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Symphonic Leadership: A Model for the Global Business Environment posted Jan 22, 2018

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Abstract: The increasing impact of globalization and the growth of multinational organizations challenge traditional leadership and management models that cannot sufficiently address cultural differences. After reviewing the most recent literature on global leadership, this paper puts forth a new descriptive model of global leadership. This new paradigm adopts the metaphor of a symphony and uses the stages of composition, orchestration, and performance to describe a new approach to leadership and management. The symphonic leadership model aims to overcome ethnocentric and etnorelativist limitations through the introduction of the intermediate stage of etnopluralism. The model keeps the role of the organization’s stakeholders central, because they are the active, participant audience in the symphonic process. An outline for the empirical verification of this model is proposed.

Keywords: Global Leadership, Multicultural Management, Ethnocentrism, Ethnorelativism.

Introduction The globalized corporate environment faces one of the most compelling challenges in cross-cultural management. Several scholars (House et. al 2004), have attempted to determine the right leadership style for the unique challenges posed by globalization, but their research has not converged to a single model able to integrate different leadership theories and international operation practices. Kenichi Omahe 2005), in his work “The Next Global Stage,” presented an optimistic description of a class of business executives who possess the right skills to meet this challenge: “Business Executives talk the same language anywhere in the world. They are able to communicate fluently and effectively in the linguistic platform of English. The terms that they use are the same. They have the same motivation and personal interests. Many have attended the same business schools, or ones who offer a very similar range of teaching materials, lecturing style, and placement opportunities. They read the same business magazines. They stay in the same hotels, often enjoying the same range of food and leisure activities, while their children go to the same schools” (140) . Omahe described a global reality, but different scenarios are not uncommon. In these scenarios, communication and teamwork are growing challenges because of executives’ different cultural backgrounds and leadership styles. The “Next Global Stage” is still in search of the perfect leader or of the perfect leadership style, able to take into account the complexity of globalization. Certainly education plays an important role in this process, as American universities increasing interest and effort in internationalization seems to demonstrate. On the other hand, the “steroids” of globalization as per Friedman’s (2007) definition, increase and amplify the interconnection among different parts of the global village. Unfortunately, at the same time, they increase and amplify the risk of miscommunication. Harvard Business School professor Pankaj Ghemawat (2007) does not share Omahe’s and Friedman’s optimism. In his work “Redefining Global Strategy”, Ghemawat (2007) opposed a vision in which international business constitutes only a modest percentage of total business and international business is still divided by barriers that transcend national borders. Ghemawat considers the world to be far from flat and unified. According to him, four kinds of barriers or distances still exist. Cultural, administrative, geographic, and economic barriers (CAGE) challenge every business that wants to be international.

Beyond Ghemawat’s comprehensive analysis, clearly, the international business environment is constellated by failures due to cultural miscommunication. In international operations, network organizations operate more and more through virtual communication channels that are able to close geographical, but not necessarily cultural distances (Ghemawat, 2007). Using Omahe’s metaphor, the exclusive circle of the Ivy League represents the minority of protagonists on the stage. The majority of international businesspeople are represented by a “middle class” of entrepreneurs, managers, scholars, and expatriates that deserve attention, inspiration, and support through realistic leadership models. This paper will delineate some components of the common knowledge about leadership and highlight a possible point of synthesis among the different theories. In particular, I will outline a new descriptive model directed to overcome the ethnocentric and the ethnorelativistic approaches. Redefining Leadership: Recent Attempts Considering the radical changes that have occurred in the global business environment, some authors (Darth, 2009, Palus 2009, Roberto 2009)) support the need for an ontological change in the idea of leadership. New challenges come from the world’s “flattening,” or the proliferation of peer-like and collaborative working environments: “[We need] an ontology in which the essential entities are three leadership outcomes: (1) direction: widespread agreement in a collective on overall goals, aims, and mission; (2) alignment: the organization and coordination of knowledge and work in a collective; and (3) commitment: (DAC). The willingness of members of a collective to subsume their own interests and benefit within the collective interest and benefit. The new leader-follower relationship would not be based on roles and hierarchies but on shared interest in pursuing the three mentioned outcomes” (Drath 635). Palus (2009) supported the DAC approach and added to this concept by stating that leadership must cease to be “dependent” or “independent” and become interdependent: “Interdependent leadership cultures are broadly characterized by the assumption that leadership is a collective activity that requires mutual inquiry and learning. This assumption may lead to the widespread use of dialogue, collaboration, horizontal networks, valuing of differences, and a focus on learning. In general, interdependent cultures can be thought of as “collaborative” cultures. Other characteristics associated with interdependent cultures include the ability to work effectively across organizational boundaries, openness and candor, multifaceted standards of success, and synergies being sought across the whole enterprise (6)”.

 

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