Clashes, Convergences and Coalescences
Edited by Donna Ladkin and Chellie Spiller
Chapter 20: Cameo: the challenge for authentic leadership in multi-cultural settings
Authentic leadership proposes that leaders need to embrace the importance of ‘being true to the self’ (Avolio and Gardner 2005; Gardner et al. 2005). This can be problematic when leaders operate in multi-national, multi-cultural contexts, in which ideas about what constitutes good leadership can have significant variation. In this study, originally con- ducted to investigate the low rate of promotions of Chinese managers within multi-national corporations (MNCs), it is revealed that the differences in implicit views of ‘leadership’ between senior global expatriate leaders and local leaders can negatively impact the chances of Chinese managers’ career advancement. If Chinese managers are indeed ‘true to themselves’, they do not match the understanding of what constitutes ‘leadership’ within Western-based MNC companies. Using repertory grid tests, the study explored the leadership constructs of 31 senior global leaders working in six MNCs in China. Their constructs were compared with those of 59 Chinese managers in the same organizations. Half of these Chinese managers were evaluated by their organizations as having high potential for promotion and the others as having less apparent potential for promotion. The data were then analysed to identify important and commonly used leadership constructs identified from senior global leaders and then to compare these with the Chinese managers’ leadership constructs. The constructs in each of these groups were then compared with the leadership frameworks used by these MNCs. There were important differences: half the important and commonly used constructs of leadership recognized by the senior global leaders were not identified as important or commonly used by the Chinese managers.
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