Cross-Cultural leadership Decision Making

Evin School of Management

Cross-Cultural Leadership Decision Making and Organisational/Institutional Development

Cross-Cultural Leadership Decision Making and Organisational/Institutional Development as a new field of research and academic pursuits understands that Institutional/Organisational Development requires Effective Leadership Decision Making Processes. From a Multi-level and hybrid perspectives, leadership should be seen as a group activity or collective activity which aims at driving growth and effectiveness achievement outcomes (Bolden, R2007)not only to the organisations and institutions but to multiple stakeholders. Thus, Leadership effectiveness outcomes must be evaluated from the multiple stakeholders’ perspectives. We argue that, these multiple stakeholders should include the individual knowledge workers within the organisations and institutions in terms of experiencing work meaningfulness or meaning of work; the organisations and institutions growth and effectiveness in terms of increase in growth and profitability, innovation, sustainability and adaptability; and the enhanced overall community achieves social impact and community well-being from the products, services and solutions designed, developed and delivered.

While within organisations, institutions and societies (Pearce, C.L. and Conger, J.A. 2003), leadership is considered to be of significant, there are still wide debates on what leadership is and how to approach leadership as a phenomena.

From perspectives based on cross-cultural leadership decision making and organisational/institutional development, leadership needs to be distributed through using “distributed leadership construct” as a unity of analysis. In this way, distributed leadership can be seen to be a hybrid form of leadership which is integrating two constructs: the “Self-Leadership construct” and “Shared-Leadership construct”.

The major strength of distributed leadership is that of ensuring that leadership decision making process and styles are not centered on individuals or held by certain people or position.  But, leadership decision making processes and styles are distributed to different individuals and who are at different level within the entire organisation structure. While it is this phenomenon’s which make distributed leadership to be seen as a collective activity or group activity, the taxonomy which underpin distributed leadership has not been addressed.

James Spillane (2006) suggests that a distributed perspective ‘puts leadership practice at the centre stage’ (p. 25) thereby encouraging a shift in focus from the traits and characteristics of ‘leaders’ to the shared activities and functions of ‘leadership’Cross-cultural leadership decision making and organisational/institutional development as a new field provides pillars, foundations and framework of references towards these efforts.

Central to the conceptual model of distributed leadership Gronn (2000, 2002) and Spillane et al (2004) is the Activity Theory (Engestrom, 1999). While Activity Theory uses distributed leadership as a unity of analysis and a bridge between agency and structure (in Gronn’s case) and distributed cognition and action (in Spillane et al’s case)it does not take the current contextual factors which requires the use of knowledge creativity, moral values and social cultural behaviours as the main adaptive capabilities during the design, development and execution of policies, strategies, projects and programmes.  In the process of knowledge sharing, this unity of analysis sees Leadership, as an integral part of the daily activities and interactions of everyone across the organisation and institution regardless of their position within the hierarchy.

In particular, the key benefits for distributed leadership can be seen in the process of knowledge sharing within organisations and institution during

  1. Knowledge sharing for services, products and solution design, development and delivery
  2. Knowledge sharing for strategy, policies, projects and programme design, development and executions
  3. Knowledge sharing in leading for growth and managing growth performance, accountability, governance, compliance, risk measures and behaviours.

The main differences among the widely adopted and practiced leadership and management decision making styles and approaches is grounded on the ontological and epistemological based of how they treat self-leadership and shared-leadership constructs. This is because, during the leadership decision making process, it is always very challenging and difficult to strike a balance between the two extremes - “the Self-leadership and Shared-Leadership constructs”when using a wrong taxonomy. As a result, most of the widely and practiced styles, approaches and process have been causing more conflicts and contradictions as leaders have been emphasizing more on “Shared-Leadership” or “Self-Leadership” and vice versa, at the expense of the other.

The need for mastery of applying using distributed leadership in the day to day decision making process and the understanding for the divide between shared-leadership and self-leadership bring both “leadership challenges and opportunities” when leading for growth in a cross-cultured, knowledge based economy and in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) context.

“Self-leadership” and “Shared-leadership” are polarised constructs which need to be balanced using distributed leadership as a unity of analysis. Thus I consider that, the main leadership challenges and opportunities is on how to apply distributed leadership so as to balance the extremes and ills which are brought about between the - individualistic, vertical and hierarchical “Self-leadership” verses the collectivism and horizontal “ Shared-leadership”.

The failure of most of the widely and applied decision making supports this Poppers(1959, 1983)views. Popper was more specific, and argued that the fundamental basis of science is the ability to falsify a premise of a theory. Thus, a theory that is ambiguous is of little value to the scientist since it may not be refuted by the evidence. Thus, since from the ontological and epistemological perspectives the constructs; the Shared-Leadership and Self-Leadership are not new within Leadership in Africa, this gives us an opportunity to develop a best taxonomy which underpins the Distributed Leadership drawing from cross-cultural leadership decision making. In Africa, Distributed Leadership (Umoja)as a unit of analysis is both a level and mechanism of cooperation which uses the two constructs: Shared leadership (Ujamaa in Kiswahili)defined as “a dynamic, interactive influence process among individuals in groups for which the objective is to lead one another to the achievement of group or organizational goals or both” (Pearce and Conger, 2003, p. 1)and Self-leadership (kujitegemea in Kiswahili) defined as “a process through which people influence themselves to achieve the self-direction and self-motivation needed to perform” (Houghton et al., 2003, p. 126).

In this way (Spillane 2006, p. 3), distributed Leadership (Umoja in Kiswahili) should be seen to be different from the shared –leadership as was advocated by Gronn’s (2002). Specifically, the role of the distributed leadership as “a unit of analysis” should be seen as a construct that aim to integrate the Shared leadership and Self-leadership constructs. Our research on cross-cultural leadership decision making and organisational/ institutional development aim to address this gap by developing pillars, foundations and framework of references that underpin Distributed Leadership