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Posted on October 1st, 2012, by

Building an organization in a multicultural environment is a very complicated process. The leader should deal with a number of cultural issues which could affect the organizational performance consistently. The organization recruiting professionals from Germany, Greece, Iran and Singapore can face the problem of substantial cultural differences which can evoke internal conflicts within the organization. The leader should elaborate an effective strategy to overcome cultural barriers and unite employees in a team. Diversity of employees can enrich the organizational culture and stimulates the introduction of innovations. The leader should be focused on the cooperation of employees, their mutual work for the success of the entire organization and individual employee.



Today, organizations expand their international operations. The process of globalization stimulates organizations enter new markets and develop their business worldwide. Hence, many organizations are currently working in a multicultural environment and it is practically impossible to develop a mono-cultural organization in a globalized economy. In other words, modern organizations need to develop effective strategies of functioning in a culturally diverse environment. These strategies should help organizations to adapt to the new cultural environment and facilitate the integration of new employees in the organizational structure and culture.

However, organizations often operate in different countries and employ specialists who have a totally different cultural background. For instance, the employment of professionals from Germany, Greece, Iran and Singapore is likely to raise cultural barriers, which may be unsurpassable for employees without a professional assistance from the part of the organizational leader. In order to overcome cultural barriers and eliminate the risk of the emergence of conflicts within the organization, the leader should attempt to apply servant leadership, which makes him or her a steward for his or her subordinates, who is ready to assist to employees and to help them solve their problems. On the other hand, the leader should remember about the importance of the formation of the common organizational culture, which can become a powerful instrument uniting employees within the organization. But, at the same time, the leader should remember that it is important to preserve employees’ diversity in a united organization since the diversity of views, ideas, beliefs, cultural traditions and philosophies, at large, can accelerate the development of the organization, on the condition that the leader manages and directs the organizational development effectively.


Problems and challenges of the development of the global organization

In actuality, the development of the global organization is closely intertwined with a number of problems and challenges the organization needs to overcome to develop a positive organizational culture and to achieve overall commercial success. Obviously, the employment of professionals with a different cultural background, including Germans, Greeks, Iranians and Singaporeans inevitably raises the problem of cultural differences, which include different norms, traditions, styles of work and relationships within the organization. One of the major problems the leader of the global organization will need to solve is to unite all the employees and, regardless of their differences, make them work together and work effectively and productively. The latter is possible on the condition that all problems, provoked by cultural differences of employees are solved.

On analyzing a bunch of problems and challenges the leader can potentially face, the problem of employees’ orientation and motivation is probably one of the most significant. What is meant here is the fact that each employee has his or her own motives and goals he or she is willing to achieve while working at the global organization (Greenleaf, 1986). Obviously, employees with a different cultural background will have different motives and goals. In this respect, the difference can be very substantial to the extent that the leader will face the problem of totally different goals and motives which define the work of employees within the organization. For instance, European employees, Germans and Greeks are more concerned with their individual success. They are focused on their professional career, their progress and individual achievements. Therefore, they need to feel them progressing. If they fail to succeed, for instance, if they cannot take a higher position in the organizational hierarchy, they are likely to be disappointed and disenchanted in their work and its results, even if the organization achieve a tremendous success.

In stark contrast, Singaporean employees and partially Iranian employees are more focused on the organizational performance. It is important to them to be a part of the organization, to feel that their contribution in the overall success of the organization, their work do matter, even if they fail to make a successful professional career and do routine work (Koch, 2004). Thus, Singaporean employees are different from Europeans and the leader can face a problem to match such different trends in cultural traditions of his or her subordinates. At this point, it is possible to speak the clash of individualism and collectivism of employees, which influence, to a significant extent, their behavior and work.

Hence, another problem the leader of the global organization can face the problem of an employee’s autonomy. What is meant here is the fact that European employees, both German and Greek, are accustomed to large autonomy, while Singaporean and Iranian employees are highly dependent on their leader, who should guide and direct their work. Such difference raises the problem of the choice of a proper leadership style which could meet cultural traditions of all employees. Obviously, Europeans, due to their individualism and concern with their individual success, are willing to work independently since this is the best way to make a successful career. As they work individually, they do not share their success with others. Therefore, if they work better than others they expect to get respective rewards and, naturally, they count for a career progress and taking a higher position in the organizational hierarchy or higher wages. As a result, Europeans need autonomy, which can even challenge the authority of the leader, who should not interfere in the work of German and Greek employees. What they need is the set of goals they need to meet, while the choice of ways in which these goals are to be achieved is supposed to be the prerogative of employees.

