How does culture influence an organization’s future-orientation?
The fifth and final cultural dimension is long-term versus short-term orientation; the GLOBE study calls it “future orientation.”
In building this construct, Hofstede, Hofstede, and Minkov, incorporated specific findings from the Chinese Value Survey (CVS) that was administered to students from twenty-three countries. In total, it measured 40 Chinese values that went through factor analysis to be divided into four value groupings.
It combined two sets of Confucian values. Four values used for one side included (1) Persistence, (2) Thrift, (3) Ordering relationships by status and observing this order, and (4) Having a sense of shame. On the opposite side were (5) Reciprocation of greetings, favors, and gifts, (6) Respect for tradition, (7) Protecting one’s “face”, and (8) Personal steadiness and stability. The values that were used correlated with economic growth and also predicted future economic growth.
It is important to acknowledge that the methodology used to construct this dimension has come under scrutiny by some scholars, including Tony Fang from Stockholm University School of Business. Among the concerns is that the values being contrasted with each other, are actually not opposites per se, but closely interrelated. Fang’s concerns may be valid and also supported by other scholars, nonetheless, their concerns do not significantly detract from my objective to demonstrate that culture plays a role in shaping leaders and the development of virtues, and determining what those virtues are and how they may be different between cultures.
Using Hofstede, Hofstede, and Minkov’s, definition, “long-term orientation stands for the fostering of virtues oriented toward future rewards – in particular, perseverance and thrift . . . short-term orientation, stands for the fostering of virtues related to the past and the present – in particular, respect for tradition, preservation of “face”, and fulfilling social obligations.
While numerous implications for this cultural dimension are addressed in different domains, based on scores for the 23 countries, key differences specifically related to business and ways of thinking are highlighted in Table 5.
|Table 5. Key Differences Between Short- and Long-Term Orientation Societies Based on CVS Data in Relation to Business and Ways of Thinking|
|Short-Term Orientation||Long-Term Orientation|
|Main work values include freedom, rights, achievement, and thinking for oneself||Main work, values include learning, honesty, adaptiveness, accountability, and self-discipline|
|Leisure time is important||Leisure time is not important|
|Focus is on the “bottom line”||Focus is on market position|
|Importance of this year’s profits||Importance of profits ten years from now|
|Managers and workers are psychologically in two camps||Owner-managers and workers share the same aspirations|
|Meritocracy, reward by abilities||Wide social and economic differences are undesirable|
|Personal loyalties vary with business needs||Investment in lifelong personal networks, guanxi|
|Concern with possessing the Truth||Concern with respecting the demands of Virtue|
|There are universal guidelines about what is good and evil||What is good and evil depends on the circumstances|
|Dissatisfaction with one’s own contributions to daily human relations and to correcting injustice||Satisfaction with one’s own contributions to daily human relations and to correcting injustice|
|Matter and spirit are separated||If A is true, then B can also be true|
|Priority is given to abstract rationality||Priority is given to common sense|
|There is a need for cognitive consistency||Disagreement does not hurt|
|Analytical thinking||Synthetic thinking|
|Source: Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov, Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (New York: McGraw-Hill Books, 2010), table 7.3.|
From the 23 countries participating in the Long-Term Orientation Index based on the Chinese Value Survey (LTO-CVS), China was ranked first with a score of 118, followed in succession by the East Asian countries of Hong Kong (96), Taiwan (87), Japan (80) and South Korea (75). These countries had the strongest long-term orientation. The lowest ranked countries, with a stronger short-term orientation were Nigeria with a score of 16, and Pakistan (00). The United States was ranked 17 with a score of 29, while India was ranked 7 with a score of 61, and Australia was ranked 14 with a score of 31.
While we have been looking at five cultural dimensions in relation to organizational leadership and workplace culture, there are two characteristics identified in relation to long-term orientation societies that have relevance to the topic of virtues; these are self-control and humility.They are two of the six virtues mentioned by Alexandré Havard that we described in greater length in an earlier essay.
