Cross-Cultural Transformational Leadership


In an increasingly interdependent world, global leadership understanding for international collaboration [1] is vital for the development of cross-cultural leadership [2]. This essay provides some hints on what might be determining leadership prototype’s effectiveness from different global perspectives [3].

Universal and culture-specific features of transformational leadership

Transformational leadership facilitates change through shared vision, intellectual stimulation, and support of individual’s aspirations [4] and is therefore essential for solving contemporary threats that require change [5]. Social change movements need to be put into the context of globalization [6]. The effectiveness of general transformational leadership was found a cross-culturally valid concept [7]. For example, transformational leaders were able to motivate their followers independent of cultural context [8]. In contrast, the desirability and effectiveness of transactional leadership turned out to be culture-dependent [9]. On a more detailed level, also transformational leadership contains some culture-sensitive aspects [10]. For example, enabling others to act and challenging the process appeared to be culture independent, while inspiration through shared vision and showing the way was negatively correlated to cultural values such as uncertainty avoidance [11].

Societal and cultural beliefs and values

Following the rationale and evidence that the concept of leadership has to be understood against the backdrop of social, historical, and cultural context [12], what are these factors then? Leadership literature has been criticized for being US-centric [2]. Indeed, 98 percent of leadership concepts stem from Western values and don’t assume a cross-cultural view [12]. As change involves setting goals [13], and as beliefs about goals represent values, it becomes clear that leadership is not decoupled from the social and cultural context [14]. Consequently, subordinates may respond differently according to their cultural value orientation [15]. For example, while, besides a charismatic leadership style, a participative leadership dimension is most important in the US, Latin America prioritizes team-orientation, and Eastern Europe scored highest in team-oriented and human-oriented aspects [16]. According to the implicit theory of leadership, the bedrock of leadership is how a certain style like transformational leadership gets implicitly meaningful and fine-tuned by the cultural endorsement of values such as, for example, collectivism/individualism, power distance, and level of context [17].

Global leadership understanding for international collaboration

Despite significant differences measured on national mean levels, individual differences shouldn’t be forgotten when examining cross-cultural differences [18]. Especially power distance orientation has proven to provide a better individual-level measure than individualism/collectivism as the central cultural value [4]. Power distance orientation describes the degree of acceptance and expectation of unequally distributed power [19, 20]. For example, emotional commitment to a transformational leader was higher among followers low in power distance [21]. Beyond national culture, there are even more relevant variables, such as politics, language, feminine and masculine tendencies, and organizational culture [22]. Person-job fit was fund to mediate inclusive leadership and employee well-being [23]. In an increasingly interdependent world, global leadership understanding for international collaboration [1] is vital for the development of cross-cultural leadership [2]. This essay provided some hints on what might be determining leadership prototype’s effectiveness from different global perspectives [3].

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[1] Huffman, J. B., Olivier, D. F., Wang, T., Chen, P., Hairon, S., & Pang, N. (2016). Global Conceptualization of the Professional Learning Community Process: Transitioning from Country Perspectives to International Commonalities. International Journal Of Leadership In Education, 19(3), 327-351.

[2] Rakesh, M., & Steven M., E. (2016). Social power and leadership in cross-cultural context. Journal Of Management Development, (1), 58. doi:10.1108/JMD-02-2014-0020

[3] Jung, D., Yammarino, F. J., & Lee, J. K. (2009). Moderating role of subordinates’ attitudes on transformational leadership and effectiveness: A multi-cultural and multi-level perspective. The Leadership Quarterly, 20(4), 586-603. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2009.04.011

[4] Kirkman, B. L., Chen, G., Farh, J., Chen, Z. X., & Lowe, K. B. (2009). Individual power distance orientation and follower reactions to transformatioal leaders: A cross-level, cross-cultural examination. Academy Of Management Journal, 52(4), 744-764. doi:10.5465/AMJ.2009.43669971

[5] Berger, R., Romeo, M., Guardia, J., Yepes, M., & Soria, M. A. (2012). Psychometric properties of the Spanish Human System Audit Short-Scale of transformational leadership. The Spanish Journal Of Psychology, 15(1), 367-376.

[6] Chen, S., & Kompf, M. (2012). Chinese Scholars on Western Ideas about Thinking, Leadership, Reform and Development in Education. [e;ectronic book].

