Global leadership requires an advanced understanding of cultures around the world. In order to best comprehend such vast cultures, organizational leaders should find a common scale for measuring the components of worldwide markets. Social psychologist Dr. Geert Hofstede successfully met the need for this scale when he created a universal measurement using four dimensions to analyze the values of different groups of people.
Hofstede’s first dimension, power distance, measures a society’s willingness to accept that there is an unequal distribution of power within an organization (Moran, Abramson, & Moran, 2014). High power distance scores mean that a society is very accepting of the unequal distribution of power, and are thus considered to be hierarchical societies. In studying multiple cultures in our course, I noticed that Latin American cultures in particular tend to share the value of high power distance, and found interesting the prevalence of a hierarchical society in modern culture.
In studying the occurrence of hierarchical values in Latin American culture, I found that it is not so much an acceptance of high power distance as a lack of control that has resulted in the Latin American power tiers. It seems that redistribution has been a long-time struggle of Latin American nations, where majority parties exclude poor voters, resulting in bias and a lack of restructuring. This causes low-quality public education and high income inequality, further reassuring the vicious cycle (Schneider & Soskice, 2009). I now understand that “acceptance” is not meant to imply content, but rather admission of the truth.
In other words, many Latin American’s are likely displeased with the fact that there is such an unequal distribution of power, but understand that it exists. It can be argued, however, that this same distribution of power is existent in the most modern, low power distance cultures, like the United States itself. The difference, however, is that American’s are less willing to admit that we live in a culture in which a social hierarchy still exists.
As stated by Harold J Leavitt in an issue of the Harvard Business Review, “It is a reality check, a reminder that hierarchy remains the basic structure of most, if not all, large, ongoing human organizations” (Leavitt, 2014). Perhaps the United States is a country of more opportunity than most, but it has been proven that inequality is a constant national struggle. Everyone hears of the “American Dream”, but less often discussed are those who grow up in impoverished areas and are never able to climb the ladder because poor access to essential human needs assures their spot at the bottom of the social ladder. If someone refuses to accept this fact, perhaps another outlook is the structure of American businesses or families. The truth is, that hierarchy is everywhere. Everyone reports to someone. And perhaps foreign nations are not more accepting of this fact, but simply aware of its existence.
Leavitt, H. J. (2014, July 31). Why hierarchies thrive. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2003/03/why-hierarchies-thrive
Moran, R. T., Abramson, N. R., & Moran, S. V. (2014). Global leaders, culture, and a changing world. In Managing cultural differences (9th ed., p. 19). London: Routledge.
Schneider, B. R., & Soskice, D. (2009). Inequality in developed countries and Latin America: Coordinated, liberal and hierarchical systems. Economy and Society, 38(1), 17-52. doi:10.1080/03085140802560496