Cultural differences concerning religion, sex, generation, class, history and values lead to different ways of thinking, feeling and acting. These aspects have not only to be considered when trying to define countries and categorise people, but also when trying to understand organisations. The leadership of each corporation is based on these factors. E.g. when you are trying to define the meaning of success. Japanese companies like Toyota characterise success as quality of their products, satisfaction of their employees and customers. German corporations define profit as success. Organisational structures, corporate goals, personnel policy, suspension of staff, job description, employee suggestion system and salary history differs. Due to globalisation, expansion of the market, mergers and takeovers, companies have to deal with the various numerous of cultures in order to survive in long-term and to remain competitive.
The objective of this paper is to explain the selected cultural dimensions according to Geert Hofstede and to demonstrate which influences they are having in leadership behaviour exemplified on Japanese and German corporate management.
Subsequent to this introduction the term culture and the selected dimensions of national cultures according to Geert Hofstede - especially the cultural dimensions masculinity versus femininity, uncertainty avoidance and power distance in refer to corporate management, will be defined and criticised in chapter two. Chapter three will give a short introduction of the Japanese and German culture and extrapolate the cultural dimension theory of Geert Hofstede to German and Japanese organisations. A critical remark will be given to the practical part. The conclusion in the fourth chapter builds the end of this paper.
2. Dimensions of National Cultures according to Geert Hofstede
Before explaining the selected dimensions of national cultures according to Geert Hofstede in chapter 2.2. the term culture has to be defined firstly.
2.1. Definition of Culture according to Geert Hofstede
Culture can be defined in many several ways. Geert Hofstede defines culture by dividing culture into culture I and culture II. Culture I in closer sense refers to education, art and literature and culture II in broader sense is named as the software of the mind or the collective programming of the mind, which distinguishes the members of one human group or organisation from another. This is the most important definition to which he refers and which will be explained in this paper in detail.
Culture as the software of the mind includes patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. Culture, which will not be inhered, but learnt and derived from the social environment, not from the genes must be differenced on the one hand from the universal human nature, which is inherited and on the other hand from the individual personality, which is inherited as well as learnt. Culture, human nature and personality build the three levels of the uniqueness in the mental programming of a human. The ability to feel threat, anger, love, happiness, the need for community, game and movement, the ability to observe the environment and to discuss with another human about it belongs to the universal human nature. These feelings will be determinated by the culture. The individual personality is combined by the personal experiences, which a person is making and by the impact of the culture. The patterns of feeling, acting and thinking vary in respect of different cultural levels. Geert Hofstede distinguishes between national, regional, religious, gender, social class and organisational levels. This paper will refer to the national level. Cultural differences can be recognised by symbols, heroes, rituals and values. The attached shown chart, which is created in form of an union is showing the ranking of those manifestations. Their ranking shows their visibility. Symbols are words e.g. the language, gestures, pictures or objects e.g. flags. As symbols are visible and are often imitated by another cultures it has been set as the first shell. Although they are visible their meaning can only be recognised by the members of a culture. The second shell are the heroes which serve as ideals of a culture an which whose they can identify. Heroes can be alive, death, historic or virtual people. The third shell are the rituals. Rituals are collective behavioural patterns. They are needless, but due to social reasons necessary for a culture e.g. the way of greeting, social and religious ceremonies.
The core builds the values. Values are feelings with the tendency to prefer something in counterpart to something else e.g. good or bad, dirty or clean and nice or messy. As they cannot be recognised and identified directly they are located in the middle of the union. Values build the fundamental cultural differences as they will already be learned in infancy. Whereas symbols, heroes and rituals -named practices- are visible for the environment, but their meaning not.
Figure 1: Manifestations of a culture
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Source: Lokales Denken, globales Handeln, Hofstede, G. (2001), page 8
2.2. Selected Dimensions of National Cultures according to Geert Hofstede
There are various studies, models and researches for the explanation and classification of these worldwide cultural differences. Geert Hofstede made investigations to this topic in a multinational corporation named IBM. He made a quantitative based survey with approximately 116,000 employees in 72 countries i.e. IBM´s subsidiaries and in 20 different languages to their work related moral concept. The survey results to 5 cultural dimensions, which can be used to define and compare the different nations and cultures. Furthermore they give insights into other cultures so that the interacting with people in other countries can be more effective. The 5 cultural dimensions are masculinity versus femininity, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism versus collectivism and long-term orientation versus short-term orientation, which has been introduced as last dimension at a later stage. In order to not exceed the frame of this paper only the first three of the above mentioned cultural dimensions will be introduced and explained clearly in concern to corporate management. Geert Hofstede created for each dimension and for each country a table while using index numbers in order to show the degree of each dimension in each country. A high index number means that the captioned dimension is predominantly presented in this respective country whereas a low index number represents that this dimension is not predominantly presented in this related country.
2.2.1. Masculinity versus Femininity
Geert Hofstede distinguishes two oppositional, i.e. sex-related societies, i.e. arts of leadership. It refers to the distribution of roles between the genders. In a masculine oriented corporate management the gender roles are strictly separated. Male have a leading and dominate role. A masculine leadership is characterised by assertiveness, ambition, decisiveness or strength, performance, success, competition, fairness and material values. Disputes will be settled by fighting. The motto is to live for work. Typical masculine cultures are countries like Japan, USA, Germany and Italy.
