Leading Globally: Understanding Performance Orientation

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“As you consult with us this month, you will find that our culture tends to work-to-live rather than live-to-work”. “This statement provided me with a very helpful orientation during a recent project in eastern Europe.

Culture affects how we think, how we act and how we lead. As a result, understanding cultural norms and differences provide us with the means to lead and work more effectively. This week’s blog is the first of an eight part series which will focus on developing global leadership skills. It is derived 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. I will begin this series by reviewing performance orientation and learning how we can identify and appropriately respond to it. At the bottom of this blog you will find a chart which provides specific high/mid/low performance orientation results for the 62 countries in this study.


“Performance orientation reflects the extent to which a community encourages and rewards innovation, high standards and performance improvement” (The GLOBE Study, 1004, p. 239)

The chart below provides a simple contrast of differences between high and low performance orientation cultures. As you review these lists, think of different cultures or individuals that you interacted with and determine when you have seen these dynamics at work.

Performance Orientation









It is important to state that this information does not measure good nor bad performance orientation. Rather, it identifies differences, each of which bring a host of advantages and disadvantages. As we begin to identify and understand cultural differences, here are three ways we can apply this information.

1. We can view this as a means to understand an individuals behavior. Interpersonal conflict can stem from differences in performance orientation.

2. We often use this to evaluate a leaders performance. How we define success determines how we evaluate effective and ineffective leadership.

3. We can use it to interpret organizational cultures. Understanding the driving forces behind ‘The way things are done around here’, a common term which describes organizational culture, helps us live and work more effectively in that culture.

Here are some tips from the GLOBE study which will help you work effectively with cultures of high or low performance orientation.

Performance Orientation Tips






I invite you to provide your insights and experiences below as you consider your experiences dealing with individual, leadership or organizational differences in performance orientation.

Head Shot

Performance Orientation Country JPG

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 FutureReadiness. 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.

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