Societal influences on leadership and motivation

Leadership and Motivation


Cultural and societal influences on leadership and motivation

The content, the manner of manifestation, and the efficiency of leadership are the result of several determinant factors. The education the leader benefited from represents one of these factors. Education in relation with its contribution to the development of leadership is studied on three distinct levels: general education, professional education, and managerial education.

General education builds the basis of the individual and social general behavior and ensures the general knowledge basis with important effects on communicational level.

Professional education in technical, economic, or IT areas ensure the personal competency and prestige of specialists, which provides great importance in the relationships with specialists in the domain in case.

Managerial education mainly takes into consideration the development of innate abilities that leadership is based on. Such and education also focuses on developing and improving the ability to influence decisions, actions, and behavior of other people.

The general result of these training processes has a significant impact on social abilities, technical knowledge, decisional and communicational ability, managerial behavior, all these factors being essential for effective leadership.

It is worth mentioning that during the last decades, as a consequence of numerous positive implications of leadership, managerial education grants a great deal of specific attention for elements that affect its development. This situation has practical effects. For example, it has been observed that the number of managers that exert efficient leadership, based on techniques developed through managerial training, has increased in developed countries.

Certain studies have revealed that each type of leadership is influenced by different cultural and societal factors, as it follows: charismatic or value-based leadership is influenced by future orientation and humane orientation. Team oriented leadership is influenced by collectivism, humane orientation, assertiveness, and uncertainty avoidance. Participative leadership is influenced by power distance, and humane orientation. Humane orientation leadership is influenced by gender egalitarianism. Autonomous leadership is influenced by collectivism. Self-protective leadership is influenced by power distance, and uncertainty avoidance.

These societal and cultural factors manifest in distinct ways and have different implications. The avoidance of uncertainty assumes an increased number of items that are designed in order to process information, which means that this kind of leadership focuses on information availability, information being considered in this case a resource of high importance. Even more, experts in the field state that given the current turbulent global conditions, leadership becomes more important than management techniques (De Woot, 1992).

The power distance factor can be identified in situations where there is a limited number of scientists, which means that intellectual inquiry is somewhat suppressed. Such situations can be observed in less developed countries.

Gender egalitarianism indicates a high proportion of females with earned income. This further reveals a lower discrimination degree against females and an increased pressure for females that contribute to the workforce. Such situations can be observed in developed, Western civilizations.

Humane orientation is revealed by a low number of retail outlets per capita. This means that the attention is oriented towards relationships rather than towards economic amenities.

Future can be found in countries where there is a “high proportion of public education expenditure devoted to higher education, indicating public investment for future opportunities and future economic performance” (House et al., 1999).

Performance orientation can be observed in situations where only a small percent of research and development is financially supported by the government. This further means that this leadership type corresponds to countries where the market competition is free and government’s intervention in the economy is usually low.

As one may observe, the societal and cultural factors of influence that affect leadership are common for each region. Their influence is in relation with the degree of civilization and development of the country in case. For example, Western, developed countries, with economies of international importance are characterized by a leadership influenced by avoidance of uncertainty, gender egalitarianism, future orientation, performance orientation.

Developing countries are characterized by a leadership influenced by factors like power distance, societal influence on collectivism, or human orientation. This means that leaders cannot practice a type of leadership influenced by a factor of influence of their choice. Basically, these factors of influence are somewhat inherited from their superiors, trainers, and the society as a whole.

It has been observed that “founders of organizations, the organizations’ original leaders, are immersed in their own societal culture, and they are most likely to enact the global leader behavior patterns that are favored in that culture” (House et al., 1999).

In other words, the founders or the leaders of the organization in cause establish themselves as role models, they establish a certain general leadership style that is further embraced by subordinate leaders. They pass this leadership style further to their subordinates. This way, founders can influence leaders, through role modeling and socialization.

Founders’ presence in the organization’s activity allows for them to maintain a constant influence on subordinate leaders. Given the fact that this influence is a constant presence, it means that there is no pressure for subordinate leaders to follow the founders’ example, they are influenced in a natural manner. The founders’ leadership style is therefore accepted by their subordinates without any negative response.

As a consequence, the behavior of leaders reflects general leadership patterns. These general leadership patterns are also a reflection of the entire societal culture. This means that the societal culture significantly influence the leadership style.

Culture also affects the general vision of leaders. For example, Chinese individuals expect their leaders to be more active and to limit their verbal speeches, which is mostly common in the Western civilization. The Indian culture is very different from the Chinese one, given the fact that Indians prefer leaders that take risks (Wharton Network, 1999).

