Does nationality affect leadership style?

A new cross-border leadership study could offer valuable insights for companies seeking to manage high performing, more diverse and inclusive teams, and develop a global mindset.

Senior team considering the evidence
A large-scale study of the individual motivators of 11,000 European managers and executives, conducted by Hogan – a global personality assessment company – identifies diversions among nations regarding leadership values and company culture.The study suggests that British managers are more open-minded than German counterparts, but less ambitious than the French.Yet, rather than seek to stereotype individuals by geographic background, Hogan’s analysis instead tries to explain how national origin can impact a leader’s values and the company culture they create.

Exploring cultural influences on leadership 

Cultural differences play a significant role at every workplace. In multinational environments, including those with globally mobile employees and multicultural teams, the values associated with a leader’s national origin may prove important in people management considerations. The study could therefore offer insight into creating the conditions for high-performing and cross-border teams.Commenting, Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, CEO of Hogan and HR influencer on cultural differences, said: "Every culture needs leaders who exhibit good judgment, technical expertise, people skills, integrity and self-awareness. “That said, the relative importance of these ingredients varies a bit from culture to culture. For instance, people skills will matter more in Italy and Spain than in Finland or Germany, but the opposite is true for technical expertise, and so on."

Understanding difference in the workplace

By boosting understanding and appreciation of a wider range of views, the study's conclusion could support managers with the wider workplace inclusion agenda and minimise misunderstandings due to cultural differences."Leaders have to be aware of these differences in order to work efficiently,” said Dr Nigel Guenole, senior lecturer and director of research for the Institute of Management at University of London, commenting on the report.“The results have implications for all multicultural teams. Team members from different cultures may have different expectations towards each other and of their leaders."
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Mapping personal qualities and values

Hogan collected data using a suite of personality and values assessments from leaders across seven European countries, including France, England, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden.To reach its conclusions, the assessment company found the biggest differences across national origins for values from the Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory (MVPI). The MVPI model investigated ten aspects in the study:
  • aesthetic
  • affiliation
  • altruism
  • commerce
  • hedonism
  • power
  • recognition
  • science
  • security
  • tradition.

A view on Britain's leadership

Hogan’s analysis found national personality traits, including that British managers scored highest on the Altruism scale, which means they value helping others and prefer customer-focused environments.British leaders also scored highly on Hedonism (along with leaders from Belgium and France), meaning they prefer fun and open-minded work environments. 

French managers favour creativity and innovation

French managers score highest on Aesthetics, which means they put the most emphasis on innovation, creativity and appearance. They also score highest on Power, placing a higher value on career advancement and leadership positions than other leaders.French leaders logged similar results on the Affiliation scale (along with Germany, Belgium and Denmark), which suggests participants value social interactions and prefer working in teams.

Co-working sought-after among German managers

German managers had average scores on almost every scale of the MVPI.The one exception was Affiliation. Here they had the second highest score just below French leaders, which indicates that they prefer working with others and in teams and value social interaction. 

Swedish managers value flat hierarchies

Swedish managers represent the lowest values on the Commerce, Hedonism, Power and Recognition scales. Hogan suggests this means Swedish leaders are more likely to work effectively in teams with flat hierarchies and seek collaboration over competition.

Shared attitudes towards risk-taking among European managers

Leaders from all of these countries scored relatively low on Tradition and Security. Hogan believes this can be explained by the general Western-European managerial attitudes preferring flexibility, adventure, risk-taking and experimentation, which are essential for career advancement. 

'Good leadership – personality in the right place'

A further conclusion from the analysis is that although personality and leadership skills are important, how a leader’s values align with the core values of an organization also determines success. For the perfect fit, both have to be measured – good leadership is just personality in the right place, says Hogan. For related news and features, visit our Culture and Language section. Look out for the launch of 2018's Relocate Awards, entries open in January. Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory