Unit 8 Assignment 1: Leadership and Culture
There are examples of individualistic and collectivist cultures found in every group or community. However, each nation is typified by one or the other types of cultures (Hofstede, 1980). In the early 1990s, the United Kingdom (UK) debated over accepting the Euro as its currency, eventually opting out of adopting it as the common currency in 1992. In June of 2016 a new vote was taken regarding the option to exit the European Union spearheaded by the Prime Minister and his political party.
Analyze how the UK is more of an individualistic culture versus a collectivist culture (Read Chapter 12 in your text, Box 12.3, Can You Be Comfortable with Conflict?) based on the present UK relationship with the European Union.
CAN YOU BE COMFORTABLE WITH CONFLICT?
An important dimension of culture is the extent to which members identify with the group rather than themselves as individuals. Individualistic cultures place a high value on “autonomy, initiative, creativ- ity, and authority in decision making” (Moore and Woodrow). Individual interests trump group inter- ests, and any group commitment is a function of a perceived self-benefit.
Collectivist cultures, on the other hand, value the group above the individual. Group conformity and commitment is maintained at the expense of per- sonal interests. Harmony, getting along and main- taining “face” are seen as crucial.
The dominant culture in the U.S., Canada, West- ern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand is individu- alistic, while collectivism predominates in the rest of the world. However, examples of both are found everywhere. In California, where the recent census found that 32 percent of the population are
SOURCES OF CONFLICT
Hispanic, 7 percent are African American, and 10 percent are of Asian descent, it can safely be assumed that a relatively high percentage of the workforce comes from a social environment that is collectivist.
Individualists and collectivists view conflict dif- ferently. Collectivists, who place a high value on harmony, getting along, and “face,” see conflict as a sign of social failure. As a result, comfort levels with conflict situations are low. Conflict is often avoided.
While many individualists also feel discomfort with conflict, it is acknowledged as an inevitable part of life that must be dealt with. However, being in conflict with another is not necessarily something to be ashamed about.
Source: Excerpt from John Ford, “Cross Cultural Conflict Resolution in Teams,” October 2001, http://www.mediate. com. Reprinted by permission of the author
Read “Managing and Moving” in your text on pages 266–268.
MANAGING AND MOVING
Members sometimes are shockingly grateful when a leader simply manages and moves the task. Yet these probably are the easiest skills to learn and to provide for a team. They include planning and following through as well as ensuring task and transactional processes.
Planning and Following Through Somebody needs to take care of the details, but if you haven’t noticed, all too often nobody does. Without a designated leader, teams must pay extra attention to delegating these tasks. With a designated leader, however, it generally is expected that she or he will perform them or delegate them specifically to other members. The following checklist can help:
Plan meeting times, places, and arrangements. • Make sure information and resources are available. • Plan agendas with the team or with delegated members. • Communicate plans by publishing and distributing notices, meeting minutes,
and agendas well ahead of time.
Contact, set up, and confirm experts, consultants, or guests for meetings.
Write and send follow-up letters, memos, and acknowledgments. It’s all in the details. All it takes is being organized and doing it.
Ensuring Processes An empowering team leader helps the team to lead itself. An appealing—and common-sense—concept of a leader comes from Weick (1978), who uses the metaphor of a medium for the leader. The leader, as medium, helps the team organize the complex interrelationships of its transactions and work in its environment, but does so by empowering all team members rather than hoarding all the authority for themselves. Pearce and Manz perhaps said it best: “if workers, particularly those in formal leadership roles, resist the notions of self- and shared leadership, their potential may simply remain that—potential” (2005, p. 134). This is not to say that no team should have a designated leader, only that a leader alone will not make a team effective. Instead, the leader’s effectiveness will be in facilitating the team’s processes so that members share leadership together.
Sometimes, groups meet with a person named as facilitator, whose function is to plan meetings and then to help planned processes occur. A facilitator keeps group members on task and helps them work through their assigned duties in the most efficient way possible, while ensuring that good decision-making practices are in place. A good facilitator drives the meeting just as a skilled chauffeur drives a car. His or her presence helps the meeting stay on the right path and arrive at a suitable conclusion. Gifted facilitators also bring a sense of coherence to the group’s activities, so that everyone leaves the meeting feeling positive about both the process and the outcome (Yoong & Gallupe, 2002).
A meeting facilitator could be a consultant, a member, or the designated leader of the group. Earlier, we discussed focus groups, in which a facilitator guides dis- cussion of specific questions to arrive at data relevant to anything from changes to a college curriculum to marketing a presidential candidate in a national campaign.
Whether a person is designated as a leader or a facilitator, his or her responsi- bility is to ensure the transactional and task processes work. One classic, but still highly relevant set of standards to keep in mind is that suggested by Larson and LaFasto (1989, p. 123):
Avoid compromising the team’s objective with political issues. • Exhibit personal commitment to the team’s goal. • Don’t dilute the team’s efforts with too many priorities. • Be fair and impartial toward all team members.
Be willing to confront and resolve issues associated with inadequate performance by team members.
Be open to new ideas and information from team members. To achieve these objectives, a leader needs specific skills in meeting facilitation.
Effective facilitators will:
Facilitate participation. Encourage, motivate, and get members to participate. Ask for and give information on the problem, solution generation, evaluation, and implementation.
Define roles. Regulate participation and structure role expectations for ensuing meetings. Make sure everyone gets a chance. Keep people from dominating, and consider the differences and needs of members.
Keep discussion coherent. Make connections among ideas. When appropriate, refer to previous information or to related information from other experiences. Synthesize concepts, identify relationships, or find new interpretations or applications of ideas within the discussion topic.
Control discussion inhibitors. Keep people from sidetracking the discussion; from withdrawing or criticizing negatively; or from contributing to confusion in the group.
As the use of groupware increases, these facilitative actions are gaining in im- portance. Yoong and Gallupe (2002) emphasize the crucial role of facilitative lead- ership in making virtual meetings effective. Hertel, Geister, and Konradt (2005) propose a planning model in which leaders focus systematically on planning a vir- tual team’s work by first analyzing who should participate, how the work should be delegated, and how social ties within the team can be developed. Almost all re- searchers agree that, in the beginning of virtual teamwork, all members should meet each other face-to-face (i.e., Alge, Wiethoff & Klein, 2003; Gibson & Cohen, 2003); planning and facilitating these workshops is also an important task for the team leader. Members also need feedback about both work output and processes as the team spends more time working together—another task critical for good per- formance (Hertel, Konradt & Orlikowski, 2004).
All the information in this chapter is great in theory—and we know from expe- rience it also is great in practice. When you get right down to it, it’s the practice that makes it possible—and also challenging, fun, fulfilling, and useful—to learn to lead. We have a few suggestions for doing just that.