and over three
hundred languages. That is, the stresses of cultural dimensions may vary a lot in different
Proceedings of 8th Asian Business Research Conference
1 - 2 April 2013, Bangkok, Thailand, ISBN: 978-1-922069-20-7
regions. For this reason, maybe, the dimensions in Table 1 have got quite moderate, in a way
average grades. It may be noted, however, that in-group collectivism is high even though
institutional collectivism is in the midrange (see House, Hanges, Mansour, Dorfman and
Gupta 2004). Families with more than two generations form the basic unit of Indian society.
Concerning uncertainty avoidance, one difference between Finland, China and India is
religion. Presumably, many religions in India may give better trust to the future than
Lutheranism, national church in Finland, mostly based on quasi-membership without genuine
faith. Concerning China, religion is also different and the culture is manifold but the
dimensions in Table 1 represent an assessment well enough.
3. Work Values
In accordance with Hofstede‟s “social programming”, values are also seen as “abstract
social cognitions” that help people‟s adaptation to the environment (Claxton & McIntyre,
1996). According to Comte, value consensus is usually defined as concurrence among
members of a society concerning their values (Comte, cited by Partridge, 1971; see Schwartz
& Sagie, 2000).
The work goal values indicate which goals are important in an ideal job. The goals concern,
for example, using of skills, challenges and contribution, work content, working relations,
recognition, career opportunities, security, earnings, work conditions, company prestige,
benefits, serving one‟s country, etc. Actually, the work goals presented by Vunderink &
Hofstede (1998) are a lot in line with Maslow‟s need hierarchy. As mentioned above, values
in cultural context have been studied quite a lot. But work values have not been an object of
so many studies. However, leadership in foreign cultures, or leading multi-cultural staff in
domestic organizations requires knowledge of work value differences in order to apply
appropriate leadership style.
Using Hofstede‟s Value Survey Module, Singh (1990) found in India that variations in power
distance were related to preferred and perceived style of the superior, in uncertainty
avoidance to stress at work and employment stability, in individualism to the importance of
cooperative colleagues and desirable area for living, and in masculinity to cooperative
colleagues, and opportunities for earning and advancement. Finally, the results show that
different dimensions have varying degrees of stability. In the context of the Thai Socio-cultural
system, Komin (1990) found that for the Thai, task achievement value is usually inhibited by
social relationship values. However, for the lower class of Thai society, like farmers and
skilled workers, work values are more oriented towards hard work as there is only a small
chance that their work would be in conflict with relations. However, his study was more
concentrated on the general values than work values dealt with here. Jaw, Ling, Yu-Ping
Wang & Chang (2007) assessed the impact of cultural values (Confucian dynamism,
individualism, masculinity, and power distance) on work values (self-enhancement,
contribution to society, stability and rewards, openness to change, and power and status).
They found that cultural values plays a major role in differentiating work values, especially the
role of Confucian dynamism in Chinese context. In their model, Confucian dynamism, instead
of masculinity or individualism, enhances emphasis on self-enhancement. According to them,
it is likely that while in the west, masculinity and individualism enhance self-enhancement, in
the Chinese society, Confucian dynamism acts as main drivers for self-enhancement,
Proceedings of 8th Asian Business Research Conference
1 - 2 April 2013, Bangkok, Thailand, ISBN: 978-1-922069-20-7
openness to change, stability and security, and contribution to society. Using Vunderink &
Hofstede‟s (1998) questionnaire, Routamaa, Hautala & Mohsin (2007) and Routamaa &
Hautala (2008) found strong relationship between cultures and work values comparing
Finland and Pakistan.
Iguisi (2009) compared work values in four European countries (France, Italy, Netherlands
and Scotland) and one African (Nigeria) country through survey questionnaire in order to
answer the research question whether the results could help to explain the disappointing
economic development of African countries, including Nigeria. He found that untrimmed
Western management models may not be very appropriate for adoption in Nigeria in
particular and Africa in general without recourse to the prevailing local cultural values. The
suggestion is made to look for appropriate and suitable African management models by
studying the relatively more successful local companies and institutions. The results suggest
that the African-Nigerian respondents may be effectively motivated by the hygiene factors as
long as these factors explicitly meet their personal and family needs, and that the Italian,
French, Scots and the Dutch‟s respondents ranking of motivation-value factors, all
corresponding to “higher” Maslow needs. Instead, the African-Nigerian motivation-value
factors refrer to “low” Maslow needs. His findings, stated by the author, illustrate that cultures
and organizational work settings may have dramatic effect on motivation values across
cultures. Iguisi (2009) argues that the generally accepted Western motivation theories like
Maslow, Herzberg and Vroom may not be very appropriate for motivating employees in
Africa-Nigeria and for universal formulating and theorizing on motivation management. It may
be noted, however, that Igusi‟s conclusion is based on inappropriate interpretation of
Maslow‟s need hierarchy. Igusi stated that Maslow's conclusions that lower level motivation
factors must be met before ascending to the next level were not validated in this study.
