How culture and practice in the workplace business essay

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Executive summary

Leadership and governance in India is highly influenced by the strong culture and this is eminent throughout the Indian community. The country strongly believes in the caste system where different families belong to different castes that are hierarchical in order in away determines the position that different individual can hold within the organization. The Indian system of governance greatly differs from that of the Anglo-countries as it is greatly influenced by culture and religion and opportunities are gender biased The strong culture in the Indian community has enhanced the directive style of leadership in which the subordinates are highly dependent on orders from their leaders which has led to less conflict and consistent performance within their organizations. Most of the businesses are family owned which leads to skills passed between family members and there is less incorporation of skills by a person belonging to a different family. This is in contrast with the Anglo countries where there is high privatization of industries encouraging broadening of management and leadership in the firms, and culture has less impact in the systems of governance which encourages an equal opportunity for all. Table of Contents


India is country of great diversity in terms of language, culture, religion and region. India has emerged as an economic hub in today’s economic world. Despite the diversity in India, there is an overall unity of its management and leadership styles as pertains to its organization that makes them all members of one family. This emanates from economic and social organization of the country and also to the growing numbers of intellectuals from its institutions of higher learning (Bose, 1967). India is a country that is widely known for its caste system. Caste simply means tribes, clans or families. Caste is defined as a system of groups within the class which are normally endogamous (marriage being legal only within a caste) and each group lives by the profession of his group and does not take that of the other (Basham, 1967). It is believed that this caste system enhanced economic security despite the differences which were granted by law and custom (Bose, 1967). The caste system in turn influenced management, leadership and governance in India. India has continued over the years to produce some of the best world leaders some of whom are very popular and famous. Some of the magnificent leaders include Mahatma Gandhi, Chandragupta Maurya, Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbtai Patel and others. An astonishing revelation about India is that despite the numerous leaders that it has had and produced since its independence in 1947, there seem to be a dearth in rigorous academic research studies (Sinha, 1994). However, there are numerous writings on organizational leadership from different authors, scholars and other intellectuals in the growing number of India’s universities and colleges. India’s business leaders have elicited great admiration and respect the world over. It is known that these business leaders led by vision, inspiration, influence, empowerment and expertise. This is said has been the reason for the rapid rise of Indian owned firms the world over. In on of the papers it is written that a leader inspires employees to greater heights, sets organizational goals and leads his people to attaining the goals set (Jayakar, 1996). It is with these facts that this research paper unearths the relevance or applicability of the leadership theories in India as differentiated from the Anglo countries especially USA and Australia.

How Culture and Practice in the workplace in India differ from those in Anglo countries

