Leading Globally: Individualistic vs. Collective Cultures

Me or We?

Cultural studies reveal that one of these two biases drives how you prioritize and make decisions. Those who come from a strong collective cultures practice, encourage and reward collective distribution of resources and collective action. In contrast, individualistic cultures reward efforts which promote individual success.

The chart below illustrates some of the most common differences between individualistic or collective cultures. At the bottom of this blog you will find a reference chart which provides specific results for the 62 countries in the GLOBE study.


These biases can be observed in both in national, organizational and family structures. At times, we learn to exhibit different practices in our different environments. A cut-throat work environment may cause you to act individualistically in the office while your South American cultural heritage may foster strong collectivism in other relationships.

While some cultural insights help explain fascinating cultural differences, I find that differences in individualistic/collective worldviews can be the cause of significant conflict. An inner bias of ‘me’ or ‘we’ is a very strong personal driver and, as a result, can fuel intense conflict! As a result, it is critical for effective leaders to be able to assess the individualistic or collective preferences of those they work with.

This blog is part 5 of an 8 part series on global leadership. You may enjoy reviewing some previous posts: Gender EqualityAssertivenessFuture Orientation and, Performance Orientation.

NOTE: The content above has been adapted from the seminal work on global leadership commonly called The GLOBE Leadership Study. It assessed 62 different countries and identified important cultural and leadership norms. The results of this massive research project provide us with a goldmine of information which helps us understand cultural differences.


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a professor and consultant who works inCollectivism 2 the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman


House, R., Hanges, P.J., Javidan, M, Dorfman, P.W., Gupta, V. (2004). Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Hofstede, G. (1980). Cultures consequences: International differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage

Leading from Behind: Adaptive Leadership

A colleague named Shawna recently entered a group meeting late. As a result, she sat at the back of the room instead of her usual spot in the front. Later that day we debriefed about the event. She made several interesting observations about her team that she was not previously aware of. She learned that changing her vantage point provided her with new insights. I call this the ‘leading from behind’ principle.

I first learned this lesson during my graduate degree when we spent time doing hands-on activities which taught us about leadership. A memorable event was the day that six of us had to walk on a homemade pair of skis with rope handles (see photo). The goal was to cross a finish
line while keeping everyone on the planks. We learned that coordinating twelve legs was a daunting challenge. More importantly, we all learned an invaluable lesson about leading from behind.

Our team placed our chosen leader on the front of our skis. From this vantage point, his role was to to coordinate our efforts. However, we soon learned that he was the least equipped to do so. His position did not provide the ability to see those behind him. His voice voice was pointed the wrong way – away from his team –  instead of where they could hear him. Furthermore, it was difficult for everyone to watch his non-verbal cues as most of us could not even see him.

Instead, it was the person at the very back of the contraption who was best equipped to lead. This position afforded the best view of what was going on. They had the best location from which to project their voice. In addition, they could coach people who were not in sync because they saw what each individual was doing. Sometimes, leading from behind is by far the best way to lead!

I believe that leading from behind is an especially tough lesson to learn for people who think of themselves as, or are referred to, as ‘natural leaders’. After years of being pushed to the front, it can be difficult to choose to sit at the back of the meeting. Different tasks require different methods, but I suspect that leading from the front is over-utilized!

Which of these two roles – in front or behind – is your natural comfort zone? If you are like many, you may have never considered anything besides leading from the front. Does your leadership allow others to lead from behind? Do you intentionally develop team members who are skilled at leading from behind? Have you intentionally taken a position whereby you can lead from behind? If not, why not? Perhaps you’ll discover that it can be the best way to get things done!


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Why We Hate Work: Issues of Engagement

What percentage of Americans feel engaged when they are at work? 40%? 50% 65%?

Recent research reveals that only 30% say that their work engages them (Gallup, 2013). The global version of this research reveals that only 13% of people around the world answer ‘yes’ to this question. This issue is being called an organizational crisis and reveals both tremendous problems and opportunities in our workplaces.