In stark contrast, Singaporean employees as well as Iranian employees are not accustomed to such autonomy of employees. Instead, they need the guidance of the leader, who they are dependent on. In actuality, this means that Asian employees need accurate instructions and guidance from the part of the leader. Otherwise, they will be unable to meet the goals the leader sets. Consequently, it is not enough for the leader to set goals but he or she should also provide his or her employees with strategies and tools with the help of which they can achieve these goals (Walton and Huey, 1996). Without an effective guidance, Asian employees will not be able to work effectively, even though they are ready to work hard even without expectation of great individual rewards or recognition of their individual success, which are essential for Europeans.

The aforementioned specificities of employees’ cultural traditions and style of work define a substantial difference in the leadership style. European and Asian employees are accustomed to different leadership styles since they have different traditions and norms. In fact, Europeans, with their concern with individual success and autonomy, naturally need a democratic leadership style, when employees have ample opportunities to implement their ideas and potential, while Asians, being dependent on the leader, are more inclined to the authoritarian leadership style, when the leader’s authority is unchallenged. Obviously, it is very difficult to balance the leadership style and, what is more, it is practically impossible to develop a leadership style which could adequately combine both democratic and authoritarian features. At the same time, the leader cannot ignore needs of his or her employees.

Problem-solving strategies

Substantial cultural differences and problems related to the development of the global organization imply the development of effective problem-solving strategies, which the leader needs to implement in the organization functioning in a multicultural environment. In fact, the problem-solving strategies should eliminate problems raised by cultural differences. Therefore, the leader should apply strategies which can help him or her to unite the organization, preserving difference between employees and using their cultural specificities for a more effective organizational performance.

Basically, a servant leadership can be a potentially very effective strategy which can help the leader to facilitate the integration of employees with a different cultural background into the global organization (Noble, 2005. The implementation of the servant leadership means that the leader will perform the function of a steward to his or her employees. Obviously, European employees will definitely accept such a role of a leader since it allows them to feel really independent, autonomous and free in their actions. At the same time, the leader still can set goals, which European employees will be willing to meet.

On the other hand, the application of the servant leadership to Asian, especially Singaporean employees, may confront certain difficulties because the leader should preserve his or her authority and keep the formal distance between him or her and employees (Northouse, 2001). Asian employees are not accustomed to the leadership style when the leader treats them as equal. Therefore, the leader should work with Asian employees, support and guide them, but keep distance and very formal relations avoiding the decrease of his or her authority in face of employees.

Furthermore, the leader should focus on the development of the organizational culture which is grounded on equality of all employees, but employees should perfectly understand the organizational structure and hierarchy (Hesselbein and Cohen, 1999). The latter is important for both Europeans and Asians. Europeans need to see clearly their own prospects and career growth within the organization, while Asian employees need to understand clearly the subordination within organization. However, the leader should convince employees that all of them have equal opportunities to succeed. At this point, he or she should lay emphasis on the fact that the success of each employee is not only his or her individual success but it is also the success of the entire organization. Thus, the leader will balance individualism of Europeans and collectivism of Asians. In such a way, the leader should focus on the formation of the unique organizational culture, where all employees feel that they are members of a team.


Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the development of global organization confronts numerous problems and challenges, which the leader needs to overcome. The major problems of the global organization operating in a multicultural environment are the different goals and motives of employees determined by the prevalence of either individualism or collectivism. Furthermore, while choosing a leadership style, the leader should take into consideration whether employees are inclined to authoritarian or democratic leadership and, if necessary, balance his or her leadership style to provide employees with certain independence but, simultaneously, to preserve his or her authority. The use of the servant leadership can be effective if it is properly applied in accordance to recommendations given above.

At the same time, the servant leadership should be based on the effective balancing of the leader in a multicultural environment. To put it more precisely, the leader needs to use strengths of cultural background of each employees. In this respect, it is obvious that German and Greek employees, being more concerned with their individual success, can work more effectively on the condition of the larger individual autonomy and they need to have clear career prospects. As for Asian employees, they need the larger support and guidance of the leader to perform successfully. In such a context, the leader can use ambitions of European employees and their strife for career growth to appoint them to executive positions or, alternatively, they can lead groups, where they can generate ideas and play the role of group leaders to lead other employees, encourage them to work better and guide them.

In such a way, the leader should manage the organization and help employees to overcome cultural barriers and forming the common corporate culture, although they should preserve their cultural identity to maximize the effectiveness of the organizational performance. Therefore, the leader should promote cultural tolerance within the organization and encourage people to develop positive interpersonal relations and respect cultural traditions of other people.

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