Whereas in a feminine oriented management the gender roles are not strictly separated and do overlap. A feminine oriented management is characterised by modesty or sensitivity. Supervisors seek for achieving consensus. Disputes will be settled by negotiating and trying to find compromises. Equality, solidarity and quality of working life come to the fore. The motto is to work in order to be able to live. Typical feminine cultures are countries like the Netherlands and Scandinavia.
 cp. Hofstede, G. (2004), p. 3
 cp. Leifeld U. (2002), p. 117
 cp. Miebach B. (2006), p. 341
 cp. Miebach B., Schmidt D. (2006), p. 52
 cp. Jong d. A., Visser M., (2002), p. 26
 cp. Reimann M., (2005), p. 37
 cp. Haas H-D., Neumair S-M., (2005), p. 362
 cp. Hansen K., (2005), p. 63
 cp. Franken S., (2004), p. 220
 cp. Schieck A., (2008), p. 157
 cp. Wikel-Kirsch S., Janusch M. and Knorr E., (2008), p. 218
 cp. Müller St., Wünschmann St., Wittig K., Hoffmann St., (2007), p. 42
 cp. Mayer C-H., Bonesse C.M., (2004), p. 96
If we explore Singaporean culture through the lens of the 6-D Model© (Singapore is a multi-ethnic society with Chinese around 77%, Indian around 6%, Malay around 15% and expatriates around 2%), we can get a good overview of the deep driving factors of Singaporean culture relative to other world cultures.
This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal – it expresses the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities amongst us. Power Distance is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.
Singapore scores high on this dimension (score of 74). With a Confucian background (the Chinese) they normally have a syncretic approach to religion, which is also the dominant approach in Singapore. One of the key principles of Confucian teaching is the stability of society, which is based on unequal relationships between people. Confucius distinguished five basic relationships: ruler-subject; father-son; older brother-younger brother; husband-wife; and senior friend-junior friend. These relationships are based on mutual and complementary obligations. Here we can see the high PDI as a consequence.
Power is centralized and managers rely on their bosses and on rules. Employees expect to be told what to do. Control is expected and attitude towards managers is formal. Communication is indirect and the information flow is selective. We can see the high PDI also in the government’s defined five “shared values”: 1) Nation before community and society above self.
The fundamental issue addressed by this dimension is the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. It has to do with whether people´s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “We”.
In Individualist societies people are supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only. In Collectivist societies people belong to ‘in groups’ that take care of them in exchange for loyalty.
Singapore, with a score of 20 is a collectivistic society. This means that the “We” is important, people belong to in-groups (families, clans or organisations) who look after each other in exchange for loyalty. Here we can also see the second key principle of the Confucian teaching: The family is the prototype of all social organizations. A person is not primarily an individual; rather, he or she is a member of a family. Children should learn to restrain themselves, to overcome their individuality so as to maintain the harmony in the family. Harmony is found when everybody saves face in the sense of dignity, self-respect, and prestige. Social relations should be conducted in such a way that everybody’s face is saved. Paying respect to someone is called giving face.
Communication is indirect and the harmony of the group has to be maintained, open conflicts are avoided. A “yes” doesn’t necessarily mean “yes”; politeness takes precedence over honest feedback. The relationship has a moral basis and this always has priority over task fulfilment. The face of others has to be respected and especially as a manager calmness and respectability is very important.
A high score (Masculine) on this dimension indicates that the society will be driven by competition, achievement and success, with success being defined by the winner / best in field – a value system that starts in school and continues throughout organisational life.
A low score (Feminine) on the dimension means that the dominant values in society are caring for others and quality of life. A Feminine society is one where quality of life is the sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not admirable. The fundamental issue here is what motivates people, wanting to be the best (Masculine) or liking what you do (Feminine).
Singapore scores 48 and is in the “middle” of the scale but more on the Feminine side. This means that the softer aspects of culture such as leveling with others, consensus, sympathy for the underdog are valued and encouraged. Being modest and humble is seen as very important; thus showing that one knows it all and therefore has come to educate the counterparts is not liked. Conflicts are avoided in private and work life and consensus at the end is important. During discussions being cautious is important, not to being too persistent. We can also see the feminism in the governments defined five “shared values” again: 3) Community support and respect for the individual.
The dimension Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings with it anxiety and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways. The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these is reflected in the score on Uncertainty Avoidance.
Singapore scores 8 on this dimension and thus scores very low on this dimension. In Singapore people abide to many rules not because they have need for structure but because of high PDI. Singaporeans call their society a “Fine country. You’ll get a fine for everything”.
Long Term Orientation
This dimension describes howevery society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing with the challenges of the present and future, and societies prioritise these two existential goals differently. Normative societies. which score low on this dimension, for example, prefer to maintain time-honoured traditions and norms while viewing societal change with suspicion. Those with a culture which scores high, on the other hand, take a more pragmatic approach: they encourage thrift and efforts in modern education as a way to prepare for the future.
Singapore scores 72, this high score is refelcted in Singapore which shows cultural qualities supporting long-term investment such as perseverance, sustained efforts, slow results, thrift; being sparse with resources, ordering relationship by status and having a sense of shame (see also again the Confucian teaching). Singapore has also become one of the five dragons with an immense economic success.
Whereas westerners have been looking for the truth, the Singaporeans are emphasizing virtue and the way you do things. They are always keeping their options open as there are many ways to skin a cat. Westerners believe that if A is right, B must be wrong, whereas people from East and Southeast Asian countries see that both A and B combined produce something superior. This mindset allows for a more pragmatic approach to business.
One challenge that confronts humanity, now and in the past, is the degree to which small children are socialized. Without socialization we do not become “human”. This dimension is defined as the extent to which people try to control their desires and impulses, based on the way they were raised. Relatively weak control is called “Indulgence” and relatively strong control is called “Restraint”. Cultures can, therefore, be described as Indulgent or Restrained.
Is it not possible to determine a preference on this dimension because of Singapore’s intermediate score of 46.