The importance of gender and cultural background on the leadership style varies in each region. The effect of these aspects is moderate in Anglo, Nordic, Germanic, and Eastern Europe. The effect is also moderate in South Asia, but with different implications (Van Emmerick et al., 2009).

Reference list:

1. 1. House, R.J. et al. (1999). Cultural Resources on Leadership and Organizations: Project Globe. The Wharton School of Management, University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved May 13, 2009 from

2. De Woot, Ph. (1993). Towards a European Management Model. EFMD, FORUM. No. 3. Retrieved May 14, 2009.

3. How Cultural Factors Affect Leadership (1999). University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School. Retrieved May 14, 2009 from

4. Van Emmerick, H. et al. (2009). Leadership Behaviors around the World: The Relative Importance of Gender vs. Cultural Background. University of Utrecht. Retrieved May 14, 2009 from

2. Ethical responsibilities of a leader

In order to practice an efficient leadership, leaders must first make proof of their outstanding ethics. Leaders represent models that must be followed by other individuals. This is why ethics is so important where leadership is concerned.

Leaders must address the following types of ethics: morality, principle ethics, virtue ethics, mandatory ethics, aspirational ethics.

It is difficult for specialists to agree on a common definition of ethics and what it stands for. But everyone can agree upon the fact that ethics show us what is right, what is wrong, and what the difference between these aspects is. Ethics also establish principles that should be implemented by all individuals in order to maintain what is agreed to be a right conduct.

The types of ethics mentioned above are different in terms of manner of manifestation, causes, and effects. Morality usually refers to an appreciation or an evaluation of actions of a certain person. Morality is functioning based on cultural and religious standards and norms. This type of ethics has a more individual importance compared to other types of ethics. But this does not mean that morality should be of less importance for leaders and their subordinates.

Principle ethics have a wider implication and a more complex area of manifestation. The factors of influence for this type of ethics include rational, objective, universal and impartial principles.

These principles are used in order to analyze ethical dilemmas. All the principles listed above are a sine qua non-condition for implementing an ethical system that can be followed by others also.

Virtue ethics refer to individual’s character. Although this is an internal, individual characteristic, its effects are external and may even become global, depending on the situation in case. As mentioned in the previous chapter, a leader’s efficiency and leadership style can also be attributed to his general education. This includes his character.

As a consequence, the internal structure of the leader has external effects and influences its subordinates in a significant and direct manner. Certain misconducts in this area can be corrected. Others cannot be corrected which means they are likely to affect in one way or another, the leadership style.

Individuals are not perfect and leaders make no exception. But this should not be an excuse for any unethical behavior. A leader that admits his mistakes and tries to correct them is likely to gain more respect and appreciation from his peers in comparison with a leader that tries to deny and to hide such issues.

Also, virtue ethics must ensure that the leader acts in the best interest of those who he represents, works with, and works for. However, this does not suffice in order to implement an effective leadership style.

In addition to this, the leader must be surrounded by individuals with similar ethical behavior. This would help the leader to achieve ethical responsibilities. Also, it would make it easier to observe any unethical conduct from the leader.

As mentioned above, there are also different levels of ethics, like mandatory and aspirational ethics. The lowest level of ethics, but not the least important, is represented by mandatory ethics. This type of ethics refers to compliance with the law. In this case, things are clear. All individuals, especially leaders, must respect the law.

Aspirational ethics refer to the effects and influence that leaders’ actions have on others. The first people leaders influence are represented by the people they work with. They further influence the targeted segment that the organization in case addresses. This way, leaders can have a global influence.

One of the most efficient ethical leadership models is considered to be P4 or PPPP. This ethical leadership style refers to the following aspects: purpose, people, planet, probity or honesty.

In this case, purpose stands for profit. Non-profit organizations can use purpose instead of profit. However, this does not mean that this leadership style addresses each of these aspects separately. This leadership style aims at achieving the organization’s objectives by referring to all these aspects at the same time, in the most ethical manner (Chapman, 2009).

In other words, the success of leadership derives from achieving profit related objectives while taking into consideration the requirements of people, represented by employees, customers, community, with significant consideration for the planet by sustaining the environment, and by acting with probity, meaning acting in an honest manner. Basically, probity ensures that ethical principles are respected by the leadership.

Leaders must do the right thing, compared to managers that focus on doing things right. This is the general difference between leaders and managers. This is also how the ethical responsibility of the leader can be summarized.