[7] Petia, P., & Herbert, B. (2017). Cross-Cultural Variation in Political Leadership Styles. Europe’s Journal Of Psychology, Vol 13, Iss 4, Pp 749-766 (2017), (4), 749. doi:10.5964/ejop.v13i4.1412

[8] Wang, Z., & Gagné, M. (2013). A Chinese–Canadian cross-cultural investigation of transformational leadership, autonomous motivation, and collectivistic value. Journal Of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 20(1), 134-142. doi:10.1177/1548051812465895

[9] Hussain, G., Wan Ismail, W. K., & Javed, M. (2017). Comparability of leadership constructs from the Malaysian and Pakistani perspectives. Cross Cultural & Strategic Management, 24(4), 617-644. doi:10.1108/CCSM-11-2015-0158

[10] Lam, Y. J. (2002). Defining the Effects of Transformational Leadership on Organisational Learning: A Cross-Cultural Comparison. School Leadership & Management, 22(4), 439-52.

[11] Ergeneli, A., Gohar, R., & Temirbekova, Z. (2007). Transformational leadership: Its relationship to culture value dimensions. International Journal Of Intercultural Relations, 31(6), 703-724. doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2007.07.003

[12] Ryu, S. Y. (2015). Kunja leadership: Concept and nomological validity. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 36(6), 744-764. doi:10.1108/LODJ-12-2013-0167

[13] Clarke, G. A. (2009). An Essay on Leadership, Especially through South African and New Zealand Cultural Lenses. International Journal Of Leadership In Education, 12(2), 209-216.

[14] James C., S., & Joseph C., S. (2001). Leaders and values: a cross-cultural study. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, (5), 243. doi:10.1108/01437730110397310

[15] Louw, L., Muriithi, S. M., & Radloff, S. (2017). The relationship between transformational leadership and leadership effectiveness in Kenyan indigenous banks. South African Journal Of Human Resource Management, 15(1), 1-11. doi:10.4102/sajhrm.v15i0.935

[16] Suzana Dobric, V. (2017). Charismatic, Transformational, and Servant Leadership in the United States, Mexico, and Croatia. International Journal Of Business And Social Research , Vol 6, Iss 12, Pp 25-34 (2017), (12), 25. doi:10.18533/ijbsr.v6i12.1003

[17] Yang, I. (2016). Lost overseas?: The challenges facing Korean transformational leadership in a cross-cultural context. Critical Perspectives On International Business, 12(2), 121-139. doi:10.1108/cpoib-09-2013-0036

[18] Lee, K., Scandura, T. A., & Sharif, M. M. (2014). Cultures have consequences: A configural approach to leadership across two cultures. Leadership Quarterly, 25(4), 692-710.

[19] Hofstede, G. (1980), Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values, Sage, Beverly Hills, CA.

[20] Hofstede, G. (2001), Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations Across Nations, 2nd ed., Sage, Newbury Park, CA

[21] Newman, A., & Butler, C. (2014). The influence of follower cultural orientation on attitudinal responses towards transformational leadership: Evidence from the Chinese hospitality industry. The International Journal Of Human Resource Management, 25(7), 1024-1045. doi:10.1080/09585192.2013.815250

[22] Chin-Chung (Joy), C. (2011). Climbing the Himalayas : A cross-cultural analysis of female leadership and glass ceiling effects in non-profit organizations. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, (8), 760. doi:10.1108/01437731111183720

[23] Choi, S. B., Thi Bich Hanh, T., & Kang, S. (2017). Inclusive Leadership and Employee Well-Being: The Mediating Role of Person-Job Fit. Journal Of Happiness Studies, 18(6), 1877-1901.

About mathias sager

Thinking and writing for happiness, painting colorfully, and enabling personal growth for all. Fostering co-operative and humanitarian principles, economic and social equality, as well as environmental sustainability. Using broad international experience and progressive, egalitarian and global outlook to promote care for the next generation.
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5 Responses to Cross-Cultural Transformational Leadership

  1. This is really cool. And for whatever it’s worth, this teeeeeny corner of Your peanut gallery would love to see another of Your wonderful paintings!!!! Yes! It’s “request Thursday” at the OK Coral! 😀 Thanks for all You are doing. Cheers!!! 🙂

  2. lauracurwood says:

    Hi Mathias. I am based in London at the moment, and I would really like to exchange with you sometime, as I consider myself an entrepreneur in art and philosophy and uses these subjects to promote socio-cultural change. I saw you like my post and followed my blog. But I would really like to meet with you, as I believe this culd be mutually beneficial. My email is

    • mathias sager says:

      Hi Laura. Thanks a lot for getting into contact. You’re right, Platasso’s “connect ART to the REAL world” and Artooba’s mission to “connect more ARTists to PUBLIC places”, as one example, calls for collaboration in coloring the world:-). Dropping you an email next. Take care.

  3. lauracurwood says:

    Excuse the spelling errors 🙂

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