In today’s global business world, understanding and conceptualizing different work cultures is key to success. In India, it is the norm to work for ten hours a day while in the Anglo countries, it might be different i. e. it varies from an individual to another and from one company to another. Another common difference is that India has embarked on a succession planning and talent management while these are somehow different in the Anglo countries. Culture is a crucial aspect in conducting business. It is composed of norms, traditions, beliefs and values in a society. Culture affects notably all aspects of an organization from work habits, communication, management styles to other organizational aspects. In organizational communication, it is said that communication takes place in twelve signal systems. These signal systems vary from one culture to another. The systems are: VerbalWrittenNumericPictorialArtifactualKinesicsAudioOpticalTactileSpatialOlfactoryTemporalIndian culture and practice in the workplace is different in all aspects from the Australian culture. Indian work culture primarily involves collectivism. This is visible through the way the employees perform their jobs. Collectivism involves working as a team and becoming integrated in groups. This has resulted in more productivity since the employees share knowledge and passes skills to each other. On the contrast, the Anglo countries working culture tends to be individualistic. This is as a result of individual achievement bestowed on each person’s task pegged on productivity and individual performance. In Anglo countries, individualism is the norm due to the reward system and recognition based on an individual’s output towards the realization of the organization’s goals. This has resulted in a culture of competitiveness than in a culture of collectivist as depicted by the Indian organization culture. In this regard, the Indian culture reveals that Indians have tended to excel more in team work as opposed to individualistic working in Anglo countries. Authority and hierarchy culture is another distinguishing organization culture and practice between India and Anglo countries particularly USA and Australia. In USA and Australia, organization hierarchy culture is seen more as horizontal. This is between departments and it tends to bestow more power and autonomy to individuals at the workplace. In India, authority and hierarchy is vertical. This means that authority is highly placed and rules and responsibilities trickle from the top to the bottom of the management ladder. This involves lots of bureaucracy that at times tends to hamper decision making because of a long and tedious process (Chattopandhyaya, 1975; Spencer, 2010). Indian working culture is composed of diverse social, economic, cultural and lingual diversity. This means that the working culture and practice is based on a wide range of employees who are rather very heterogeneous. Managing and influencing these diverse peoples is challenging and has resulted in changes in corporate leadership and governance different from those of the Anglo speaking countries. Most Indian firms have resulted to privatization, innovation is key and diversification. India has recently witnessed a different leadership style. Directive style at the workplace is core and the leader issues orders from the top to the bottom to his subordinates (Bennis and Nanus, 1986). This culture makes the followers dependent on the leader. Creativity and innovation is rather constrained on the followers or employees and are expected to perform the tasks in tandem to the organization leader’s directive. The leader does the routine work of the organization and hence he rarely has time to be innovative despite the availability of affordable labour which is experienced and qualified and low cost of raw materials. In essence, domination is commonly practiced in Indian working environment. This directive leadership style despite its shortcomings also has its advantages in Indian firms. In manual jobs, it enhances consistent performance of the employees. It also helps get the job done without much conflict because the employees learn and emulate the leader on performing a task. It also enhances blind followership which helps the job to be done without much hiccups and to the expected standards. This is depicted to be the reason behind the fast growth and development of Indian organizations (Maxwell, 2007). Many Indian firms are family owned and have over the tears tended to grow and develop so well. The secret behind their success has been succession planning. Leadership skills tend to be passed on to family members. The leader is expected to steer the organization to greater heights. In some instances, the leader who has taken over the leadership may have inadequate skills hence may end up hiring professionals to perform some tasks. However, there still is minimal ownership of firms from people not from a family despite some of the disadvantages highlighted. On the contrast, the Anglo countries tend to privatize their firms by selling equity to shareholders. This broadens the management and leadership of the firms, brings in more professionals to take care of the shareholders interests and in turn these leads to much profit and attracts the best talent and professionals. In Indian firms, managing generation Y employees has been an up heal task. Generation Y are people born between 1978-1997. The individuals are characterized by a dynamic lifestyle, are creative, risk takers, technology savvy and very confident. Generation Y employees love recognition, challenges and responsibilities at the work place. However, based on Indian culture and practice, these employees tend to feel humiliated because there is hardly any space left for them to make decisions and be creative. They feel as if they are slaves to the organization leadership and would rather quit the job. They change jobs fast and hence it has become very difficult for firms in India to maintain this highly qualified working group. In the Anglo countries however, creativity is encouraged. Reward system is pegged on who is most creative to find a solution to ease the way a task is performed or come up with a product or service that will increase market penetration. This makes the generation Y individuals to be very active and always on the look out to how the organization can move to greater heights. Most