How Multicultural Offices Affect Leadership Styles

It is a known fact that culture significantly affects a company’s ability to perform effectively while leaders shape the work environment in different ways. That’s why it’s logical to say that culture affects leadership just as much as leadership affects the culture.

In Singapore, the CEO of SMRT, Neo Kian Hong, is known for his excellent leadership skills and the ability to manage a multicultural workplace. He empowers employees by keeping them engaged and allowing them to improve the process in day-to-day rail operations.

Several studies reveal that multicultural work environments significantly affect their leaders’ leadership styles and tendencies. In this article, we’ll take a deep look at how culture influences management and leadership.

Decision-making and Motivation

Although management and leadership positions aren’t directly associated, each one greatly influences the other. Workplace management styles greatly depend on a person’s leadership abilities, which are often determined by their culture. Any form of cultural difference will affect the person’s leadership and working style, including the manner of communication, direction, and motivation.

When it comes to leadership management in the workplace, employee motivation plays a critical role. Leaders are responsible for motivating their teams and encouraging them to work towards the company’s goals. But it’s also important to remember that motivational behaviors are subject to change depending on the cultural factors that influence them.

A study revealed that employees have different motivation tendencies. First is the strict and follow-through style. Leaders who use this approach are driven by possible risks or things that could potentially go wrong. Often, these leaders can be quite meticulous in what they do. They carefully calculate each decision while considering whether the possible negatives outweigh the potential benefits.

Risk-aversive leaders often pass on their attitude to the workplace culture by influencing their teams, including their decision-making strategies. This type of risky-aversion management encourages executives and leaders to provide value continuously across the organization. Countries located in Latin America, the Middle East, and Northeast Asia adhere to this type of leadership style.

On the other hand, westerners tend to embrace a more opportunistic and flexible stance when it comes to decision-making and motivating employees. Countries such as Singapore, India, and the U.S. values ambiguity, and they get inspired by the possible outcomes of a difficult decision. They are more likely to take risks and drive their teams to do the same as well.

employees having a conversation

Communication Styles

One of the important attributes of a good leader is to have excellent communication skills. But the standard of “good communication skills” is subjective and may vary across cultures. This explains why cultural differences significantly affect this aspect of leadership.

There are two ways culture affects leadership communication style: high- and low-context communication.

High-context communication refers to the use of non-verbal elements, such as relationship, environment, facial expression, and body language. In a high-context culture, people use communication that focuses on the underlying message, tone, and context of the message, not just the words themselves.

This is often applicable to community-centered and collective cultures, such as Asia and Latin America. Often, the receiver is responsible for understanding a specific message instead of the sender. Leaders with high-context communication can be indirect in their language use when it comes to leadership styles. They don’t give much weight to language but consider the climate and emotional quality of the subject matter.

Meanwhile, low-context communication is prevalent in individualist countries, such as the U.K. and Germany. Their culture and communication style don’t require an understanding of the subject and relationship to convey a message. Everything lies in the language and the words themselves—leaders in low-context cultures value word choice and speech clarity in communication.

Work Environment

Work environments with cultural differences are an emerging trend in the corporate world. More employers are now open to recruiting employees from different cultures, as it provides more opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and a balanced representation of beliefs and ideologies.

Multicultural environments are primarily characterized by diversity, which paves the way for different challenges in terms of leadership and management. Leaders handling multicultural offices are used to dealing with misunderstandings when it comes to communication, contrasting viewpoints, and the tension in organizational structure.

Leaders in a multicultural environment embody a more adaptable management style. They’re willing to adjust their norms and standards depending on their workers’ societal and cultural backgrounds.

Multicultural offices are becoming remarkably common in the corporate world. This is a huge step in making work environments more open and understanding the cultures employees represent. In embracing this approach, it’s important to choose the right leadership style to bring out these values.

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