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.
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.
Jeff Suderman is a professor and consultant who works in 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