such as decentralizing their power and encouraging employees to take risk and be innovative. This situation exactly supports the perspective which mentioned in the literature review that the leadership behavior relating to the leader’s culture will be expected by the local followers [24] [25] . However, from the data collecting in interview, we can see that these Chinese cultures also have some influence on part of Western foreign leaders’ leadership behaviors, when they consider about how to continue conducting their Western leadership quality well with Chinese cultural values.

From the first and second leadership behavior that we find in these foreign leaders, it obviously shows that the leader’s Western leadership behaviors, such as empowerment in work assignment and encouraging risk taking, are likely to be accepted in China, only if the leaders combine them with Chinese employees’ concern. In addition, as we can see from the remaining three leadership behaviors, considering about the Chinese cultural values such as creating harmonious atmosphere, saving face and indirectness which are the typical values in collectivistic and long-term relationship country, the foreign leaders decide to adapt to the followers’ culture. That is, they should show more care and positive feedback in the job evaluation, tend to build personal trust with Chinese employee and manage conflicts with obliging and tender attitude. Therefore, as Dorfman, Erez and Earley, and Yukl illustrated in the cross-cultural model, the leader’s competence to influence others, to a large extent, is determined by whether their practices are correspond with followers’ conceptions of a ideal leader, which are largely affected by cultural differences [21] [22] . Although this result is inconsistent with the point of view presented by Ah Chong and Thomas, we should not ignore that when the leader’s behavior was accepted as genuine by the followers [24] [44] .

Moreover, based on the literature review and the result from the interview, it is not hard to find that the transformational leadership style will be effective and appropriate for the expatriate leader in the cross-cultural context since it is to influence followers from the emotional and valuable aspects. As mentioned in the literature review, there are four influential components in transformational leadership, which include idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration, while the five leadership behaviors shown by these foreign leaders in this research are consistent with some of the features in transformational leadership. To start with, the leaders’ leadership behaviors of empowerment, leading from heart through caring approach, and managing conflict with obliging and tender style, match the characteristic of individualized consideration in the transformational leadership style which shows that the leaders provide individual care and concern to each follower. The leaders may decentralize their authority but offer guidance so as to develop their advantages and give immediate feedback to individuals from the individualized aspect.

Secondly, from the interview, we find that, the employees need to be creative in their working process, so the foreign leaders always appreciate to provide challenge of new activity to the staff. This leadership behavior is undoubtedly consistent with the feature of inspirational motivation in transformational leadership which indicates that the leader motivates the followers to be creative and innovative by giving them challenging tasks. In this way, leaders encourage employees to find out new solutions for old issues and thus provide them a good chance to enhance their competence [45] . Then, as for the idealized influence in transformational leadership, it shows that the leader should be a role model that employees want to follow. These leaders can be trusted and admired by the employees due to their capabilities. This exactly echoes these foreign leaders’ leadership behavior of building trust with Chinese employees by showing their competence. In conclusion, the five leadership behaviors conducted by these foreign leaders in China mostly correspond with the features of transformational leadership style.

6. Implication of Research

According to the previous findings, this study indicates that although cultural differences have some impact on the choice of leadership style, the effective leadership qualities in China for both Chinese and foreign leaders have something in common. Hence, this perspective shown in this study is consistent with the culture-universal perspective put forward by Bass and Avolio, which supports that the universal aspects of transformational leadership can offer a global application [6] ..

Therefore, given the rapid development in economy and change in culture, this research indicates that it is effective for both Chinese and foreign leaders to try to mainly practice transformational leadership style and integrate this kind of leadership style with Chinese reality. That is, leaders, especially foreign leaders in China should strive to empower followers with guidance and encourage their motivation of being creative, to build their trust, and to give sufficient concerns and care.

If these findings can be extended, they can have the practical implication for enhancing both Chinese and foreign leaders’ leadership competence across culture. On one hand, the foreign leaders can understand that they can successfully take the transformational leadership behaviors into practice in China, and they can provide an explanation about why this kind of leadership style is valuable and potentially important for the business in China. On the other hand, Chinese leaders can also make sense of how the transformational leadership style can integrate an effective leadership practices under the influence of different cultures, especially when Chinese leaders work with foreign leaders, no matter as colleagues in international organization or as cooperative partner.

