Leadership style and culture

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After our Monday meeting I spent some time thinking about leadership styles and how much of it is influenced by our culture.

Maybe it would be interesting for us to hear from each other what kind of leadership is the norm back in our home countries. We could look at the different leadership styles and see what works and what doesn’t and why.

My personal perspective about the common Brazilian leadership style can be summarized in a saying that we have “Manda quem pode, obedece quem tem juizo,” or in English “Those who can, give orders and those who are smart obey them.” This idea is quite the opposite from the servant leader idea or from the idea of a leader who has his/her door open. I acknowledge that these are broad statements and that there are always plenty of exceptions. But in my perspective Brazilian leadership style in the business world is not very democratic and it is based on a person with a strong personality . It is also more about two groups, those who give orders and those who obey them, with not much room left for questioning authority. Especially if someone is not a highly skilled worker; there is always the idea that any worker could easily be replaced by one of the many unemployed people that would love to have a job.

The charismatic style is another type of leadership commonly seen in politics and other organizations in Brazil where people need to feel important in order to contribute. In these groups leaders are often very charismatic and can basically get people to do anything for them. Lula, our current president is probably a good example of a charismatic figure that people love because they feel he is one of them and he is for them. I think this second style of leadership works well, but I wonder if there is a place for a more forceful style of leadership in this world. Is there even a style of leadership that would work well in all cultures? I don’t know, but I would love to become a leader with a multicultural perspective and with sensitivity. Someone able to develop people and help them achieve their full potential no matter how diverse they are.

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