leadership and job satisfaction: a relationship mediated by national culture

Leadership and Job Satisfaction


Leadership refers to the position of power and influence that is held by an individual or a group of people in a larger group or an organization. This position provides the leader with an opportunity to exercise influence on both a personal and interpersonal scale. In addition, a leader is able to use the influence and the power to mobilize me people being led towards a specific course of action and the realization of the organizational objectives(Y. Gong, Huang, & Farh, 2009). It is in leadership that a leader is able to interact with the organization and its stakeholders. The leader, therefore, becomes the center of power for the organization and provides direction towards the preferred future(Gong, J, Huang, & Farh, 2009). According to leadership is a dynamic, interactive process whose dimensions include planning, organization controlling and direction of the subjects and the resources with an objective of finding meaning in the activities of the organization and having a desirable future where all the objectives of the organization are met. Leadership has also been defined as the induction of individuals or groups to act by set purpose or directives provided by a leader(Tse, Huang, & Lam, 2013). Through the inspiration of the leader, the subjects are motivated to work together and help the leader achieve the objectives of the organization. As such, the results of effective leadership is the achievement of the common goals through a collective action. It is through leadership with purpose that a crowd can be turned into an active and functional system and a useful organization. However, the success of leadership depends on the interpersonal interactions that the leadership fosters(Eisenbeiss, van Knippenberg, & Boerner, 2008). This paper is an exploration of how leadership affects job satisfaction of the subjects using of autocracy and participatory leadership styles as the focus concepts. The paper will explore this relationship as mediated by national culture citing relevant real-life examples and exploring evidence-based practices in leadership.

Literature Review

The evolution of leadership as an important concept and a component for organizational success started in the early 20th century. During this time, various theorists started to research on leadership theories. The initial theories suggested that leadership is an innate trait that some people possess. This, therefore, meant that only the people with these traits can be expected to be good leaders. However, in the 1930s, the group theory was developed and suggested that leadership emerges and grow in small groups and hence people who are not innately leaders can acquire the skills of leadership and be effective leaders(Boehm et al., 2014). According to the trait theory, which arose much later in the years, although universal and innate traits are important in leadership leaders must also possess other learned traits for successful leadership. This notion was later backed up by the behavioral theory of leadership which literary emphasized on key behavioral patterns that leaders ought to demonstrate(Kearney & Gebert, 2009). The evolution of the leadership theories continued throughout the 20th century to what we already have today. Currently, the leadership styles are based on the theoretic frameworks which in many cases are hybrids of several theories. Regardless of the leadership style adopted by the leaders, the influence that leadership has on the organization cannot be ignored(Yaping Gong, Huang, & Farh, 2009). Being the head of an organization, a leader is a figure behind the success or the failure of an organization. Among many other influences and effects of leadership is the motivation of the employees. Employees who are often motivated are satisfied with their jobs and are more likely to be productive as compared to demotivated staff. Job satisfaction is, therefore, a factor of leadership in an organization.

National Culture Mediating Leadership and Job Satisfaction

From the theoretic perspective of leadership, being a leader requires more than the possession of basic traits and qualities associated with leadership(Boehm et al., 2014). Leadership can, therefore, be learned and developed differently from inborn talents. It is for this reason that scholars have stated that efficient leaders are made and not born. It is through experience, continuous improvement and learning that effectiveness in leadership is achieved. Research has identified five basic principles of leadership(McGinn & Milkman, 2012). First, leadership comprises of self-awareness and self-improvement. Being a leader requires that one identifies their weaknesses and strengths and use their efforts and the opportunities provided by the organization to continually improve. Secondly, leaders must possess adequate technical proficiency to be able to lead others in performance and carrying out of the activities of the organization. Thirdly, the leaders must be able to seek and take responsibility for the actions of the organization and their own. This includes all the relationships and concerns raised by the employees and other stakeholders(Bakker, Albrecht, & Leiter, 2011). Fourthly, leaders are expected to know their people and keep them informed on all the decisions that the organization makes. This will ensure that the stakeholders feel encouraged, wanted and valued and hence their productivity and comfort is assured. Lastly, leaders must be in a position to exercise their powers without hurting others while still being a practical example and a model of hard work for the organization. These principles determine the work performance of the leaders and their relationship and motivation of the workers under them(Tse et al., 2013). On the other hand, the performance of these principles is highly dependent on several factors including the leadership style and the national culture that the organization subscribes to.


