The role of culture in leadership formation and how the adoption of certain virtues stimulates new areas of research
The discussion and debate on the notion of virtue continues to be just as relevant today for modern leadership as it has been over the centuries.
In a series of essays we have established the importance of leadership virtues, and how their absence can cause considerable harm to their followers and the organizations they lead. We have learned the profound impact that culture can have in shaping the beliefs, attitudes and virtues of leaders, and how cultural differences can also cause confusion, misunderstandings, and conflict in the way they those virtues are demonstrated.
Briefly drawing on the seminal works of Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov, and the GLOBE study, both which analyzed the relationship between culture, leadership, and organizations, we have been able to see how the characteristics of five cultural dimensions impacts the way leadership is perceived and practiced. The five dimensions include: Power Distance, Individualist versus Collective societies, Assertiveness versus Modesty, Uncertainty Avoidance, and Long-Term Versus Short-Term Orientation.
It is clear that culture plays a significant role in shaping the worldview of a leader and the virtues he or she adopts, even if he or she has not given any thought concerning where those virtues originated from, or how their application may impact organizations where numerous cultures may be represented.
Due to the enormous scope involved in exploring how the different dimensions of culture shapes leaders and the role it plays in influencing what virtues are valued and practiced, space has not permitted us to look at other important issues closely linked to culture.
While the primary objective was to demonstrate that culture is important in leadership formation and the adoption of certain virtues, we have not expanded on all of the possible implications for leaders today in understanding the relevance of the five cultural dimensions to their organizations. New areas of research are also emerging as attempts are being made to measure the relatively recent concept called cultural intelligence, referring to the capability of individuals to function in culturally diverse areas.
Another area we have not yet addressed beyond Western leadership theory is how religious traditions and ethics have influenced ethnocentric frameworks in different regions of the world; each bringing a unique definition to what leadership is. Finally, we have yet to explore the impact of micro shifts in cultural values that have occurred from one generation to another, or the importance of value transmission through family and kinship.
All of these will form the basis of further research as we continue to explore how organizations can effectively measure the absence or presence of common virtues, and if it is possible to locate a coefficient of virtues that transcends some of the common problems we see inherent when two or more cultures collide.
The journey continues.
 Soon Ang and Linn Van Dyne, eds. Handbook of Cultural Intelligence: Theory, Measurement, and Applications. Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe, 2008.