7. Limitation and Future Direction

Clearly, it is valuable from the perspective of culture to explore a deeper understanding of challenge that the expatriate leaders face in the cross-cultural context and the effective leadership style for foreign leaders in China. Moreover, it is useful for the foreign leaders to learn how to choose a more effective leadership style in different situation. However, merely understanding of cultural influences is insufficient to achieve an effective leadership in cross-cultural context. Therefore, for the future research, first it is necessary to look into deeper area, like exploring the organizational culture rather than the national culture. Furthermore, culture is not the unique factor to influence the leadership style, so combing more leadership theories and stepping into other variables like gender, language and political influence is essential. Finally, as for the method, it suggests that both quantitative method such as doing questionnaire survey and the qualitative method like interview should combine together in order to get a more accurate and persuasive results. For example, it would be better to make a comparison between the viewpoint collecting from foreign leaders through interview and the perspective gathering from Chinese employees via survey.

8. Conclusion

Based on the in-depth interview analysis and discussion in the previous parts, the research question is worked out. First, it finds out that culture differences do not totally affect the foreign leaders’ leadership behavior, but it will influence the expatriate their leadership style in some of the aspects. For instance, because under the influence of Chinese culture, the local followers are used to save face and create harmonious atmosphere, the foreign leaders manage conflict with tender attitude and give more care and concern. In addition, as for the relationship between leadership and cross-culture, it reveals that there are two factors to influence the leadership behavior, including the cultural values and situations. That is, the foreign leaders will vary the leadership behavior to satisfy some of the culture values that the local followers hold. Meanwhile, the leader will show different leadership behavior because of the different organizational situation. However, no matter the leaders decide to change into which leadership behaviors, this research finds that in the cross-cultural context, transformational leadership will be more effective and appropriate for the foreign leaders since it is a process to influence followers from both emotional and rational aspects.

Appendix 1

He interview will take approximately 45 minutes of your time. Your responses will be used to write an explorative research. Only researcher will have access to the information you provide me in the notes, tapes and the paper written of the interview. Afterwards, all notes will be destroyed and tapes erased. I will keep a copy of the paper on file but will treat it with the strictest confidentiality.

If you take part in the study, you have the right to:

1. Refuse to answer any particular question, and to withdraw from the study “state a withdrawal date”.

2. Ask any further questions about the study that occurs to you during your participation.

Be given access to a summary of the findings from the study when it is concluded.

Interview Question

1. How long have you held your leadership position in your organization?

2. What are your responsibilities in workplace? Please tell me about your main items that you do every day in this organization.

3. What major changes did you make after you got this position?

4. In your work, you have to communicate with the Chinese employees and the foreign ones. What are the differences?

5. Do you think yourself a good role model for your Chinese employees? Why?

6. When you communicate with Chinese employees, what are the communication barriers and challenges? How do you deal with them?

7. How do you deal with conflict with your native colleague? Can you give an example?

8. Do you treat all your members the same, or do you treat them different based on their traits or something else?

9. How do you distribute the work to your Chinese employees? Are there any difficulties? How do you deal with it?

10. Do you support your member to try new approaches when you distribute work to them? If do so, how do you support them?