Leadership Styles and National Culture

When considering what type of leadership style is suitable for an organization, it is important to consider the situations that the leaders in the specific organization work. Research has indicated that most leaders tend to have a dominant style of leadership which they adopt from the first day through to the last day. It is this same leadership style that most of them attempt to hand over to their successor through mentoring and training. However, it is imperative to consider that all the leadership styles are important and none is the best. For instance, a strategic leadership style may work where a transformational or laissez-faire leader fails. Leaders who are able to adjust the style of leadership depending on the situation, situational leadership, are more successful than those who stick rigidly to a theorized style(McGinn & Milkman, 2012). Situational leadership is particularly crucial in the cross-cultural system that is a reality in many organizations today.

Cultural variations between nations and organizations are becoming a concern especially in leadership and the relationship that leaders ought to have with the employees and other people below them. Various cultures have different perspectives on what leaders should do and what leadership should entail. In some cultures, for instance, a leader must be ready to take strong, decisive actions to demonstrate their power and authority(Tse et al., 2013). In such cultures, the leader is unquestionable, and his or her decisions cannot be brought down. In other cultures, however, consultative and participative approach to issues and decisions is the prerequisite for successful leadership. Due to these differences, the interpretation of the behavior of the leader is dependent on what the culture endorses. A culture that supports authoritarian leadership, sensitivity and consultation may be interpreted as leadership weakness whereas in a different culture this may be an indication of maturity and effectiveness of leadership(Avolio & Gardner, 2005).

Preferred leadership style varies by culture. For instance, in the European countries, participatory leadership rather than dictatorial organization leadership styles are preferred. In the same context, consistency in the preference has been observed. For countries that share similar cultural values, the preferred leadership style is also shared. This means that for the Caribbean nations, and other places in the world where even the political leadership is dictatorial and has np chance for democratic participation, the organizational leadership appears to take the same precedents.

Importance of National Culture in Organizations

The national culture that is practiced by a certain group of people or a nation is a definitive identity of the people. This means that culture consists of beliefs, traditions and perceptions that a community subscribes to and how they become accustomed from early years. The family interactions and the social relationships that are defined by a nation culture tends to manifest themselves in the organizations in the same culture(Bass & Steidlmeier, 2009). This, therefore, implies that for an organization to survive and prevent interpersonal conflicts, an understanding of the nation culture is imperative. Consequently, organizational leadership must consider the cultural aspect of the people being led. Since management and leadership concerns working and achieving objectives through others, the leader must understand that the behaviors of the people being led are a product of both the external forces and internal perceptions(Bledow, Schmitt, Frese, & Kühnel, 2011). External forces may include the work environment and motivations while internal perceptions are regarding the persons’ beliefs and culture.

The dimensions of culture that are important for an organization are the power distance, individualism and collectivism, masculinity and femininity, avoidance of uncertainty, and orientation. The cultural differences in leadership are defined by the extent to which there are differences in power and decision making that is expected and accepted by the people. Secondly, the national culture is important in defining how people prefer to operate and make decisions either as individuals or collectively(Ensley, Hmieleski, & Pearce, 2006). Thirdly, an understanding of the nation culture provides the organization with the assertiveness of how gender is perceived in the nation and the organization. Fourthly, organizations must learn how the culture defines and responds to uncertainties. Some cultures avoid uncertainty through having strictly structured situations, and this is often marked by the type of leadership structures that such cultures endorse. These dimensions not only defines what the cultures perceive as true leadership but also creates for the organizations a perspective of what would be expected of the employees(Mumford, Campion, & Morgeson, 2007).

Besides these basic dimensions, an organizational leadership strategy may also be affected by language and the forms of communications that are expected depending on the national culture. Diversity within an organization becomes a challenge due to the reduced ease of communication as a result of language barriers and differences(Elenkov & Manev, 2005). Leaders must, therefore, be able to identify a neutral level of leadership communication that is effective to ensure cohesion and cooperation in the organization.