In conclusion, the ethical responsibilities of leaders must rely on the following aspects: autonomy, beneficence, nonmalefience, justice or fairness.

Autonomy means that the leader should others to make choices on their free will. Autonomy not only has ethical implications, but it also helps develop decision-making abilities of individuals. Leaders should take into consideration this aspect and help people they work with to make better decisions without influencing their free will.

Beneficence consists in promoting the well-being of others. By definition, leaders work with others, for others. They must devote themselves to the well-being of others. They must be loyal to this principle throughout their activity. They must make proof of their determination in this direction. This is another difference between leaders and managers (Moore, 1996).

Nonmalefience consists in the avoidance of harming or creating risk factors for others. It also means that leaders should not exploit others in their personal interest. This is a very important ethical responsibility of a leader. The leader should set an example in this case, which would determine others to follow the same attitude. This is how leaders have the power to influence others, directly and indirectly.

Through justice or fairness, leaders implement equal fairness and equal treatment for all individuals. Discrimination is an issue that is present on any organization at ant level, regardless of the degree of development of the country in which the organization activates. The phenomenon is also very difficult to diminish. This means that leaders have an even greater responsibility of setting an example to be followed in this direction.

Most theoreticians and practitioners have agreed upon the fact that it is the leader’s responsibility to set the ethical tone in his organization (Markkula Center, 2008).

The aspect of leadership ethics is more important than it may seem at the first glance. In a survey conducted among 462 executives, 56% of them considered that ethical behavior is the most important characteristic required for being a successful leader, more important than sound judgment, and adaptability (Signature, 2001).

Reference list:

1. Chapman, A. (2009). Ethical leadership, decision-making, and organizations. Retrieved May 13, 2009 from

2. Moore, R.D. (1996). Ethical Responsibilities for Leaders in a Pluralistic Society. U.S. Department of Education, Educational Resources Information Center. Retrieved May 13, 2009 from

3. CEOs: Setting the Ethical Tone (2008). Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Retrieved May 14, 2009 from

4. Business Ethics (2001). Signature Inc. Retrieved May 14, 2009 from

3. Power of leaders

One of the central elements that significantly condition the contents and results of motivation is represented by the power that leaders have on their subordinates within the organization. Although it is not visible, power is a major ingredient in motivating employees.

There are several definitions of power. Therefore, Finkelstein, and also Hickson, Lee and Schneck define power as the ability of a person to exert and impose its will (Hickson et al., 1992) S.A. Snell and J.W. Dean define power as the ability of a person to determine the accomplishment of certain objectives in the manner they want them to be accomplished (Snell & Dean, 1992).

Generally, by the term power, in the context of organizational management, one refers to the ability of an employee, owner, or any other stakeholder to influence the decision-making process, the actions and behavior of other members of the organization in accordance with his will.

In other words, the greater one’s power the greater its influence. The leader has the power to implement his vision on superior level on the vision of other people involved in the processes in case.

In order to understand power within the organization it is essential to understand the sources of power within the organization. Leaders’ sources of power can be individual and organizational.

Individual sources of power include: the power to reward, the power to punish, the formal position, personal charisma, authority of knowledge, the desire of power, the ability to harmonize processes, trust in self and in personal idea.

Individual sources of power derive from leaders’ individual characteristics and from their position within the organization.

The power to reward is based on leaders’ right to control the process of rewarding certain bonuses within the organization. The power to punish is based on the leader’s competency to initiate and apply punishments on the organization’s employees when they do not follow the rules or do not do what it was established for them to do.

The leader’s formal position within the organization derives from the perception of the organization’s members have on the fact that the leader was invested in order to exert influence on others.

Personal charisma can also be a source of power. It derives from individual abilities and from the leadership that the leader is naturally able to exert on others.

The authority as an expert in a certain field is reflected in the leader’s influence on his subordinates.

The personal thrive for power is also called by certain specialists the need for power. It usually consists in the manifesting an intense preoccupation for obtaining managerial power in terms of sustained effort, and energy, although it is not always a visible process.

The ability to harmonize decision and actions of other people is based on the ability to provide arguments for points-of-view and on the ability to persuade others.

The trust in self and in the sustained idea is a condition of the influence that a leader has on other people. Practice has revealed that trust in one’s self and in the promoted point-of-view is perceived by others as having a major role in determining them to participate in the action in case and to conform to the approach in case.

Organizational sources of power include: resources controlled in the organization, formal competency, the ability to solve problems that involve risks and uncertainties, the position held within work processes.