Maslow did not conclude that but found that any need can be emphasized, independent of the
order. Actually, in spite of Iguisi‟s conclusions, his study gives useful hints for leadership
adaptation in African cultures.
4. Situational Leadership
The main approaches to leadership study have been trait approach, behavioral approach,
situational leadership, and later transformational leadership. They consider leader-follower
relationship focusing especially on the leader. That is, mutual relationship between supervisor
and subordinate has been emphasized in these approaches. Trait approach and behavioral
approach are searching for ideal leadership traits or style whereas situational approach
emphasizes the importance of contextual factors such as followers' personality and needs,
leader's personality and needs, culture, nature of work, etc. Following contingency approach
of organizational theory, situational leadership approach essentially renewed the
understanding of the contingencies of leadership behavior. As a result of transition in
entrepreneurial and economic environment, more complementary views are needed. The
newer approaches concentrating on the leadership of the organizational community from a
wider perspective are transformational leadership including visionary and charismatic
leadership, and team leadership. These approaches emphasize leaders' work to evaluating
the situation, forming and communicating the vision, and modeling the way towards a
common goal and vision in volatile environment.
Proceedings of 8th Asian Business Research Conference
1 - 2 April 2013, Bangkok, Thailand, ISBN: 978-1-922069-20-7
However, the development of the approaches does not mean that all earlier approaches are
useless. In terms of personality differences, trait approach gives understanding of genetic or
natural facilities for skillful leadership behavior (cf. Routamaa & Ponto 1994; Routamaa,
Honkonen, Asikainen & Pollari 1997; Routamaa & Pollari 1998). Further, individual
consideration, important part of transformational leadership requires skillful situational
Situational leadership approach postulates that no single leadership style is applicable to all
situations. Leadership effectiveness is related to the leader possessing the ability to
accurately read followers‟ capabilities and accordingly to implement appropriate leadership
style for give situations and respective followers (see Fernandez & Vecchio 1997; Hersey,
Blanchard & Johnson 2004. First Reddin (1967) published his 3-D model of situational
leadership. Shortly after this Hersey and Blanchard (1969) published their model (cf. Fuchs
2007). The basic of the Hersey and Blanchard‟s situational leadership model is based on four
groups of leadership styles that are a mixture of two dimensions, relationship behavior and
task behavior. Low relationship behavior and high task behavior require telling (later directing)
leadership, high relationship behavior and high task behavior selling leadership, high
relationship behavior and low task behavior supporting leadership, and low relationship
behavior and task behavior delegating leadership behavior. Based on the maturity of the
subordinate, appropriate leadership style should be applied. The lowest maturity need telling,
the highest maturity delegating (cf. Picture 1). As presented by Hersey & Blanchard (1969),
also the Maslow‟s need hierarchy can be used to explain which style is appropriate.
Physiological needs refer to telling style, safety needs to a combination of telling and selling
styles, social needs to a combination between selling and supporting styles, esteem needs to
a combination of supporting and delegating, and finally self actualization to delegating style.
