Can national background truly affect leadership style?

Diverse workforce

Hogan Assessment Systems examined the personality and values of over 11,000 European managers and executives and found that national origin can impact a leader’s values and the company culture they create.

Cultural differences play a significant role at every workplace. In multinational environments, values associated with a leader’s national origin may be important in people management.

A new study conducted by Hogan – a global personality assessment company – found diversions among nations regarding leadership values and company culture.

The study compared individual motivators from across seven European countries, including France, England, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden.

Hogan collected data using a suite of personality and values assessments and found the biggest differences across national origins for values from the motives, values, preferences inventory (MVPI).

The surveyed aspects at MVPI are aesthetic, affiliation, altruism, commerce, hedonism, power, recognition, science, security and tradition.

The 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.

They also score relatively high on the affiliation scale (along with Germany, Belgium and Denmark), which suggests they value social interactions and prefer working in teams.

British managers scored highest on the altruism scale, which means they value helping others and prefer customer-focused environments.

They also scored high on hedonism (along with leaders from Belgium and France), which means they prefer fun and open-minded work environments.

German managers had average scores on almost every scale of the MVPI.

The one exception was affiliation, where, 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 represent the lowest values on the commerce, hedonism, power and recognition scales, which suggests that they are more likely to work effectively in flat-hierarchy teams, through collaboration over competition.

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

Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, CEO for Hogan 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.”

National and cultural background may not directly impact leadership skills, but values do impact the culture the leader establishes within an organisation.

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.