In discussing the implications of the LTO-CVS index for family life, Hofstede refers to some market research conducted by a Japanese corporation that showed the importance of humility in the section on gender stereotypes. He finds that “in long-term-oriented countries, or those with a Confucian tradition, humility is seen as a masculine virtue. In cultures with other dominant traditions, humility is seen as more feminine.” With this observation it is important that we remember that feminine societies are not defined as such because they have no masculine characteristics, but because social gender roles have a greater tendency to overlap.
Nonetheless, Havard makes it very clear that the virtue of humility is anything but weakness or resignation, and is concerned that it has acquired a pejorative connation. He states, “The humble person often is seen as devoid of ambition and nobility and unworthy of honor . . . The humble man sees himself as he really is. He acknowledges his weaknesses and shortcomings, but also his strengths and abilities.”
Self-control is the second characteristic identified with longer-term orientation societies that represents one of the six virtues mentioned by Havard. This virtue is closely related to thrift, one of the four values being contrasted by Michael Bond against an opposing four values used in the Chinese Value Survey (CVS). Havard opens the chapter on self-control in his book, Virtuous Leadership, with a quote from Peter Drucker that says, “I no longer teach the management of people at work . . . I am teaching, above all, how to manage oneself.” In essence, this sits at the core of thrift and the cultural dimension of long-term orientation. It is the ability to carefully manage the tendency we have for immediate self-gratification, by subordinating that passion or desire so we don’t jeopardize the ultimate goal we are trying to achieve.
We see this played out every day. A small business owner would like to pay himself a higher salary, but knows it would negatively impact cash flow and hinder the businesses ability to pay its debts on time. A major corporation resists the temptation to launch a new product that is not quite ready for the market, because it doesn’t want to sacrifice its brand reputation that has taken years to acquire. A government chooses to stay the course, rather than react to declining popularity in the polls. These conflicts occur every day, and they demonstrate how culture impacts the way we respond to them, and why virtue is such an important and reassuring quality of leadership.
Responses to the GLOBE study by managers and leaders showed a strong correlation between long-term orientation (or “future orientation”) and the practices of uncertainty avoidance, institutional collectivism and performance orientation. Ashkanasy et al. states that these organizations had a greater tendency for encouraging their members “to consider the collective interests in making decisions about how to manage information, technology, and knowledge, and in reducing uncertainty.”
In relation to the six implicit leadership theories, future orientation cultural values were significantly correlated with Team-Oriented leadership, Participative leadership, Humane-Oriented leadership, and Self-Protective leadership, primarily because these encourage members to be “part of a shared leadership belief system.” There was however, some discrepancy between organizations that valued this more than practiced it.
 Neal Ashkanasy et al., “Future Orientation,” Culture, Leadership, and Organizations: The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies, eds. Robert J. House et al. (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2004), 282.
 Tony Fang, “A Critique of Hofstede’s Fifth National Culture Dimension,” International Journal of Cross Cultural Management 3, no. 3, (2003): 353.
 Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov, Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, 236-237.
 Fang, “A Critique of Hofstede’s Fifth National Culture Dimension,” 354.
 Michael Harris Bond et al. “Culture-Level Dimensions of Social Axioms and Their Correlates Across 41 Cultures,” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 35, 2004: 554.
 Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov, Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, 239.
 Ibid., 240.
 Ibid., 241.
 Alexandré Havard, Virtuous Leadership: An Agenda for Personal Excellence (New York: Scepter Publications, 2007), xvii.
 Geert Hofstede, “Gender Stereotypes and Partner Preferences of Asian Women in Masculine and Feminine Cultures,” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 27, 1996: 540.
 Havard, Virtuous Leadership: An Agenda for Personal Excellence, 31-32.
 Ibid., 82.
 Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov, Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, 236.
 Neal Ashkanasy et al., “Future Orientation,” Culture, Leadership, and Organizations: The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies, 310.
 Ibid., 331.