India firm leadership are spiritual. In most workplaces, some ” sacred” portions are set for prayer and some superstitious and spiritual matters. Employees are expected to respect the spiritual culture at the workplace. Some spiritual aspects revolve around humans, animals and nature. Though it might be against an individual’s spiritual focus, the employees are expected to conform to the rules and regulations regardless of the understanding of the spiritual culture. This hampers freedom of expression at the workplace because the employees feel humiliated to follow rules that don’t relate to. On the contrary, Anglo organizations tend to be lenient on spiritual matters as long as they don’t affect the individual’s output at the workplace. Although most corporations in India are undertaking corporate social responsibility (CSR), it still is not prevalent as compared to corporations in Anglo countries. Very few corporate leaders in India would step out of the way to even offer assistance to its employees. The employees may need assistance in their children education, health care and at times offer them incentives to motivate them. Very few Indian corporate leaders would provide any financial assistance for noble courses for those in poor or marginalized areas and in need of help. The employees in return tend to be very unethical in their day-to-day dealings with customers and at times suppliers. This has brought up a lot of corrupt practices at the workplace. In Australian and American firms, corporate social responsibility is part of the organization’s goals. The company goes out of its way and assists members of the community as a way of gratitude. He employees get health benefits; at times their children are offered scholarships, medical attention in case of diseases. This makes the employees have a sense of belonging in the organization. Corrupt dealings are minimized because the employees feel they are appreciated by the company management and their needs are prioritized. In India, the culture and practice at the workplace is intense competition and pressure which has a devastating effect on the employee’s health both mentally and emotionally. The employees are expected to carry out their jobs to completion and start on a fresh day each day. In contrast, their leaders have facilities at the workplace for yoga, relaxation, health which the employees are not permitted to make use of. In the workplace, there is hardly any bonding activity where the employees can mingle with their leaders. These in effect lead to a very huge gap between the employees and their leaders in terms of communication lapses, health and social life (Dobhal, 2006). In most Indian workplaces, there is no lower level management; hence the lesser educated employees feel oppressed when they are reprimanded for not performing their tasks to succession. Whereas the highly educated employees are keen to details and grasp facts easily and are able to relate to what they do, the lesser educated employees have no one to ask questions in case of difficulties performing their designated jobs. This drastically affects their overall output because they lack confidence in themselves while carrying out their jobs (Shamir, 1991). Indian culture and business practices greatly differ from the Anglo culture. Indian culture and practice at the workplace has seen to evolve totally different leadership styles that have seen India’s economy grow two fold. In India, the leaders see their organizations as organic enterprises. Employees morale and enhancing company culture as seen as the building blocks to success. The employees are assets that need developed and are sources of solutions and not costs to be reduced. Indian culture and workplace practice puts a lot of focus in enterprise growth and development as paramount. The leaders are always on the edge thinking of how the organization will go beyond its boundaries and grow family prosperity. The leaders follow a well prescribed routine that may rather lead to monotony and enhance lack of creativity but also leads to consistency and a mastery of the job to be carried out. In the Anglo culture, openness is prevalent in almost all organizations. The leaders and their followers encourage this practice as a form of honesty and building trust among its employees. On the contrary, in India, people tend to be polite and would not share any information that would offend a person. This also means that it is very difficult to acquire information or the truth on a particular matter. India’s population is massive with lots of women in composition. However, very few women have senior leadership positions at the workplace irrespective of their huge numbers. They are considered inferior and their work is to bear children and take care of families. It is considered that they find problems trying to balance their professional life with their personal or family life. This gender stereotype hinders their growth potential at the workplaces. Men are considered aggressive and competitive, a quality that resonates well with most organization mission and visions. In contrast, the Anglo culture offers equal opportunities to both male and female. In fact, in some organizations women are more considered because of their ability to be tender and unify different members at the workplace. Corporate India leaders are risk averse in nature. They fear taking business risks that may jeopardize their organization operations. They tend to be laid back in terms of making business decisions that are vague to their understanding. In the Anglo culture, corporate leaders are always open to ideas that would increase their market share though it might seem unclear to them. They will go out of their way to offer support to the employee who comes up with the idea to put it into practice. The employee in return will go above and beyond his means to make sure the idea matures to growth and development of the organization. In India political influence and increasing corrupt practices in the work place lead to labour inefficiency. Cases of tax evasion tend to be on the increase and production of sub standard goods. In the Anglo culture and practice, corruption is shunned and minimal political influence is tolerated. Ethical business practices are cultivated in the employees which in return also impact quality life in the employee’s personal lives outside their workplaces.