11. How do you motive your members to have more commitment and shared vision in your organization?

12. Do you give feedback to your colleagues? If so, please describe how do you give feedback to them?

13. How do the different cultural values between Chinese employees and yours affect your leadership?

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Habib-Mintz, N. (2009) Multinational Corporations’ Role in Improving Labor Standards in Developing Countries. Journal of International Business and Economy, 10, 39-58.
[2] China Daily (2005) Ninety Percent of World Top 500 Invest in China.
[3] Chen, G. and Liu, S. (2000) Assessing Chinese Conflict Management Styles in Joint Venture. In: Hoffer, B.L., Ed., Chinese Conflict Management in Intercultural Context: A Special Issue of Intercultural Communication Studies, 71-90.
[4] Black, J.S. and Gregersen, H.B. (1990) Expectations, Satisfaction and Intention to Leave of American Expatriate Managers in Japan. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 14, 485-506.
[5] Dorfman, P.W. and Howell, J.P. (1997) Leadership in Western and Asian Countries: Commonalities and Differences in Effective Leadership Process across Cultures. Leadership Quarterly, 8, 233-275.
[6] Bass, B.M. and Avolio, B.J. (1993) Transformational Leadership and Organizational Structure. International Journal of Public Administration Quarterly, 17, 112-121.
[7] Hofstede, G. (1993) Cultural Constraints in Management Theories. Academy of Management Executive, 7, 81-94.
[8] Zagorsek, H., Marko, J. and Stanley, J.S. (2004) Comparing Leadership Practices between the United States, Nigeria, and Slovenia: Does Culture Matter? Cross Cultural Management, 11, 16-34.
[9] Matveev, A.V. and Nelson, P.E. (2004) Cross Cultural Communication Competence and Multicultural Team Performance. International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management, 4, 253-270.
[10] Chen, Y., Tjosvold, D. and Fang, S.S. (2005) Working with Foreign Managers: Conflict Management for Effective Leader Relationships in China. International Journal of Conflict Management, 16, 265-285.
[11] Hallinger, P. and Heck, R. (1999) Can Leadership Enhance School Effectiveness? In: Bush, T., Bell, L., Bolam, R., Glatter, R. and Ribbins, P., Eds., Educational Management: Redefining Theory, Policy and Practice, Paul Chapman, London, 178-190.
[12] Walker, A. and Dimmock, C. (Ed.) (2002) School Leadership and Administration: Adopting a Cultural Perspective. Routledge Falmer, New York.
[13] Thomas, D.C. (2008) Cross-Cultural Management: Essential Concept. 2nd Edition, Sage Publication Inc., Thousand Oaks.
[14] Gibson, C.B. (1994) The Implications of National Culture for Organization Structure: An Investigation for Three Perspectives. Advances in International Comparative Management, 9, 3-38.
[15] Walker, D. (2003) Doing Business Internationally: The Guide to Cross-Cultural Success. 2nd Edition, McGraw-Hill, New York.
[16] Hofested. G. (1991) Culture and Organizations: Software of the Mind. McGraw-Hill, London.
[17] Hofested, G. (1984) Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values. 2nd Edition, Sage, Newbury Park.
[18] Dorfman, P.W. and Howell, J.P. (1988) Dimensions of National Culture and Effective Leadership Patterns: Hofstede Revisited. Advances in International Comparative Management, 3, 127-150.
[19] Maznevski, M.L. (2002) Cultural Dimensions at the Individual Level of Analysis: The Cultural Orientations Framework. International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management, 2, 275-295.
[20] Hughes, R.L., Ginnett, R.C. and Curphy, G.J. (2002) Leadership: Enhancing the Lessons of Experience. 4th Edition, McGraw-Hill/Irwin, Boston.
[21] Yukl, G. (1994) Leadership in Organizations. 3rd Edition, Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle River.
[22] Dorfman, P.W. (1996) International and Cross-Cultural Leadership. In: Punnitt, J. and Shenkar, O., Eds., Handbook for International Management Research, Blackwell, Cambridge, 276-349.
[23] Erez, M. and Earley, P.C. (1993) Culture, Self-Identity and Work. Oxford University Press, New York.
