How nationality affects leadership style | Incentive&Motivatio

Have you ever wondered about the cultural differences between leaders, and how nationality might affect leadership style? We can all fall back on lazy stereotypes, but a new study conducted by Hogan – a global personality assessment company – found that there really are distinct differences among leadership values and company culture. The study compared individual motivators of over 11,000 European Managers and Executives across seven European countries, including France, England, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden, and that the biggest differences across national origins for values from the Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory (MVPI). The surveyed aspects at MVPI are Aesthetic, Affiliation, Altruism, Commerce, Hedonism, Power, Recognition, Science, Security and Tradition.

 British managers top for altruism and hedonism

British managers scored highest on the Altruism scale, which means they value helping others and prefer customer-focused environments. They also scored high on Hedonism (along with leaders from Belgium and France), which means they prefer fun and open-minded work environments.

 French managers value creativity, power and appearance

French managers score highest on Aesthetics, which means they put the most emphasis on innovation, creativity and appearance. They also score highest on Power, placing a higher value on career advancement and leadership positions than other leaders. They also score relatively high on the Affiliation scale (along with Germany, Belgium and Denmark), which suggests they value social interactions and prefer working in teams.

 German managers best at teamwork 

German managers had average scores on almost every scale of the MVPI. The one exception was Affiliation, where, they had the second highest score just below French leaders, which indicates that they prefer working with others and in teams, and value social interaction.

 Swedish managers prefer flat heirachy

Swedish represent the lowest values on the Commerce, Hedonism, Power and Recognition scales, which suggests that they are more likely to work effectively in flat-hierarchy teams, through collaboration over competition.

Leaders from all of these countries scored relatively low on Tradition and Security, which can be explained by the general Western-European managerial attitudes preferring flexibility, adventure, risk-taking and experimentation, which are essential for career advancement.

Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, CEO for Hogan and one of most influential HR thinkers worldwide on cultural differences, said: “Every culture needs leaders who exhibit good judgment, technical expertise, people-skills, integrity and self-awareness. That said, the relative importance of these ingredients varies a bit from culture to culture. For instance, people-skills will matter more in Italy and Spain than in Finland or Germany, but the opposite is true for technical expertise, and so on.”


National and cultural background may not directly impact leadership skills, but values do impact the culture the leader establishes within an organisation. Although personality and leadership skills are important, how a leader’s values align with the core values of an organization also determines success. For the perfect fit, both have to be measured – good leadership is just personality in the right place.

Hogan’s results showing these differences are by no means intended to be used for employee selection or for sticking labels on colleagues. However, as Dr. Nigel Guenole, senior lecturer and director of research for the Institute of Management at University of London, remarks on the research, “Leaders have to be aware of these differences in order to work efficiently. The results have implications for all multicultural teams. Team members from different cultures may have different expectations towards each other and of their leaders.” These results provide food for thought when working with international teams, for minimising misunderstandings due to cultural differences.