Original Research

Leadership styles: The role of cultural intelligence

Anthony Solomon, Renier Steyn
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 43 | a1436 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v43i0.1436 | © 2017 Anthony Solomon, Renier Steyn | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 February 2017 | Published: 24 July 2017

About the author(s)

Anthony Solomon, Graduate School of Business Leadership, University of South Africa, South Africa
Renier Steyn, Graduate School of Business Leadership, University of South Africa, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: Within both the South African context and abroad, leaders are increasingly being required to engage with staff members whose cultures differ from their own. As the attractiveness of different leadership styles varies in line with staff member cultural preferences, the challenge leaders face is that their behaviours may no longer be apposite. To this end, it is mostly unknown whether those leaders who are deemed culturally intelligent behave in a specific manner, that is, display the empowering and directive leadership styles.

Research purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between leader cultural intelligence and the empowering and directive styles of leadership, as perceived by subordinates.

Motivation for the study: To operate successfully, leaders need to adopt and display those leadership styles that best match the cultural expectations of their staff members. Cultural intelligence may assist in this respect. Most of the studies on leader cultural intelligence and leadership styles have concentrated on the transformational leadership style. There is, thus, a requirement to examine how leader cultural intelligence relates to other leadership styles.

Research design, approach and method: The study was quantitative in nature and made use of a cross-sectional survey design. Data were collected from 1140 staff members spread across 19 diverse organisations carrying on business activities in South Africa. Correlation and regression techniques were performed to identify relationships.

Main findings: Leader cultural intelligence was found to have a stronger relationship with empowering leadership than it had with directive leadership. With empowering leadership, leader metacognitive and motivational cultural intelligence acted as important antecedents, whilst for directive leadership, leader’s motivational, cognitive and metacognitive cultural intelligence played a predictive part that carried a medium effect.

Practical/managerial implications: The findings can be used by organisations to guide the selection of leaders and to focus initiatives for their development.

Contribution and value-add: The study adds to the cultural intelligence and leadership literature by offering empirical evidence of the relationship between leader cultural intelligence and the empowering and directive leadership styles.


Keywords

cultural intelligence; directive leadership; empowering leadership; leadership styles; South Africa

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