Leadership Around the World

There are many differences in leadership characteristics around the world, from autocratic management to egalitarian, we explore the overriding philosophies that dictate leadership styles in various countries across the globe. Dr. Richard D. Lewis' book, 'When Cultures Collide' outlines these key differences, which we have detailed below.

Brighton School of Business and Management
Created by Brighton School of Business and Management
On Jul 21, 2015

UK & Ireland

The management style of the UK and Ireland is typically seen as casual leadership. Managers are both diplomatic, helpful, and willing to compromise, while simultaneously capable of being be ruthless when necessary. Traditional beliefs are central to this management style which can result in a failure to comprehend differing values in others.



Managers in the USA tend to be assertive, aggressive, and goal oriented. They are very confident, and optimistic and tend to immerse themselves in the spirit of teamwork. Many American managers value individual freedom highly, and can focus primarily on advancing their own career objectives than those of their teams.



French managers tend to be autocratic and authoritarian, who are focused on the big picture more than on issues related to their staff. In an ‘Autocratic Management’ model the opinions of entry-level staff and even experienced middle managers tend to be dismissed.



The German leadership style combines two seemingly immiscible elements, a focus on hierarchy and also on achieving consensus. German managers believe in a clear chain of command with instructions and information being passed down from the top. Despite this seemingly hierarchical structure, a strong focus is placed on consensus from staff.



The Spanish leadership model is very similar to the French, except for one crucial element. While both countries typically have autocratic and charismatic management styles, the Spaniards believe less in the French insistence on logic and instead rely on their own intuition.



‘Primus Inter Pares’ can be used to describe the Swedish management style, which translates from Latin to ‘First among Equals’. The Swedish management system, much like their political system, is decentralised and democratic. The central belief in the ‘Primus Inter Pares’ model is that employees who are better informed are more motivated to do their jobs well, and as a result perform better. While this model is conducive to good work, it does however suffer from the fact that decisions can be delayed.



The Norwegian management method is quite democratic, in that the manager is in the centre of the action. Employees enjoy easy access to their manager, who guides policy and productivity, while also listening to the issues raised. Opinions tend to be heard and acted upon in egalitarian fashion, and top executives rarely abandon responsibility and accountability.



The Finnish management system differs slightly from its Scandinavian counterpart Norway. In Finland leaders tend to exercise control from a position just outside and above the ring of middle managers, who make day to day decisions. The top executives become decisive when it comes down to the line, and are not afraid to open up to staff on the bottom rung and help out in a time of crisis.


East Asia

Many East Asian countries tend to conform to the Confucian hierarchy of leadership. Confucianism also stresses the importance of relationships and respect for elders, in the workplace case, upper management and experienced staff.



Applying the principles of the Confucian hierarchy, Japanese top executives tend to have great power but very little involvement in the everyday affairs of the company. The leadership system, known as the ‘ringi-sho consensus’, ensures that the executive role is more focused on leadership, innovation and the expansion of the company, rather than on the day to day mechanics.