So how can you personally ensure that you are increasing your level of engagement? Here are four ideas:

  1. Know thyself: Socrates is given credit for this simple advice. The better we know ourselves, the better we understand what we are good at and what we are not good at. This knowledge will guide you into work which you find engaging.
  2. Know thy organization: Tim recently told me about the biggest mistake he made. A headhunter promised to double his salary if he took a job they had been enticing him with for months. While the money was good, the organizational culture was not a good fit for him. He took the offer and as a result, discovered that he also gave up a great work-life balance, strong relationships with colleagues and a salary that was ‘enough’. The ability to assess what you have at your current organization as well as the realities of new organizations is critical. Failure to do this simply leads to a life of ‘the grass is always greener…’.
  3. Experiment: Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing and expecting different results. If you are not engaged, try something new. This doesn’t mean that you need to quit and find a new job. If you love leading but don’t have people who report to you can coach little league. Try a new hobby. Take a class. Look for a different locale to meet new people (and ideas!). I did not realize how much I enjoyed writing until I began blogging! Don’t complain – experiment!
  4. Be realistic: Work does not need to engage you 100% of the time. There are many people who expect work to make up for deficiencies of their own making. Work cannot make up for a lack of engagement in your marriage, with your children or in your community.

In addition to what we need to do individually, the engagement problem also requires employers and managers to act. A study by the New York Times and the Harvard Business Review revealed that employee engagement increases as their workplace address four core needs:

  • Physically – opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work,
  • Emotionally – feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions,
  • Mentally – opportunity to focus on their most important tasks and to define when and where they get their work done, and
  • Spiritually – doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work (NY Times).

The things noted above are not revolutionary. We know most, if not all of the things on this list. However, there is a gap between what we know and what we do. Until we learn to practice these things, we have to oversee a workforce of many people who would rather not be there. To me, this is indeed a crisis, a crisis in need of bold and fresh leadership.

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On President’s Day: Should President’s Play?

Yesterday Air Force One arrived in our city. President Obama is spending President’s Day weekend in Palm Springs enjoying some down time. In fact, his recurring visits to Palm Springs have earned it the title of Camp David West.

Shortly after his arrival, local media snapped a photo of the President on a local golf course and posted the picture on Facebook. Since he usually fits in a round of golf while here, this is not surprising. However, the comments on Facebook (I know, it’s never a good idea to read these!), revealed that many citizens are very critical of our leader taking some down time.

Regardless of your opinion about this specific situation, Obama’s golf game reminds us of decisions that we each must make regarding our priorities. Socrates reminded us that good leaders must ‘know thyself’. How well do you know yourself in each of these three areas related to your priorities?

  1. Do you ‘live to work’ or ‘work to live’? While I was consulting in the Baltic region a local employee told me that ‘we work to live’ so don’t expect our workdays to extend much beyond 5:00. This principle held true during my time there and I found myself enjoying unexpected free time. Ironically, many of these evening were spent over long dinners with my contacts and I found that this ‘down-time’ helped facilitate many of our consult goals in unconventional and effective ways. Do you ‘live to work’ or ‘work to live’?
  2. Does your work define you? A local businessman recently noted that North American’s tend to look to work to meet most of their need for life satisfaction. This helps explain why it is so difficult for many of us to leave work at the office. You have a very important choice in what you allow to define you. Can you articulate what this is?
  3. How do you recharge? No matter who you are, you need time to recharge. There is no magic formula and you have to find what works for you. It can range from walks to stretches to lunchtime workouts to power naps. I believe that recharging seldom occurs without intentionality. How do you plan to recharge?

While it is important to know yourself, you must also know your team.  Chris may actually be more productive at work if you let her leave at 4:00 to coach the little league team. Conversely, you have team members who thrive on working longer hours and will enjoy a challenging project.

