Leadership Styles in Germany

As part of a review of preferred and effective leadership styles in Germany published in 2011 Boehmer presented and analyzed the findings of several Hofstede studies and the GLOBE study regarding societal culture in Germany and its influence on the use and efficacy of various leadership styles.  Boehmer explained that Hofstede’s finding of low power distance in Germany meant that leaders would likely be under some pressure to justify power differences, since such differences would not be readily accepted without question by subordinates. Boehmer reminded that Germany’s long standing apprenticeship system had contributed to a high level of education and sophistication within its workforce and that, as a result, workers expected their superiors to be experts in solving problems and accorded them respect based on their performance and not simply because of their position.  Germany also scored high on individualism, which Boehmer interpreted as an indication that Germans felt they had control over their own fate and valued individual performance; however, Boehmer pointed out that individualism in German was not as pronounced as in the US and other Western countries.  Germany scored high with respect to masculinity, was in the middle range of the countries surveyed by Hofstede with respect to uncertainty avoidance and fell on the “short-term” end of the scale with respect to long-term orientation.

According to Boehmer, the results of the GLOBE survey with respect to Germany were similar to those reported by Hofstede but for the GLOBE findings of lower long-term orientation and higher uncertainty avoidance.  In the GLOBE model Germany was one of several German-speaking countries, including Austria and German-speaking Switzerland, placed into a “Germanic cluster” and the GLOBE researchers found that within that cluster there was a high appreciation for charismatic and value-based leadership as well as for participative leadership.  At the same time, self-protecting and defensive styles of leadership were viewed quite negatively among respondents from the Germanic cluster in the GLOBE survey.

Boehmer when on to examine the relationship between leadership styles and cultural dimensions in Germany by assessing the attitudes of 232 German employees towards task-oriented and relationship-oriented leadership styles and found that the respondents were more relationship-oriented than task-oriented, well-educated respondents tended to be more task-oriented, and government experience and gender did not have a significant influence on either task oriented or relationship orientation.  Boehmer also found evidence of strong tendencies toward cooperative leadership styles, at least in situations where the tasks required more formal education, and that bureaucratic leadership styles were deployed when the jobs did not require much formal education.  Authoritarian leadership styles were neither dominant nor prevalent among the respondents to Boehmer’s survey.  The results led Boehmer to conclude, based on the results of this particular survey, that many German employees are self-confidently striving for cooperation, participation and power sharing, a finding that was consistent with the relatively low power distance of German societal culture based on measurements using the model developed by Hofstede.

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