Job Satisfaction

A large proportion of an average person’s adult life is contributed to a career or a job. This, therefore, means that more than half of a person’s day, when awake, is spent in the workplace. The interactions within the workplace have an effect on the person, job, and his or her life(Schaufeli & Salanova, 2011). Although on average more than 70% of people are in professions and workplaces that they would not have wanted, it is likely that some find pleasure in what they do and get accustomed to the situation. However, some people become dissatisfied with their jobs, and this leads to exhaustion and psychological problems that affect job performance, personal life, and productivity(Sonnentag, 2011).

In the recent years, job satisfaction has become an important concept in the workplace. Job satisfaction has been defined as the perceived pleasure of positive feeling that people have when relating to a job or an experience. According to some researchers, the various facets of job satisfaction are remunerations, promotions, supervision and autonomy, and the cork relations. The extent to which a worker will have a positive feeling about himself or the job is about the job itself and the working conditions(Tims, Bakker, & Xanthopoulou, 2011). This, however, affects the work performance and the productivity of the workers. In turn, the organizational performance is affected. According to research, job satisfaction is a product of personal interests and abilities, and the working environment. People become satisfied in their jobs because of how they view their jobs, the intrapersonal and interpersonal interactions within the job and also the environment that the job provides(Christian, Garza, & Slaughter, 2011). Leadership, therefore, plays an important part in enhancing the internal and external aspects or factors that affect job satisfaction.

Motivation is an imperative concept in job satisfaction. Workers who are motivated by the organization and the leadership are more likely to develop a positive attitude towards the organization and the work they are doing(McGinn & Milkman, 2012). Even when the tasks were challenging, the research identified that employees who were motivated had a good feeling towards their work. This is in contrast to a section of employees who feel dejected and unwanted in an organization, who became demotivated and even though they initially loved the work they did, their demotivation resulted to a loss of interest in the job and their productivity decreased(Sonnentag, 2011). The motivation for the employees, therefore, becomes an important factor in job satisfaction.

The national culture mediates between leadership and job satisfaction. First, as already observed the national culture determines the kind of attitude towards leadership that people have(Schaufeli & Salanova, 2011). The kind of leadership style that organizations adopt is dependent on the popularized and endorsed style in the local culture. This, therefore, means that for people who share the same culture as that adopted by the organization feel at home within the structures of the organization. However, with the increasing inevitability of diversity in organizations, there is also a likelihood that some workers may not agree with the organizational culture as adopted from the national culture. For those employees who seem to agree with the structures, their motivation in the workplace and their job performance is improved. This is because they find the culture a kin to their culture and hence have no adjustments to make. However, for employees who do not agree with the culture have adjustments to make. They, therefore, feel demotivated and dissatisfied in their jobs(Mayer, Kuenzi, Greenbaum, Bardes, & Salvador, 2009).

The leadership style adopted by organizations is determined by the national culture surrounding the organization’s performance and operations. For a culture that is endorse a participatory approach to leadership, the leaders in the local organizations tend to be including. Employees and workers in organizations that adopt inclusive leadership is included in the organization’s decision-making and they feel wanted and valued. This increases their motivation and their satisfaction in the job(Christian et al., 2011). This, in turn, leads to enhanced job performance and productivity.

Gender differences is also a dimension of culture that diffuses into organizational leadership practices(Maslach, 2011). A national culture that endorses gender equity and segregates employees depending on output rather than on their gender has leaders and organizations that adopt a similar perspective. In such an organization, all employees will feel motivated and ready to cooperate with the leadership of the organization to meet the set objectives. The employees, therefore, feel motivated and satisfied with their jobs and are more likely to be retained than those in organizations where leadership is gender-discriminative.

Power distance as a dimension of culture affects the relationship between leaders and the people being led. When the employees feel that they are too far from the people who make the important decisions in their work and lives, they are demotivated and separated from the leadership. A leadership style such as authoritative leadership assumes power separation as a show of authority. This kind of leadership is possible in a culture that is dictatorial rather than democratic(Carson, Tesluk, & Marrone, 2007). Employees under such a leadership are not only demotivated in their work but also feel dissatisfied with their job as they lack the autonomy to perform and innovate. In contrast, a leadership style that includes employees in the decision-making process improves the relationship between them and the leadership(Walumbwa, Avolio, Gardner, Wernsing, & Peterson, 2007). Consequently, the employees are motivated and job satisfaction is enhanced.