You also need to intentionally manage these differences within your team so conflict does not erupt. A high-ranking bank employee recently confided that, “it’s hard to balance my work and personal life because I am surrounded by staff who are willing to work far more hours than I am able to in order to get ahead”. This individual is highly competent and ability is not the issue. Rather, differences of priority between himself and his team are causing angst. This reveals that his organization is not clearly communicating work expectations.

For me, golf clears my head. It gives me time to think and recharge. I suspect our President is the same and trust that his weekend provides him a chance to re-energize. After all, he has a work week ahead of him that few of us will ever have to worry about.

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Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

TrendWatch: TV Goes down the Tubes…

‘Disruptive innovation’ is a modern business buzzword. By definition, it refers to something new that creates a new market and displaces an earlier technology. This can occur over varying amounts of time, sometimes a few years and sometimes decades.

If you have observed how television is changing over the past five years, you understand that we are in the midst of a great example of disruptive innovation. Recent Nielson ratings data shows that U.S. television viewership declined by 12 per cent in January compared to the same month a year earlier, the eighth consecutive double-digit drop (CBC News). This percentage shift accounts for billions of dollars of lost revenue.

A snapshot of a week at our house reveals this principle at work. My pre-teen daughters favorite channels are on YouTube and Netflix. My wife and I are hooked on a drama that we are watching courtesy of our commercial-free Amazon Prime membership (on our Roku). Our Superbowl party began on the back patio where I streamed the game via an NBC app on my iPad and an AppleTV. Oh, and the two shows we watch as a family are never watched live thanks to our DVR.

Strategic leadership authors Ashley and Morrison believe that disruptive innovation has a remedy – something called anticipatory management. They note that anticipatory management provides the lead time which provides organizations with competitive Issue Life Cycleadvantage. Without intentional efforts to which help us anticipate change, organizations lapse into negative and reactive behaviors when changes occur (see diagram). The earlier we are able to see a shift coming, the more options we have. Conversely, the longer we wait, the less options we have (and they are usually much less desirable).

Anticipatory management is not difficult to understand but it takes intentionality and discipline to accomplish. If we are not aware that our services and and products have a life cycle, we will eventually find ourselves facing tough issues as our environments move on without us. It will be fascinating to see how television networks reinvent themselves in light of these changes. Will they adapt the nimbleness of Netflix or become another Blockbuster dinosaur?


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Ashley, W.C., & Morrison, J.L. (1995). Anticipatory management: 10 power tools for achieving excellence into the 21st century. Leesburg, VA: Issue Action Publications.

Evans, P. (Feb. 4, 2015). Neilson ratings data shows big TV decline due to streaming data. CBC News on-line. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/nielsen-ratings-data-shows-big-tv-decline-due-to-streaming-video-1.2944432

Developing High Performing Employees: The 70:20:10 Model

How do we develop effective leaders and managers? Based upon research, the answer is simple – experience!

McCall, Lombardo and Eichinger concluded that the source of leadership lessons for most managers is:

  • 70% from tough jobs
  • 20% from people (mostly their boss)
  • 10% from courses and reading.

These numbers are meant to be descriptive and not prescriptive so 70% is not a magic number. Rather, it is a guideline. This means the vast majority of our lessons come from doing versus observing or hearing/reading.

You can test this idea by thinking of a significant personal learning experience. Did you achieve this ‘aha’ moment by doing or by being in the classroom? I recently used this knowledge to change an assignment in a class that I am teaching. Rather than having my MBA students write about leadership, I changed the assignment so they had to interview a leader (learning from people). Furthermore they needed to provide that person with a 2,000 word consulting report about their leadership style and opportunities for growth (learning by doing a tough job!). My hope is that we moved away from a style that focused on the 10% to ones that helped encompass the 70% and the 20%. While I cannot quantify the learning difference, some students expressed that it was both enjoyable and difficult to put theory to work.

Charles Jennings, a leading 70:20:10 practitioner, believes we are moving from a know-what to a know-how society. As a result, our information rich environment is often interaction poor. To facilitate growth in our employees we need to counter this trend.

