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How Do Traditional Leadership Styles Vary Between America And Asian Countries?

The aim of a good leadership should not just be to get the work done smoothly, but at the same time also keep the employees disciplined, responsible, aware, and empowered.

How Do Traditional Leadership Styles Vary Between America And Asian Countries?

The leadership styles vary from one country to the other owing to their political backgrounds, cultural values, and historical events. The variation of leadership styles can also be attributed to the economic factors of the countries and the ethnic backgrounds of the wide population that is relocating to different parts of the world for work prospects. So, let us study these differences between the leadership styles in the U.S. as compared to Asian countries and what makes each of them unique and successful in their own ways.

Asian Leadership

  • A culture of Family Businesses – Nepotism is something which isn’t just associated with the film industry in India but it is very prevalent in traditional Indian companies. Family members hold the top positions in family businesses and become the automatic successors to the empire built by the earlier generations. This practice can be seen in many other Asian countries too but maximum in India. Policies also get dictated by trade unions who always have each other’s backs. Companies quite often have to keep the trade union’s interest in the loop if they have to function smoothly.
  • Political connections – Political Connections are very important and common in Asian countries. Businesses in Asia are significantly influenced by the contacts you have in the right places. Also, Asian leadership is less focused on the regulators, directors, and the stakeholders when you look at the governance of an organization. However, this is slowly changing.
  • Hierarchical Structures – Asian countries have a clear and organized hierarchy and reporting structure in their companies, unlike the American companies where the structures are generally flatter. Thus, in Asian companies, the top bosses may not always be accessible to everyone down the line of subordinates and some subordinates may even develop inhibitions to approach their seniors. Asian companies focus more on building long relationships with the talented employees. Chinese, as well as Japanese cultures, follow the same philosophy in their professional as well as personal relationships.
  • Collective Achievements – Asian leadership styles focus more on collective achievements as a team. They are more collaborative in their approach. They involve a lot of teamwork and successes of a project are judged based on the collective success of the team as opposed to placing the credit in the hands of a single head.

American Leadership

  • Empowering Approach – American companies employ a more realistic and empowering approach to hire new CEOs or other such top positions in their companies. They opt for employees within the firm who have had a good record and a long tenure for such positions and to run the company and take it to great heights. In other cases, they employ outsiders and groom them by providing the necessary training to handle the organization and lead the people. American managers are more aggressive and goal oriented. They know exactly what they want and they always like to be prepared in advance.
  • Corporate Governance: Political connections are not so important in American companies when compared with companies in Asian countries. However, American leadership styles definitely allow for some governance by the boards of directors and other stakeholders, unlike Asian countries.
  • View of Self: American leadership styles are highly individualistic where the individuals are only concerned with their career growth and how their graph can continue to move upwards, unlike the Asian leadership where it’s all about collective achievements. Probably this is the reason why in Asian corporate culture, there is more respect for the superiors and the people with authority. While Asian cultures make their judgments based on team achievement, the American leaders look for the strongest individuals in the team and the weakest links in the team.
  • Flat Structures – Western companies tend to maintain a ‘flat structure’ so they can promote more openness and easy accessibility at all times. Open door policies result in more camaraderie in the work environment which may be successful at times but which may seriously falter at other times. Informal work conditions are a direct result of such leadership styles and it becomes more difficult in such working environments for the American managers to get the plans executed if there are chances they may not be taken as seriously as they should. The organized hierarchy and directive set-up prove better in Asian cultures.


No culture or leadership style is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but the east and the west can learn a lot from each other’s leadership styles and correct the areas where each is lacking. The aim of a good leadership should not just be to get the work done smoothly, but at the same time also keep the employees disciplined, responsible, aware, and empowered. Lesser autocratic styles and more participative styles should be adopted by the leaders to move towards better leadership. Building trust and longer relationships with energizing subordinates is the key for companies to flourish.