Influence of Culture on Servant Leadership

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Influence of Culture on Servant Leadership
Anneke Zwart, Student (University), Netherlands, Moderator
In an article, Dierendock discusses how culture might influence servant leadership, mentioning two cultural dimensions (Hofstede) that (positively) affect servant leadership within cultures (organizations).
1. Humane Orientation: the extent to which a society (or a corporation) stimulates being friendly, caring about others, fairness and kindness to others. In cultures with a high level of humane orientation, there is a stronger focus on taking care and being sensitive towards others. As a result, these cultures are likely to have leaders displaying higher attention to interpersonal acceptance, stewardship and the acknowledgement of belonging and taking care, which are all characteristics of servant leadership.
2. Power Distance: the degree to which a society (or a corporation) accepts and expects differences in power levels, authority and status. Cultures in which the degree of this dimensions is high, people accept that power is distributed unequally. A low power distance culture stimulates the development of servant leadership more comparing to high power distance cultures, since the leader-follower relationship is more equal in cultures with a low degree of power distance. This combined with the fact that there is less attention for self-protection in low power distance cultures. One of the fundamental elements of servant leadership - focusing on personal growth - is more likely to occur as well.
Source: Dierendonck, D. “Servant Leadership: A Review and Synthesis”. Journal of Management vol. 37.
 

 
Servant Leadership in Various Cultures
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
Servant leadership is based on the human drive to bond with others and contribute to the betterment of the society. An emphasis on service motivation, as demonstrated by empowering and developing people with empathy and humility, differentiates servant leadership from other leadership frameworks.

In a study, Mittal and Dorfman analyzed the degree to which 5 aspects of servant leadership (Egalitarianism, Moral Integrity, Empowering, Empathy and Humility) are endorsed as important for effective leadership across cultures. While each of these dimensions was found to be associated with effective leadership, there was considerable variation in degree of endorsement of components of servant leadership across different cultures:
  • The Servant leadership dimensions of Egalitarianism and Empowering were endorsed more strongly in Nordic/European cultures but less so in Asian and similar cultures.
  • The Servant leadership dimensions of Empathy and Humility were more strongly endorsed in Asian cultures than in European cultures.
Source: Rakesh Mittal and Peter W. Dorfman, "Servant leadership across cultures", Journal of World Business
Volume 47, Issue 4, October 2012, Pages 555-570.
 

 
Servant Leadership Across Cultures (Trompenaars)
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
You may also like the book: "Servant Leadership Across Cultures" by Fons Trompenaars and Ed Voerman.
Editorial Review: This book is suitable for those who are interested in cross-cultural management and servant leadership. Servant leadership is an approach to leadership development, coined and defined by Robert Greenleaf and advanced by several leading business authors such as Stephen Covey. Servant leadership emphasises the leader's role as steward of the resources (human, financial and otherwise) provided by the organisation. It encourages leaders to serve others while staying focused on achieving results in line with the organisation's values and integrity. In a world characterised by globalisation, more and more entrepreneurs are entering the international market. This not only provides unanticipated opportunities, but also extraordinary challenges. Where the workforce is diverse, people will operate from different values. The result will be a clash of cultures . Experience has shown that servant leadership in these types of dilemmas is the most effective approach. Using numerous examples the authors show that this is a path that leads to a true resolution, superseding compromise. It is an effective instrument to use to break through the pattern of cultural stereotyping and counterproductive behaviour and to reconcile opposing viewpoints. Especially in the field of cross-cultural management, servant leadership as dilemma par excellence can serve as a bridge. It is an extremely important competence to possess in a globalising world!
 

     
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