Situational leadership models have not been numerously studied empirically. Especially there
is lack of cross-cultural studies. However, Routamaa & Pollari (1988) found clear relationship
between cultures and applied situational leadership styles. Replicating Silverthorne‟s (2000)
research in Taiwan, Fuchs (2007) studied situational leadership theory within the European
cultural environment indicating strong support for the situational leadership theory. In this
study, next, the relationship of work values to situational leadership in cultural context will be
5. Samples and Method
The research aimed at comparing work values in three different cultures in the context of
Hofstede´s cultural dimensions. Of course, the use of Hofstede´s cultural dimensions could be
criticized for example in terms of the aging of Hofstede´s research. The world has changed
and cultures may have converged a little since that time. However, Hofstede´s research
serves as useful, common frame of reference in this comparison. The sample consisted of
320 observations from China, 794 Finnish people and 93 Indian people who completed the
questionnaires. Further, the possible effects of the sample size and composition could be
asked. All samples are heterogeneous in terms of gender and age. According to earlier
studies (e.g. Routamaa, Hautala & Mohsin 2007; Routamaa & Heinäsuo 2006), possible
minor in-culture discrepancies do not obscure cross-cultural comparisons. The effect of
Proceedings of 8th Asian Business Research Conference
1 - 2 April 2013, Bangkok, Thailand, ISBN: 978-1-922069-20-7
sample size to consistency was tested comparing a 93 observations random sub-sample of
the Finnish data to the whole data. The means of the values as well as the ranking order had
no noteworthy changes. Keeping this in mind it may concluded that the Indian sample is
representative enough for a comparative study. The means and significances of the value
differences between the cultures and value rankings will be reported.
In order to measure work goal values, a 5-degree questionnaire (Vunderink & Hofstede 1998)
was administered. 22 items indicate how important it would be to a respondent to have the
goals presented in an ideal job. To conceptualize the work goal values into easier comparable
form, using factor analysis, sum variables representing Maslow's need hierarchy was
6. Results
In Table 2, ten top work values between China, Finland and India. In all cultures it is important
to be able to fully use own skills and abilities on the job. Recognition is more important in
masculine, collective cultures even though in top ten also in individual feminine cultures.
Additionally, there are six common values among the top ten but in quite different order. In all
three cultures, people want to live in an area desirable to them and their family, and all want
to have sufficient time left for their personal or family life. However, in the individual, feminine
culture sufficient time left for their personal or family life is number one and also in India which
is less masculine and collective than China. These values may have a little different content in
the countries but anyway it illustrates valuing stable and safe family life. In individual, feminine
culture the family is only one or two generations, that is a couple and their children. In all
countries, respondents want to have training opportunities to improve their skills or learn new
skills. Security of employment and good working relationship with their direct supervisor are
also common in top ten values but having different stresses. Thus, at least self-actualization
and esteem needs are important in each culture.
Proceedings of 8th Asian Business Research Conference
1 - 2 April 2013, Bangkok, Thailand, ISBN: 978-1-922069-20-7
Table 2. Top ten work values compared between China, Finland and India.
10 top work values compared between
Fully use your skills and abilities on the job
Get the recognition you deserve when you do a good job
Have considerable freedom to adopt your own approach to the job
Live in an area desirable to you and your family
Have good physical working conditions
Have training opportunities (to improve your skills or learn new skills)
Have sufficient time left for your personal or family life
Have security of employment
Have a good working relationship with your direct supervisor
Have good opportunity for higher earnings
Have challenging tasks to do, from which you can get a personal
sense of achievement
Work with people who cooperate well with one another
Make a real contribution to the success of your company
Have an opportunity for advancement to higher level job
1) 4,41
2) 4,25
3) 4,19
4) 4,13
5) 4,10
6) 4,08
7) 4,07
8) 4,07
9) 3,98
10) 3,98
2) 4,29
7) 4,09
6) 4,18
9) 4,02
1) 4,39
10) 3,99
4) 4.22
3) 4,26
1) 4,36
3) 4,24
7) 4,13
9) 4,09
2) 4,32
5) 4,19
6) 4,17
4) 4,20
5) 4,20
8) 4,05
10) 4,08
8) 4,10
In individual culture, to have challenging tasks to do, from which they can get a personal
sense of achievement, is much more important than in cultures compared. In feminine culture,
also to work with people who cooperate well with one another is more important than
especially in Chinese masculine culture. In India, high earnings and an opportunity for
advancement to higher level jobs are more important that in cultures compared.
Based on differences of the rankings there also must be differences in the needs and motives
between the countries. That is why the need structures based on Maslow‟s need hierarchy
were formed (see Table 3). Items not loading clearly were omitted. Five factors obtained
illustrate Self Actualization, Social Needs, Safety Needs and Physiological Needs.
Standardized sum variables is used in order to compare the countries concerned. The work
goal values can be conceptualized using Maslow's need hierarchy. In spite of all criticism,
Maslow's need hierarchy is a good method to measure individual motivation and level of
needs fulfillment. It must be noted that the upper needs can be satisfied even though the
lower needs are not satisfied very well. But on the society level, the need hierarchy roughly
illustrates also the importance order of the needs.
