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Hofstede’s Five Dimensions and Leadership

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Geert Hofstede examined IBM the company for over thirty years and developed a theory about cultural differences. His theory is widely used to compare differences in culture, and also in leadership. There were initially four dimensions of values that he measured; uncertainty avoidance, individualism, power distance and masculinity. Later a fifth dimension, long term orientation was added in 1991. These dimensions were measured based on hundreds of questions that were surveyed to the IBM employees in over seventy countries. This article will define the five dimensions of Hofstede’s theory. It will also compare Egypt and United States. Power Distance

Power distance is the dimension that expresses society’s desire to have power equal or unequal or of little relevance. Low power distance want equal distribution of power and fight for unequal rights. Egypt scored 70 out of 100 in power distance. The culture is derived on hierarchical structure, everyone has a place, and a duty. Little is questioned, according to the chart. However, Egypt has been thru many cultural clashes the past several years. Hosni Mubarik was dictator for the country for over thirty years. A few years ago, in 2012 the military was over taken by Islamic Brotherhood. In June 2014, an independent president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been elected. For government to be fully overthrown would be unrealistic in this country, as political structure is so embedded in the country. In the United States, Hofstede reports that U.S. is at 40 of 100 in power distance. United States is a democratic society, but parts of the culture feel unequal and are influenced as much as government allows us to be. If a leader has high value on power distance, they may be hard to get along with. It would be important to remain professional and detail oriented at tasks that are at hand. Individualism versus Collectivism

High scores in individualism prefer loose social structure. People are responsible for themselves. Low scores in individuality represent cultures need for one another to take care of each other. Community taking care of one another may look different in each culture. Families and groups may depend on a husband, neighbor or religious community. Egypt scores 25 out of 100 in the individualism dimension, which points in a high direction of collectivism society. Bartering may be an example of collectivism as bartering allows people to trade items and determine what items are necessary for them.

America on the other hand, scores 91 out of 100 in this field. In America, individuals are known for taking care of themselves, and helping others last. It may be that America is too big to develop that type of community, and that economics in America is better than in Egypt. In a culture of high importance on individualism it would be important, in a leadership role to encourage employees to speak out with their ideas, and thoughts which can benefit the company, In addition to those tips, also respect workers privacy.

Masculinity versus Femininity. High scores of masculinity means more importance on boldness, success, tenacity and personal possessions. A low score in masculinity means the culture is more feminine. The cultures that are majority feminine prefer cooperation, modesty and quality of life versus quantity of possessions. Egypt scores 45 out of 100 on this chart. America scores 62. With only a 17 point different, it’s hard to say these countries feel differently about masculinity. Both countries are competitive, bold and goal oriented. In a culture that has more feminine values then masculine it would be important for management or leaders to treat men and women fairly and avoid sexist or subjective tones.

This dimension measures how the culture can deal with uncertainty. Countries with high scores of UA have strong beliefs in principles and aren’t agreeable to big changes. Low scores in UA mean the culture values practicality more than principles. Egypt scores high with 80 points in uncertainty avoidance. The Egyptian culture feel highly motivated to keep their lives, and the structure the same, with no surprises. No changes. America scores 46 points, which according to Hofstede’s index, is below average. Americans are opened to new ideas and concepts, and respects free speech. As a leader in a culture with low uncertainty avoidance points, understand that long term strategies are of more importance then short term. So try to implement daily and monthly check-ins to make sure they are in the same direction as the long term goals.

long term versus short term. Long term and short term orientation are judged by pragmatism or indulgence. Culture with higher score in indulgence, than pragmatism care more, and acts more in the present, and not the future. “May put more trust, and belief in the past or future. In a culture with long term orientation would score higher in pragmatism, and lower in indulgence.” (Grimsley, 2014) United States scores 68 in indulgence, as Egypt scored at 4. Indulgence is doing what one desires, with little care of consequences. America may seem careless in this regard. However America scored higher in pragmatism then Egypt did, meaning our long term goals are still a part of our beliefs and ways of living.

In conclusion, cultural values and beliefs are inherited from birth. Hufsted’s five dimension theory is based on surveys, and the scores in “Apply this to your Life” give the totals of the majority. So it would be important to say that the dimensions of one country are not true to all the civilians in that country. The Five Dimensions tool has helped many organizations and communities understand different cultures, and helps explain better ways of communicating. It is an invaluable tool that is still used sixty years later.

Grimsley, S. (2014) Long-Term Orientation vs. Short-Term Orientation.

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions (1996-2014)
Retrieved from: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_66.htm

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