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Posted on August 29th, 2012, by

Leader working in multicultural environment needs to adopt to needs of employees representing different cultural groups. In the situation when a servant leader works with Greek, German, Iranian and Singaporean employees the implementation of servant leadership can be particularly difficult because of substantial cultural differences between employees. In such a situation, the leader should balance his or her relationships with employees developing positive interpersonal relations and, at the same time, maintaining reasonable distance to gain the respect and confidence of employees.

 

Today, servant leadership is growing more and more popular today and its popularity is, to a significant extent, determined by its relatively high efficiency. Servant leadership can be effective on the condition when the leader combines both formal and informal authority and manages to balance his or her stewardship and good positive interpersonal relations with his or her highly formal authority as a leader of the organization (Noble, 2005). Hence, interpersonal relationships of leaders and employees affect consistently organizational performance.

On the other hand, the leader needs to develop positive interpersonal relationships with his subordinates and simultaneously maintain his or her authority.  In such a context, it is necessary to take into consideration cultural background of employees from Greece, Singapore, Germany and Iran to maintain the authority of the leader and let employees work relatively autonomously from the leader.

On analyzing the multicultural context, in which the leader is supposed to work, i.e. the presence of employees from Greece, Germany, Iran and Singapore, the leader should be able to deal with a highly controversial cultural environment. On the one hand there are more liberal and democratic Greek and German employees, who get used to the democratic management style and equality of employees, as well as employees and managers. On the other hand, there are highly conservative Iranian and Singaporean employees, who have a totally different cultural background and are not prepared to work in the European or American cultural environment. At any rate, all the employees need to change and adapt their cultural traditions and norms to work together in a multicultural environment.

Therefore, a servant leader should demonstrate his or her ability to be tolerant and understand cultural needs of employees from different countries. The leader using servant leadership primarily focuses on the development of positive interpersonal relationships with employees.

This goal is achieved through the development of the specific leadership style, servant leadership, when the leader becomes a steward (Fidelus, 2003). Employees feel confident in their leader since the leader is perceived as an ordinary person, who is able to understand needs and interests of employees and protect them (Greenleaf, 1986).

In order to avoid internal conflict within the organization, prevent the loss of the authority by the leader and increase the effectiveness of organizational performance, it is necessary to meet cultural needs of all employees. In this respect, it is possible to recommend the formation of formal relationships where the servant leader has to balance professional and good interpersonal relations between him or her and his or her subordinates. What is meant here is the fact that the leader should be friendly, quite democratic but he or she should not surmount basic cultural norms which could have been offensive for representatives of more conservative cultures, namely Singaporean and Iranian employees. To put it more precisely, the leader can support and encourage his or her employees but he or she should not close the formal distance between him or her and the rest of employees (Lussier and Achua, 2005). The leader should always remain a leader, whatever happens within the organization and in his or her relationships with his or her employees. As a result, the leader’s supportive behavior will be quite helpful for Greek and German employees, while Singaporean and Iranian employees will feel the authority of the leader due to the distance he maintains as he keeps the distance in the communication with employees and in his or her support of employees emphasizing his or her leadership. However, the leader should not be haughty since it will produce a negative effect on German and especially Greek employees who would interpret it as tyranny or, at least, as a trend to the autocratic power.

The servant leader should engage employees in the process of decision making. For instance, he can discuss some important issues or decision he is going to take with employees. At the same time, the leader should make decision on his or her own and he or she should show that it was him or her who took the final decision, though the leader should also demonstrate that he or she takes into consideration the position of employees. Thus, Singaporean and Iranian employees will keep viewing him or her as a strong leader, while German and Greek employees will view him or her as a leader that takes into consideration the opinion of employees.

Furthermore, it is important to establish clear and comprehensible rules of relationships between employees. The leader should introduce a code of conduct which could be elaborated together with employees, but this code should take into consideration cultural specificities of all cultural groups of employees. For instance, employees, especially representing different gender, should maintain the respectable distance to avoid situations which could be embarrassing for some employees (Hesselbein and Cohen, 1999). In addition, it is necessary to provide employees to have possibility to have a day off on occasions of religious holidays or similar important events, but all employees should have the same amount of days off. A part of the days off would be fixed, while a part would be variable. The latter means that employees will choose on their own those days when they prefer not to work and stay at home or celebrate their religious holiday, for instance. Finally, the servant leader should set clear goals the employees should achieve and suggest possible ways of the achievement of the set goals. However, the leader should allow employees either to follow his or her recommendations, which are more the characteristic of Singaporean employees, or choose their own way of actions to meet the set goals, which is more typical for Greeks and Germans.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the servant leader working in a multicultural environment, consisting of Greek, German, Iranian and Singaporean employees should follow the aforementioned recommendations in order to achieve a positive organizational performance. In fact, the organization will not function effectively, if cultural norms and traditions of employees are ignored. Moreover, the ignorance of cultural traditions of employees can evoke internal conflicts and opposition to the leader. Hence, the adaptation of the organizational culture to multicultural environment is an essential condition of an effective organizational performance.

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