It is vital to always remember that in this instance, this cultural dimension has nothing to do with gender as many may assume. Masculinity equates to a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success. In the business environment, it is mainly about numbers and meeting performance targets. On the other hand, femininity strives for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and espousing quality of life. Therefore a right balance is necessary. A manager who is all about the performance and does not care about the welfare of the people may not succeed as people in his keep would feel like tools or just means to an end. On the other hand, a manager who is more on the softer side and does very little to drive performance of the team will not meet set objectives. It is vital as a leader therefore to balance the aspects of masculinity and femininity.
The rule of the game therefore is to appeal to the hearts, minds and souls of the people and to strive to create a conducive environment for one to thrive and provide the right tools in ensuring that set objectives are met. So, truly speaking, gender has a very minimal role to play in determining who is better. To support this conclusion further, huge amounts of qualitative and quantitative data through research has shown that gender has a very minimal role to play boils down to an individual leader’s awareness of what can make him/her succeed as a leader.
Although broadly defined, I still maintain that for strategic leadership to really affect the organisation in a positive way, leadership style does matter and will have a say in whether a leader succeeds or not. Leadership behaviours that reflect integrity, charisma, inspirational and visionary attributes have been found to positively impact leadership performance in all societies. However, leadership attributes reflecting irritability, non-cooperation, egocentrism, ruthlessness and dictatorship produce ineffective leaders. The success therefore of an individual leader will hinge on observing and choosing to exhibit universally accepted and effective leadership styles over the opposite.
The other topical issue in leadership in an international context is the issue of macro or national culture. For example, we have the Batswana diaspora who have taken up leadership roles in multinational corporations. Similarly, we also have an abundance of skills and expertise that stream into the country to lead entities. The focus for now will be on the latter. In this regard, there are two dominant and competing perspectives, divergence and convergence. The divergence perspective maintains that the management concepts and practices are products of a specific culture. It therefore becomes more of an expectation for leaders in this instance, regardless of their country of origin, to understand the culture in the host country and to try and align their leadership style with it and not to upset the status quo.
However, some leaders may opt to shake things up when they do feel that the macro culture may be to the detriment of the business or entity. This often more than not brings about a clash or a situation in which a leader is simply followed due to the position they hold and may not have a full buy-in from the rest of the team, thus affecting performance and organisation not at the optimal level. On the contrary, during the 1980s a number of scholars argued forcefully that global interdependence was producing convergence of cultures within and across borders. The revolution of information technology, social media, easier travel between countries and continents, use of the English Language as an international business language, were being presented as outstanding examples of convergence. Thus, even if differences in organisational characteristics and leadership practises do exist at present in some societies, this should rapidly decline or even disappear in the near future.
The argument by most leadership scholars is that leaders must pay due attention to the duality of both these processes and note areas in which management practices converge and areas in which they diverge, then tailor-make behaviours accordingly. Appreciating both perspectives is the ideal option to take.
It has therefore become an agenda in leadership. Executive and management development programmes no longer only dwell on technical aspects of the job. The learning outcomes emphasise the people’s agenda and more about leading people and creating conducive environments by leaders that will ensure safe hubs of employment. Similarly, as leaders and managers, we are encouraged to be ‘switched on’ in order to address barriers to employee and organisational performance. The equilibrium has become essential.
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