by | Jun 27, 2018 | Advice

What makes a good Boss? The fundamentals of sound judgment, integrity, and people skills are universal. The complete makeup of an excellent Boss will have some culture-specific elements that need to be considered when managing your Boss.

Cultures differ in their understanding and beliefs of what qualities the Boss needs to demonstrate and to be measured as a good leader. Certain behaviours and styles can be an asset or a weakness; good leadership can be thought of as personality in the right place.

The decision making and communication style can be influenced by the geographical region and origin of the Boss. The attitudes towards decision taking can vary from strongly top-down to strongly consensual.  Also reactions to authority range from remarkably egalitarian to extremely hierarchical.

In these four cultures of leadership making a distinction between attitudes toward authority and attitudes toward decision-making will help in understanding your Boss in a global context. Countries are broadly scattered across the two dimensions within the four quadrants illustrated:

Bosses as leaders can be categorised as follows:

  • Synchronized Leaders

Often regarded as leadership material in regions such as China, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, the UAE, and much of Latin America. Rising in the ranks, such leaders require to seek consensus on decisions and drive colleagues and stakeholders through an in-depth process. As a result, business cycles can be extended. However, when the stakeholders are onboard, the agreement must close fast or risk being jeopardized. This type of leader is typically prudent and focused on potential threats rather than rewards.

  • Opportunistic Leaders

In Europe, many Bosses self-initiate and demonstrate flexibility in goal achievement. This includes the UK, and countries where the UK had considerable cultural influence such as the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, and Asian countries that based their governing and economic institutions on the British model. Some of these leaders thrive on ambiguity and can be less individualistic. However, frequent alignment with team members is often used to ensure all keep up as plans evolve and change. Opportunistic leaders tend to be ambitious risk takers.

  • Communication Style

In specific regions leaders are expected to be direct. In Asia and countries like the Netherlands, excessive communication is less appealing in the leadership. Often, people need the Boss to get directly to the point. As a result, a Boss who is a task-focused leader is preferred. Spur-of-the-moment performance reviews with managers occur more often as leaders address undesirable behaviours from their team as they happen. The Boss who adopts the direct approach can be less interpersonally sensitive.

  • The Diplomatic Leader

In New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, and much of Latin America communication finesse and careful messaging are essential not just in relationships but also in career progression. Many employees prefer a Boss who is able to keep business conversations pleasant and friendly. Empathy is required in constructive confrontation. Audience reactions need to be continuously assessed during negotiations and meetings. Executives of this type regulate their messaging to maintain an easy-going connection; direct communication is seen as unnecessarily harsh.

The Dark-Side…

  • Leading by Kiss Up – Kick Down

In a company where rank is emphasised, individual coping skills are developed by leaders. The Boss’s job is to execute directives passed down the chain of command with lower ranking employees.  This can lead to a “Kiss Up – Kick Down” leadership style, with polite and flattering behaviour towards those superiors the Boss answers to, but abusive and even bullying to subordinates. Although a negative leadership style, it is tolerated more in certain countries, such as Western Asia. The “Kiss Up – Kick Down” leader is diligent and compliant with their Bosses but domineering and hard on their team.

  • Passive-Aggressive Leaders

Some Bosses develop cynicism over time, and become mistrusting, and eventually underhandedly resistant to change, especially when under stress. Reactions such as these can occur when the Boss is forced to pursue an objective in the absence of sound rationale. Openly cooperative whilst maintaining scepticism can hinder execution. Indonesia and Malaysia often have leadership styles like this. A passive-aggressive Boss is usually one that is critical and resentful. Paradoxically, this Boss’s aversion to conflict often generates conflict.

The attitudes toward authority have changed with the abandoning of hierarchical management processes for a more facilitative, egalitarian approach. Command-and-control has been substituted with empowerment. Many managers no longer give direct orders to their team and now use “management by objective,” open-door policies, and 360-degree feedback. Addressing the Boss by name rather than their title is normal. The hierarchy has been dissolved, and management by going “walkabout” amongst the staff and having impromptu discussions fosters empowerment and inclusiveness.

The approaches to authority and decision-making are not the only ways in which cultures differ, but in the context of leadership are important. And if international managers confound the two, they will make mistakes in adapting their leadership styles to the cultures and situations at hand.

It is assumed that in hierarchical societies, decisions will be made at the top by the boss, and egalitarian cultures reach conclusions by group consensus. Globally, hierarchies and decision-making methods are not always connected.

It is possible to adjust to the leadership style of the Boss. It can require considerable effort to go against one’s predispositions. However, it’s important to take into account the culture of the Boss. Successful leaders inevitably redefine culture to be a reflection of themselves.

With the nuances and complexities of different approaches understood, a smart approach to cross-cultural interactions with the Boss can be successful. Also, consider choosing how to explain your approach to a proposal or idea rather than ask the Boss to adapt to you. It can also be more productive to adjust to the cultural norms of the Boss rather than expecting the Boss to adapt.

The Boss may be a successful leader in their own culture, in expecting to manage and engage a Boss a multifaceted approach is required to understand their culture. It’s a small world, and it is not enough to know how to lead in the ways of different cultures. Make a conscious decision on how to adapt to the Boss (or not) to get the results you require.

Barry ET Harris MBE is a consultant for Proelium Law LLP, he is a British Army veteran, he combines operational experience with extensive commercial consulting, executive, and management expertise gained in complex environments and high-risk jurisdictions worldwide.



Need advice?

If you’d like further information, or to discuss working with us, you can get in touch via our Contact Us page

Anti Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing are two subjects often linked but misunderstood.

Some quick distinctions to understand - the activity of money laundering is where cash raised from criminal activities is made to look legitimate and re-used in the financial system.

The activity of terrorist financing is less focused on the source of the funds, but interested in what those funds are used for.

The Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter Terrorist Financing (CTF) legislation is important to your business, particularly if your business is engaged in legitimate activities in overseas or high risk jurisdictions. In the UK for instance you need to establish if Money Laundering Regulations apply to your business or not. See here for guidance.

Importantly, on 10th January 2020, new legislation was enacted in UK in the form of the 5th EU AML Directive. Amongst other areas, brings cyptocurrency into the purview of legislation and places obligations on business owners to make checks in respect of identifying beneficial owners and when enhanced due diligence is required. For the legislation click here. For a easier to understand guide click here.

What do I need to do ?

Making sure you know the source of any funds and where any funds you are giving out are going, is very important. Ensure you have a due diligence process in place if you are engaging with local suppliers and check the backgrounds of locally employed staff. You can only do so much to ensure you don't fall foul of the legislation but remember - the UK legislation has extra territorial reach, which means as a UK firm operating in a foreign country, you could still be prosecuted for offences under the legislation in UK. See here for guidance

The issues raised here may seem somewhat off putting for you to even engage in business. Ensuring you comply with the requirements (or at least establishing whether you need to) and then implementing systems to do so, will be a huge boost to your company management systems.

Proelium Law LLP

Proelium Law LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership registered in England and Wales No.OC411568.

Proelium Law LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority No. 629608 (

VAT Registration No. 242 4002 59

D-U-N-S Number 21770643

 Copyright © 2019 Proelium Law LLP All rights reserved. Use of this website constitutes acceptance of the Privacy Policy.  Web Consultancy | Up Marketing Co

Pin It on Pinterest