Cross-cultural differences in the perception of ethical and unethical leadership

In cross-cultural research, the differences between ethical and unethical leadership are understood by consensus based on the “three whales”:

the Western perspective; the example that comes from managing private sector business organizations again in Western economies (North American and Western European); a conception of ethics and ethics, formed based on reducing business ethics to the so-called. compliance (compliance with rules and regulations), which in turn is also part of the Western paradigm.

Within this Western paradigm, a typical understanding of leaders as competitors in benchmarks is formed. D. Goleman describes star leaders who have exceptional abilities compared to the average (Goleman, 2014).

Modern outstanding leadership traits are defined as follows: strategic orientation, market flair, orientation to achieve results, commitment to the goal of having satisfied customers and users, cooperation and impact on others, striving to develop winning teams, and transformational leadership. Reference: “What is ethical leadership in cross-cultural business ethics?“,

This list is a reflection of the absolute qualities of benchmark leaders coming from the world of information technology and communications business.

The “Silicon Valley Hero” is depicted. The question is to what extent is the image of the “global leader” culturally and ethically acceptable, even in the context of a technological digital environment?

In special studies on moral leadership in different regional and national cultural contexts, the main classic line remains to compare the axes of Western and Eastern cultures or their individual “representatives”. The article (Gu, Li-Ping, Tang, Jiang, 2013) analyzes the comparative moral leadership and the impact on the creativity of employees in Chinese, Canadian and American companies. Read more: What is Ethical Leadership: How to be an Ethical Leader

Pointing out that leadership itself is defined within the Western world, the authors use the construct of paternalistic leadership for Chinese and Eastern culture in general. Paternalism is the predominant leadership style in non-Western businesses. Paternalistic leaders combine authority with benevolence, benevolence, and mercy, and in this sense are perceived as ethical. E. Pellegrini, T. Scandura, and W. Jayaraman compare the attitudes of US and Indian officials towards paternalistic leadership.

Paternalism has a significantly stronger positive effect on job satisfaction in India, while this relationship is not significant for the United States. In both cultural contexts, paternalistic leadership is positively associated with organizational engagement (Pellegrini, Skandura, Jayaraman, 2010). S. Eisenbeih and F. Broadbeck perform cross-cultural and cross-sectoral analyses of ethical and unethical leadership (Eisenbeih, Brodbeck, 2013).

It is pointed out that nowadays managers have to ethically manage people and projects from different cultures, but also different sectors (private and state, regional and international). It is vital to form a holistic unifying picture of what is perceived as ethical and unethical in cultures, industries, and sectors. And in this study, we start from the dichotomy of western-eastern culture.

The specificity of each of the Eastern cultures (Chinese, Indian, etc.) makes it difficult to distinguish more than the above one or two traits of the unethical and ethical leader, respectively.

Today, with the help of information technology, countless counseling lists and advice are available on the valuable qualities of an ethical leader and how to develop them (see, for example, Kahler 2014). But when they are assimilated and adapted by the individual or in a community, the problem arises for the cultural translation of the words used for values ​​and virtues, for other ethical concepts and features of moral character in translating one language into another.

And here we are faced with the problem of “lost in translation”. To M. Kundera (Kundera, 2014) we owe a good example and in-depth reflections on unique moral and psychological states, expressed in difficult-to-translate words. Litost is a Czech word for “a torturous state caused by the sight of our own, suddenly revealed nothingness.” It is the name of the humiliation and anger that follows.

The condition is characteristic of the age preceding the experience; it fuels the thirst for revenge, hiding behind pathetic hypocrisy ”(ibid.), and the real reasons can never be demonstrated. Kundera gives the example of a boy and a girl swimming in a lake. The girl is a better swimmer and reaches the shore first. The boy feels humiliated, and under the false pretext that there were dangerous currents along the coast, he hits the girl.

By Michael Young

Michael Young is the chief publisher of and is passionate about all project management and business management disciplines from the modern education programs presented by the popular universities in the United States (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK)

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