Organizational sources of power include elements of the organizational system and managerial situations of high importance for the organization that grant the leader a relatively high power of influence over other people.

Control over resources probably represents the most important factor of power in general. The more directly a person controls resources like money, employees, equipment, energy, information, the greater the influence. From this point-of-view, leaders have the greatest control over resources, as they decide upon the allocation of resources.

Leader’s authority or formal competency is another organizational source of power. It consists in the decisional rights of the leader within the organization. Usually, leaders have the greatest authority compared to other managers. Their authority can only be exceeded by the authority of owners or more important shareholders that hold the power over financial resources, which fuel the organization in case, contributing to the influence of these stakeholders.

Another source of power for leaders is represented by the ability to solve problems that involve risks and uncertainties. Each company is confronted with many risk and uncertainty situations that have a great impact on the company’s activity. Therefore, the person who solves such situations earns acknowledgement and significant influence on other people in the company.

The position held by the leader within work processes is important in establishing the degree of power. If a leader controls a high percentage of the information that affects the company’s activity, his influence on other people and on the company’s processes increases.

Leaders’ power can be provided from internal or external sources. Internal sources address solely the individual’s characteristics. This includes innate abilities, like intelligence, and other skills and abilities that the individual has acquired and developed after going through learning processes.

Internal sources of power grant the leader a certain type of power. However, such a power does not suffice for practicing efficient leadership on long-term. In order to practice leadership at the highest level, it is necessary to benefit from external sources of power also.

External sources of power for efficient leaders include the ability to own or to gather resources, especially financial resources. The financial power of leaders is a proof of their professional ability and expertise and of their ability to gain profits. However, as mentioned above, unlike managers, leaders usually work for others, not for increasing the organization’s profits. But being able to make proof of financial power is a strong point for leaders in exerting their power over others.

The people around leaders also help as a source of power. The people that work with the leader constitute a source of trust for other. This increases the leader’s further influence.

In practice, leaders use different sources of power and use their influence and power in different ways. This is mostly visible in the case of political leaders. There are several types of political leaders that have influenced history throughout the ages by using their power on others.

Some of the most prominent political leaders include Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Saddam Hussein, and Barack Obama. Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is the artisan of today’s United Arab Emirates. The development of the emirates between 1970 and 2000 can be entirely attributed to this Sheikh.

The type of leadership that he practiced was a humane and community oriented one. He has a modern vision regarding economics and religion, which is not a common idea in the Arab world. He oriented economic development towards the well-being of his people. He was mostly a liberal leader. His wealth was estimated by the Forbes Magazine at $23 billion (Forbes, 2000). His orientation towards people and the financial power of the royal family he was part of granted him the power needed in order to rule the country for several decades. He was admired and respected, as these feelings were not imposed by force. In this case, power can be considered a very abstract, invisible issue.

Saddam Hussein, the former president of Iraq, is exactly the opposite type of leader. His power was based on military sources. His military training influenced the leadership style that he practiced (Global Security, 2005). He was not oriented towards cultivating relationships as a leader. Even as a politician he preferred pulling the strings and influencing others behind the scenes. He exerted power in a violent, force-imposing manner. In this case, power has a more physical dimension than in other cases of leaders.

A modern type of leader can be considered Barack Obama. His power comes mainly from internal sources. He manages to influence others by showing that he has great trust in the measures taken by him and his people. He has no violent or force-related tangency when it comes to his gestures, ideas, or visions. He manages to exert his power with great calmness. However, this has not been proven as an efficient leadership style yet. It has been efficient for short-term, but it remains to be seen whether it will be efficient for medium term and long-term.

History has revealed that political leaders that draw their power from violence have managed to stay in charge for long periods. This means that physical or military power grant the most powerful influence on others compared to other sources of power. However, the current global context does not allow for such leadership styles to be successful. Social, economic and political determinants call for more diversified sources of power that leaders may apply.

Reference list:

1. Finkelstein, S. (1992). Power in Top Management Teams: Dimensions, Measurement and Validation. Academy of Management Journal. No. 8. Retrieved May 13, 2009.

2. Snell, S.A., Dean, J.W. (1992). Integrated Manufacturing Resources Management, A Human Capital Perspective. Academy of Management Journal. Vol. 35, No. 2. Retrieved May 13, 2009.

3. Kings, Queens, and Dictators (2000)., Inc. Retrieved May 16, 2009 from

4. Saddam Hussein (2005). Global Security Organization. Retrieved May 16, 2009 from

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