Relevance of Leadership Theories in India

India’s corporate are on an upward trajectory competing with other well established corporate organizations world over. This has been much attributed to the change in their leadership styles guided by the transformational theory of leadership. This theory has been widely engraved in most organizations in India. This theory has been borrowed from the USA, Canadian and Australian firms which are some of the best corporates the world over. Transformational leadership theory puts focus on the leader-follower relationship where the leader primarily puts greater focus on the eminent needs of his followers (Burns, 1978). It involves four ingredients namely, charisma, inspiration, intellectual stimulation and personalized attention (Bass, 1985). Numerous empirical studies have been carried out in India to establish the relevance of this theory on management and leadership practices in their businesses. Studies have revealed that India’s corporates have realized the significance of the theory that leads to greater performance, creativity and encourages innovativeness (DeGrant, Kicker and Cross, 2000). India corporate leaders have established the fact that employees develop a sense of belonging in the organization and develop trust and satisfaction in the leader. They open up to the leader who they believe has a way to help them though he might not give immediate remedies to their problems. This in turn has enhanced a smooth working environment, motivation, morality and empowerment to the employees (Dvir, Eden, Avolio and Shamir, 2002). Change is a concept that has occupied the minds of the human race since the days of yore. Employees love change as long as it is bringing good tidings but loathe it when it challenges their comfort zone. A transformational leader is an effective change initiator and leader, is attractive to the followers, creates a positive image in the minds of his followers, is reachable, inspiring and very sociable (Brown and Eisenhardt, 1997). The transformational leader is change initiator and motivates his followers to achieving the desired change in the organization and leads the change effort from the front (Kotter, 1996). The leader is able to induce and motivate his followers effectively and get them to change. He leads the change initiative by first addressing his follower’s cultural backgrounds, values and needs (Gupta, 1991). He instills the vision clearly in his follower’s minds. Charles Swindoll put it this way, ” A vision is spawned by faith, sustained by hope, sparked by imagination and strengthened by enthusiasm”. He adds, ” It is greater than sight, deeper than a dream, broader than an idea” (Sermon Notes, 2000). Hence a vision as a tool for change is about sharing the leaders dream with his followers. A transformational leader dreams ahead of others about change in order to share it with his followers. India corporates have put lots of emphasis on these sentiments in their working environments hence the rapid growth has been seen especially in the last decade. Transformational leadership theory also impacts on diverse cultures. Culture involves mingling and socialization. The transformational leader truly understands his follower’s individual needs and places them close to his heart (House and Adilya, 1997). He acts differently within diverse cultural contexts in order to impact all. This is so because transformational leadership qualities are clearly manifested in the leader’s behaviour towards his followers (Ardichvilli and Gasparishvili, 2001). Transformational leadership is in recent times been widely used not only in India but also in other Asian countries. It focuses on individualized attention to the followers with charisma and great oratory skills. Transformational leadership theory in modern day India is transforming business leaders into dependable, caring, authoritative but also demanding people (Singh and Bhandarkar, 1988). It guides and grooms the followers to responsible, dependable, motivated and high achievers who have a clear vision set in their minds. The leader becomes a mentor and is ready to offer guidance to his followers. Personal touch at the work places is enhanced (Sinha, 2000). The leader is personally concerned with his follower’s needs, norms and expectations that previously went unnoticed. Transformational leadership theory has enhanced expertness in the leader and follower alike. They both have knowledge in diverse fields and are intelligent, credible and smart. This is as a result of greater leader-follower socialization hence a symbiotic learning experience takes place. Gupta (1991) said that a self sacrificing behaviour is engraved in both the leader and follower. Self denial and self sacrifice for the sake of the other is highly visible. A character trait highly attributed to one of India’s fore father Mahatma Gandhi.


India’s corporate growth manifested in is economic development has been as a result of various influences mostly on leadership styles. India is initiating change in its leadership styles to be at par with other developed economies like the USA, UK, Canada and Australia. Effective organizational change and the need for planned change call for an exploration of different complementary strategies that will enable organizations and their leadership to better respond plan for and create change. Modern day India business leaders are on a daily basis attending training programmes from the Anglo countries so as to learn from the technocrats in the business world. This has provided strategies, inputs and support for organizational leadership to commence work on the inevitable change phenomena. Finally, in the face of dynamic inputs in the environment where organizations operate, intuition and intellect are no longer sufficient. Corporate leaders need new tools and approaches to navigate thorough unfamiliar waves. India is continuously learning from the Anglo countries on best leadership styles and traits. This is eminent in the progress it is making in the world of business and leadership.