Leadership Action

Leaders must be able to combine the positives that the national culture provides with the best leadership style to the benefit of the organization. Through an effective combination, the involvement of the employees, their motivation, and job satisfaction increases(Stewart, Courtright, & Manz, 2011). There are various real-life examples that leaders ought to use to ensure that they can take advantage of the situation and increase job satisfaction or even turn-around the production of an organization.

In America, the national and the corporate culture encourages leadership by participation. In a country where all the success in industrialization, democratic and economic growth can only be attributed to the efforts of all the people, the organization culture is participatory. Leaders are therefore expected to use this culture to foster an environment of inclusion and involvement. Bill Gates, a well-known corporate leader has used this culture to the advantage of Microsoft. Using the popular culture of participatory leadership and power, he has been able to empower subordinates(Braun, Peus, Weisweiler, & Frey, 2013). Having grown in the same culture, Gates believes in the power of innovation and autonomy. The autonomous employees feel motivated, needed and empowered and this leads to an enhanced job satisfaction, career success and organization success.

The success of Microsoft can be contrasted with the trends that were taken by Apple Mackintosh. Although the founder and leader of Apple, Steve Jobs had a head start in the industry, he did not take advantage of the national culture in his leadership. In his initial years, Jobs took a rather autocratic leadership style in a national culture that was not supportive of autocracy and dictatorship. His frequent quarrels and firing of employees who he perceived as incompetent without allowing them a chance to self-express raised eyebrows within the organization(Ensley et al., 2006). This was evidence when a lot of employees decided to leave the organizations with claims of not being given an opportunity to show the company what they were capable of. Accordingly, the future of the company and the employees is left in the hands of one individual. The success, therefore of Apple Mackintosh was in great doubts and its market share significant reduced as that of Windows, a Microsoft innovation increased despite Apple having been on the market for longer(Braun et al., 2013). This trend is attributable to the diminished job satisfaction of employees at Apple due to the leadership style adopted by the leader which was not in alignment with the national culture.

From these two examples, it is clear that a leader must be aware of the prevailing national culture. This implies that he or she must appreciate what people believe in and how they would want to be led. From the national culture, the leader must adopt a leadership style that is in alignment and acceptable to the people being led(Mayer et al., 2009). It is only when the people accept the leader and his or her style that they will have job satisfaction and be productive in the organization.

The national culture in the United Kingdom has been described as competitive and opportunistic. This has been adopted in the organizational frameworks for many managers. Consequently, the employees are motivated by managers who are ready to take risks and be opportunistic even in times of change. A specific example is the leadership demonstrated by Bob Diamond in Barclays Bank Limited. After the government took a move to deregulate the financial markets in 1986 and improve the sector to international standards, Diamond took the opportunity and despite the other banks finding expansion a risky business, he led Barclays Bank to become a global giant. This was in line with the national culture(Tims et al., 2011). The employees of the bank felt that the move taken by their leader was motivating enough. With the success that the bank now prides in, the employees have enhanced job satisfaction and motivation.

Leadership involves working to achieve objectives through the efforts of self and of others. This, therefore, means that for successful leadership, the leader must be in connection with the people being led. It is only through a shared and common objective that organizations have success in meeting their targets. However, it is important for leaders to realize that the people being led come from communities that have cultures(Mumford et al., 2007). The employees, therefore, come into the organization with perceptions that are based on their popular culture, and this affects their performance and expectations. Leaders must attempt to use a leadership style and strategy that is recognized and accepted by the people. When in a community that is not confrontational a leader must not lead autocratically(Sonnentag, 2011). This would lead to challenges in bringing the employees to work together as they may find it impolite to be confrontational. Similarly, in a culture that does not recognize women in leadership, it is difficult for an organization to succeed with a female leader. In such an environment, the employees feel out of place, and their job satisfaction is reduced. This shows that national culture significantly mediates between leadership and job satisfaction. It is from the national culture that a leadership style emanate, and the style determines the motivation level and job satisfaction in an organization.

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