[24] Ah Chong, L.M. and Thomas, D.C. (1997) Leadership Perception in Cross-Cultural Context: Pacific Islanders and Pakeha in New Zealand. Leadership Quarterly, 8, 275-293.
[25] Peterson, M.F., Brannen, M.Y. and Simth, P.B. (1994) Janpanese and US Leadership: Issues in Current Research. Advances in International Comparative Management, 9, 57-82.
[26] Kanter, R.M. and Corn, R.I. (1994) Do Cultural Differences Make a Business Difference? Contextual Factors Affecting Cross-Cultural Relationship Success. Journal of Management Development, 13, 5-23.
[27] Den Hartog, D.N. and Dickson, M.W. (2004) Leadership and Culture. In: Antonakis, J., Cianciolo, A.T. and Sternberg, R.J., Eds., The Nature of Leadership, Sage, London, 249-278.
[28] Dickson, M.W., Resick, C.J. and Hanges, P.L. (2006) Systematic Variations in Organizationally-Shared Prototypes of Effective Leadership Based on Organizational Form. The Leadership Quarterly, 17, 487-505.
[29] Bass, B.M. and Avolio, B.J. (1994) Improving Organizational Effectiveness through Transformational Leadership. Sage, Thousand Oaks.
[30] Hofstede, G. (2001) Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations across Nations. Sage, Thousand Oaks.
[31] Den Hartog, D.N., House, R.J., Hanges, P.J., Ruiz-Quintanilla, S.A., Dorfman, P.W. and GLOBE Associates (1999) Culture Specific and Cross-Culturally Generalizable Implicit Leadership Theories: Are Attributes of Charismatic/Transformational Leadership Universally Endorsed? The Leadership Quarterly, 10, 219-256.
[32] Posner, B.Z. and Harder, J.W. (2002) The Proactive Personality, Leadership, Gender and National Culture. Annual Conference of the Western Academy of Management, Santa Fe, March 2002.
[33] Spreitzer, G.M., Perttula, K.H. and Xin, K. (2005) Traditionality Matters: An Examination of the Effectiveness of Transformational Leadership in the United States and Taiwan. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26, 205-227.
[34] Shao, L. and Webber, S. (2006) A Cross-Cultural Test of “Five-Factor Model of Personality and Transformational Leadership”. Journal of Business Research, 59, 936-944.
[35] Jung, D., Yammarino, F.J. and Lee, J.K. (2009) Moderating Role of Subordinates’ Attitudes on Transformational Leadership and Effectiveness: A Multi-Cultural and Multi-Level Perspective. The Leadership Quarterly, 20, 586-603.
[36] Bass, B.M. (1990) Bass and Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research, and Mana- gement Applications. 3rd Edition, Free Press, New York.
[37] Ergeneli, A., Gohar, R. and Temirbekova, Z. (2007) Transformational Leadership: Its Relationship to Culture Value Dimensions. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 31, 703-724.
[38] Ghauri, P. and Gronhaug, K. (2010) Research Method in Business Studies. 4th Edition, Pearson, London.
[39] Arksey, H. and Knight, P. (1999) Interviewing for Social Scientists. Sage, London.
[40] Easterby-Smith, M., Thorpe, R. and Lowe, A. (1991) Management Research: An Introduction. Sage, London.
[41] Putnam, L. and Wilson, C. (1982) Communication Strategies in Organizational Conflict: Reliability and Validity of a Measurement. In: Burgoon, M., Ed., Communication Yearbook, Sage, Beverly Hills.
[42] Neuman, W.L. (1997) Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. 3rd Edition, Allyn and Bacon, Boston.
[43] Mostyn, B. (1985) The Content Analysis of Qualitative Research Data: A Dynamic Approach. In: Brenner, M., Brown, J. and Canter, D., Eds., The Research Interview: Uses and Approaches, Academic Press, London.
[44] Thomas, D.C. and Ravlin, E.C. (1995) Responses of Employees to Cultural Adaptation by a Foreign Manager. Journal of Applied Psychology, 80, 133-146.
[45] Diaz-Saenz, H.R. (2011) Transformational Leadership. In: Bryman, A., Collinson, D., Grint, K., Jackson, B. and Uhl-Bien, M., Eds., The SAGE Handbook of Leadership, Sage, Thousand Oaks, 299-310.

comments powered by Disqus
JSS Subscription
E-Mail Alert
JSS Most popular papers
Publication Ethics & OA Statement
JSS News
Frequently Asked Questions
Recommend to Peers
Recommend to Library
Contact Us

Copyright © 2020 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.