Is Your Leadership Style Eastern or Western? Does it Matter?

16 Feb 2018

Is Your Leadership Style Eastern or Western? Does it Matter?

Do you subscribe to the Eastern ethos of exalting family and relationships above all else, or is your personal code more attuned with the Western individualism ideals? Even if you swear by one or the other, chances are you likely mimic the behaviours learned over time from parents, peers, managers or other social groups.

There aren’t too many managers out there who necessarily use a philosophy for day-to-day behaviours, and are more driven by years of social conditioning. In my experience, only a handful of leaders have even taken out the time to read what these philosophers have said and mindfully and consciously applied that to their behaviour.

Should we make a distinction between Eastern and Western values when it comes to our leadership style and ethos?

What’s needed – much more than concerning ourselves about which value system to uphold – is the importance of being open-minded towards other cultures and values and to remain curious.

Not necessarily. What’s needed – much more than concerning ourselves about which value system to uphold – is the importance of being open-minded towards other cultures and values and to remain curious. We shouldn’t get so caught up in preserving our cultural identity that we resist experimenting with other ideas and value sets – especially when the latter can make our experiences and leadership even richer.

On the other hand, it’s also important not to feign interest or force yourself to imbibe foreign cultures and values just to please people, and come across as inauthentic. This strategy is not only passe, it can also bomb on your face. In my leadership and executive coaching practice, I have known leaders who want to prep about other cultures before a business rendezvous. I discourage leaders to learn of something just with the intent of building rapport. I encourage leaders to speak of subjects that interest them and rather than aligning to other culture, listen to their stories and areas of interest with genuine interest by asking questions to explore further.

Due to these distorted distinctions we make in our heads of East Vs West, we put on a persona, and that doesn’t help us to become likeable at an authentic relationship level – an important goal especially if you’re on a mission to influence and impress other people.

Core values

Often managers’ and businesses’ values tend to change according to circumstances –  one day, a startup CEO could value quality, and as two other players enter the market, suddenly the value becomes speed. It is often said that ‘Values’ is something we don’t have.

However, core values are important and meant to be treated as sacred – ‘Even if I go bankrupt, I will stick with quality; even if I go homeless, quality is a value that I’m not going to compromise on.

However, core values are important and meant to be treated as sacred – ‘Even if I go bankrupt, I will stick with quality; even if I go homeless, quality is a value that I’m not going to compromise on. That is what makes up the personal value system for most people and it often comes from conditioning. Are you a son/daughter of a martyr, activist or a businessman?

While some cultures are transactional versus open to experimenting.

Many of us don’t learn a new skill or subject unless there’s a gratification attached to it. We don’t learn for the sake of learning, but for meeting practical ends. Even when being curious can make our lives a lot richer and hugely successful.

I have worked in multiple geographies and have seen that the nature of conversations tends to differ often. While not judging one as good or bad, the result of one set of conversations tends to be more transactional, which leads to a less engaged or demoralised employee. While the result in the other setting is a more engaged and energetic employee.

At the end of the day, philosophy is about logic. Leadership would be at an entirely different level if we followed logic. We would be truly fearless and even spiritual in our approach.

 

Author

Dr. Deep Bali, CEO & Managing Partner, Recalibrate Pvt. Ltd.  

Deep BaliDeep is a Columbia University Global Leadership Coach, and is acknowledged by business leaders and CEOs across geographies for his super ability to enable leaders, teams and businesses to “Pivot”.

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