Proceedings of 8th Asian Business Research Conference
1 - 2 April 2013, Bangkok, Thailand, ISBN: 978-1-922069-20-7
Table 3. Maslow „s need hierarchies in China, Finland and India.
Esteem Needs
Social Needs
Safety needs
Std. Deviation
Esteem Needs are most important and about at same level in all cultures. Statistically there
are not significant differences in esteem needs between the countries. That is, these work
goals are highly valued in each of these countries. On the other hand, self-actualization,
social needs, safety needs and physiological needs differ significantly.
Table 4. Need factors orders in China, Finland and India.
Esteem Needs
Safety Needs
Social Needs
Physiological Needs
Esteem Needs
Safety Needs
Social Needs
Physiological Needs
Esteem Needs
Safety Needs
Social Needs
Physiological Needs
Esteem needs are equally important in any cultures. In high power distance, more masculine,
and collective cultures safety needs are more important than in lower power distance,
individual and feminine culture. The most important difference in terms of leadership styles is
the ranking of self-actualization, which is last in the rankings of China and India. The
differences in work goal values in terms of need hierarchy means remarkable differences in
motivation that must be taken into account in management and leadership.
Proceedings of 8th Asian Business Research Conference
1 - 2 April 2013, Bangkok, Thailand, ISBN: 978-1-922069-20-7
Relationship behavior
Task behavior
Figure 1. Typical situational leadership styles based on work values in China, Finland
and India
In spite of all criticism, Maslow's need hierarchy is good method to measure individual
motivation and society needs fulfillment. It must be noted that the upper needs can be
satisfied even though the lower needs are not satisfied very well. But on the society level, the
need hierarchy roughly illustrates also the importance order of the needs. The differences in
work goal values in terms of need hierarchy means remarkable differences in motivation that
must be taken into account in management and leadership.
7. Conclusions
What are the lessons to be learned based on the analyses above? Firstly, the study confirmed
the results of earlier studies that posit that there are culture-based stresses in the work values
that must be taken into consideration in international business. The study revealed that there
is a certain amount of conformity among members of a society concerning their work values
(especially esteem needs). That is, there may be some shared values over the individual
values. These different relationships between culture work values make expatriate work very
In global business, leadership and expatriate work is challenging. The businessperson should
recognize the value differences within countries in order to succeed in leadership
relationships. Personal relationships are a sensitive area where insulting values may affect
Proceedings of 8th Asian Business Research Conference
1 - 2 April 2013, Bangkok, Thailand, ISBN: 978-1-922069-20-7
confusion. The great number of unsuccessful expatriate recruitments is a serious example of
the scarce understanding of cultural and work value differences.
Concerning especially leadership behavior, the results of work goal values in terms of
Maslow‟s needs hierarchy revealed important differences between the cultures. Situational
leadership. Based on situational leadership approach, human oriented (supportive behavior)
and task oriented (directive behavior) should be applied according to subordinates need
structure. Subordinates whose physiological needs are high posit especially telling or directing
leadership. Safety needs require secure circumstances in terms of norms, rules and advices,
that is telling and selling leadership. The more social needs are stressed, selling and
supporting leadership is appropriate. Esteem needs are most related to supporting style, and
finally, self-actualization requires mostly delegating style.
Given these relationships between leadership styles and needs, in Finnish culture, on the
average, supporting and somewhat delegating leadership styles are more commonly required
whereas in India, there is more use of telling and selling styles. China does not so much differ
from India. That is, leaders must adjust their leadership behavior quite a bit when moving from
organization to another in intercultural context.
To succeed as a manager in a foreign culture requires training and coaching in cultural
aspects and values. For example, a manager in a masculine, collective, high-power distance
culture has to take into account physiological needs and security values, which demands
more task-oriented leadership behavior, while for example esteem and self actualization
needs in an individualistic, feminine culture require more delegating and people-oriented
leadership. A manager coming from an individualistic and feminine culture may also
experience difficulties in applying a task oriented and collective leadership style when used to
functioning in work communities colored by individually oriented supporting and delegating
styles. Correspondingly an expatriate coming from a high-power distance, collectivist and
masculine culture to the opposite culture may feel insecure and inactive in an uncollective
milieu of hedonism where supporting, relationship oriented style is common. That is why
knowledge of cultural dimensions and work values, and knowledge of the relationships
between them is a big challenge for expatriates.
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