While the European Union has struggled to harmonize its legal, regulatory and political framework, the Member States continue to be perceived as very different environments to conduct business due, in large part, to long-standing cultural characteristics that remain in place even as European institutions are created and nurtured.
The Management Research Group (“MRG”), a private consultancy focusing on individual and organizational development, compared the leadership behaviors of almost 4,000 persons in various management positions with firms in eight European countries—Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom—using a questionnaire that measured 22 different leadership practices relating to what it referred to as six essential functions of the leadership role: creating and developing a vision or direction for the organization; developing a followership that supports the vision or direction identified for the organization; implementing the vision or direction in organizational terms; following through to make sure that things happen according to plan; achieving results (i.e., the ability of leaders to set high standards of performance for themselves and their organizations; and team playing (i.e., the ability to work within a team environment). Based on the results of the survey, MRG concluded that there were very few similarities in leadership behavior among European managers and, in fact, they noted common ground on just three of the 22 leadership practices that were measured: expertise (i.e., as a group, managers from all of the surveyed countries tended to place the same degree of emphasis—moderate—on the level of technical expertise and orientation toward detail and in-depth analysis), competitiveness (i.e., managers from all countries tended to seek and prefer “win-win solutions” as opposed to engaging in forceful, competitive behaviors) and setting standards of excellence.
MRG also highlighted distinctions between behaviors of managers in regions typically clustered together such as the Scandinavian countries and reported several areas where the leadership styles of Swedish managers contrasted sharply with their peers in Denmark. For example, while Swedish managers rated themselves as the most innovative, team-oriented and pragmatic and less reliant on using guidelines, procedures and systematic methods for monitoring progress, Danish managers reported being more strategic, analytical and demanding, less team oriented and more likely to rely on formal planning and performance measurement processes. Not surprisingly, given the results of other studies, differences also emerged between German and French managers. One illustration was that while German managers accessed new ideas and perspectives by reference to past practices, seeking to minimize risk by building on knowledge gained through experience, French managers are much less likely to reflect on the past. German managers are much more technically-oriented and analytical than the French and while Germans prefer long-range planning after detailed study the French are more likely to take a short-term view. French managers are outgoing and continuously engaged with their followers while German managers are more understated and subdued.
MRG summed its findings by quoting Jean Monnet, the founder of the European Community: “If I were again facing the challenge to integrate Europe, I would probably start with culture.”