Education is important but the 70:20:10 principles teaches us that we must not rely solely upon formal learning. We must supplement book learning with heavy doses of hard work that provide deep lessons. We need to also surround our employees and future leaders with quality people who will invest in them.

So the next time your star employee asks to attend a workshop, think it over first. Perhaps you simply need to give them the lead on the new project as well as a few lunches with you to discuss how it is going.


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Lombardo, Michael M; Eichinger, Robert W (1996). The Career Architect Development Planner (1st ed.). Minneapolis: Lominger
Jennings, C. (2011). The 70:20:10 Learning Approaches. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/charlesjennings/the-702010-framework:

The Best Jobs for All 16 Myers-Briggs Personality Types in One Infographic

This content was originally posted by Paul Sohn. It was a very popular blog post and I received permission to recycle it in order to share the reach of this great content! He e-blogs at an award-winning leadership blog Salt&Light. One of his most read blog posts is Counting My Blessings: 100 things I’m Thankful For.

Does your current job fit your personality?

I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of personality and career. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test is a widely known tool used in the business arena for helping you find the “right” career. Today about 80% of the Fortune 500 and 89 of Fortune 100 companies use it to analyze the personalities of employees, in an effort to find them in the right roles and help them succeed.

Truity Psychometrics, a thought-leader in online personality and career assessments, and the developer of the TypeFinder personality type assessment, created this interesting infographic with the details of the four dimensions of personality type coupled with great recommendations for ideal career types.

















Head Shot







Dr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman


Carroll vs. Belichik: Who Leads Most Effectively?

Prior to the Superbowl I watched a fascinating interview with the two head coaches, Pete Carroll and Bill Belichik. As they spoke about the upcoming game, their simple comments provided insights regarding how they each lead their teams in different ways. Here is an abridged transcript of the interview:

Reporter: “Amidst all that is going on [during Superbowl week], how did game preparation for this week go?”

Carroll: “The opportunity to play in this game is so special…we’ve had a great two weeks and nothing but fun…”

Belichick: “I don’t know if fun would be the word I would use, it’s been a huge challenge, [Seattle’s] a tough team to prepare for…”

These comments reveal two very different leadership approaches. So who had the best leadership style? Did the New England win prove that hard work is more important than fun? Was Seattle’s fatal play choice an example of the perils of fun? Or was Belichik’s verbal admiration of the Seahawk player’s work ethic a demonstration that Pete’s fun can also work hard?

It is easy to get stuck in discussions about what makes great leadership because we try and place it all into a nice tidy box. Life experience tells me that there are many ways to get things done.  For Carroll it’s by having fun. For Belichick, it’s hard work. There are many boxes!

What if both styles are best?  Specifically, what if good leadership is using your innate style to the max? Or, what if bad leadership stems from trying to be someone you are not? Pete and Bill taught us a valuable lesson this weekend. Leading with your strength is the best way to lead. Whether it’s through ‘fun’ or by ‘hard work’ they both demonstrated that different styles can work

So does style matter? Yes! There are coaches that few players want to play for. But there is a line-up of players that would love to be coached by these two men.

So what is their secret? Socrates said it perfectly – “know thyself”. To accomplish what they have, you must understand and use your unique style. For Carroll, that means having fun. For Bellichick, that means working hard.

This lesson is just as important for followers as it is for leaders. It took me too long to learn the type of boss I excelled under. When I worked for the right style, my organization had an amazing employee. When I didn’t, I was a mediocre employee (at best!). You need to understand who brings out the best in you. We all thrive under different circumstances. Some of us need Pete. Some of us need Bill.

Superbowl XLIX afforded us the privilege of watching two coaches who understand their strengths. They used these strengths in ways to achieve what few others do. You and I can do the same. As you get to know yourself, you will lead and follow in ways that shine. So if Pete shines having fun and Bill shines working hard, where does your shine come from?

You can watch the full interview here (quotes were taken between the 30 second and the two minute mark)

Jeff SuHead Shotderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman