José Antonio Meade is Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) presidential candidate (Agren, 2018). He is opposing incumbent President Enrique Peña Nieto. Jose is running what appears to be a clean campaign that promises to end the corruption and cronyism in the presidency, and end the reign of killer cartels that threaten the safety of Mexico’s people (Agren, 2018). Meade is technically skilled, holds a PHD from Yale University, and has political experience. He held four cabinet posts, including the role as President Nieto’s Finance Minister that he quit to run for the office of presidency (Agren, 2018). While typical Mexican politicians fly private and ride in bulletproof chauffeured SUVs, Meade flies commercial and drives his personal vehicle; a Honda Fit (Agren, 2018). He has positioned himself as the “common man” who will repair the ills of Mexico without robbing the nation and cozying up to criminals. However, according to an election poll taken in January, 58% of respondents said they would not vote for the PRI (Solomon, 2018). With such an appealing candidate whom is also offering to repair the ills of society, one would wonder why Meade isn’t faring better in his political campaign.
Perhaps the answer lies in Mexico’s scores on Hofstede’s six cultural dimensions of Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Individualism, Masculinity, Long-Term Orientation, and Indulgence Versus Restraint. I will take a 50,000ft approach to briefly discuss (again, from a high level) Mexico’s scores on the 3 dimensions of Power Distance, Masculinity, and Indulgence Versus Restraint. I will postulate why Meade is failing to have a greater appeal among the Mexican people.
Mexico’s power distance score is 81, which is higher than nearly 68% of recorded countries in the world (PSU WC, L9, 2018). Mexicans society generally accepts inequality based on social class because they value social status & hierarchy (Abramson, et al., 2018). Mexicans may be rejecting a campaign run by “one of the people” because they desire, and are accustomed to, a “patron;” or “a man of power or wealth who sustains loyalty from those of lesser status” (Abramson, et al., 2018). Members of Mexico’s hierarchical society may feel safer with a leader (like Nieto) who uses their tone of voice and manner of speaking to symbolize their superiority, and perhaps the “common man’s” own inferiority as well (Abramson, et al., 2018).
Mexico’s Masculinity score is 69, which is about 20 points higher than the world average score of 49.53 (PSU WC, L9, 2018). A masculine culture values achievement wealth and expansion. Mexican want to see their leader as wealthy, powerful and aggressive. Mexico is a society that values saving face, honor, and “machismo,” which means “maleness,” and is personified by visible toughness, aggressive attitudes, competitiveness, and the will to conquer (Abramson, et al., 2018). Meade, an academic and brainy politician with practical plans to improve the life of Mexicans, by being a humble “common man” may seem unpresidential because of his distinct lack of machismo. His ideas may also be too collectivist for this country that scored 30 on individualism (PSU WC, L9, 2018). While Mexico’s Individualism score is rather low relative to its North American neighbors, Mexico’s is twice as individualistic as its region of Central America, which scored just under 18 in individualism (PSU WC, L9, 2018).
Mexico’s Uncertainty Avoidance score of 82 is much higher than the world average of 67.64 and Mexico’s long-term orientation score is 24, which is much lower than the world average score of 45.48. This makes Mexico a relatively short-term oriented nation (PSU WC, L9, 2018). Meade is running on a platform that promises to end the lavish expense spent on presidencies by not partaking in the corrupt activities the presidency is known for. Thinking about the future may not be what the Mexican people want, particularly if it is very different than today. Further, while Mexico is infamous for having a corrupt government, its society also accepts bribery as a way to conduct business with the government (Abramson, et al., 2018). Having political connections, or “ubicacion” is critical to doing business and typically has an entry fee for every transaction (Abramson, et al., 2018). Giving the government a “mordida,” or “a little bite” is sometimes essential to conclude a business deal. Perhaps Meade is calling to destabilize something the Mexican people think is essential to running the country. After all, Mexico is high in Masculinity, and also weary of being taken advantage of, or bested, by “arrogant gringos” (Abramson, et al., 2018). Further, change is risky, and just as their Uncertainty Avoidance score of 82 would suggest, Mexico is risk averse (PSU WC, L9, 2018).
Mexico’s indulgence versus restraint score is 97 compared to the world average of 45.42 (PSU WC, L9, 2018). Mexico is a country rich in culture and personal identity. They are known for their cuisine and eating is a major part of relationship building, entertaining, and celebrating in Mexico. A series of warm interpersonal interactions are part of the process of negotiations in Mexico (Abramson, et al., 2018). As such, trust develops over shared meals and experiences. It is possible that Meade would benefit form hosting catered banquets and local talks where he has heart to heart conversations about his vision for Mexico. A trusting atmosphere could really advance Meade’s campaign.
Now, I am no campaign manager, but it would seem that the Mexican people are not looking for change-at least not a message packaged as change. They may feel some national pride in the configuration of their government and maybe even think there is machismo in having all the power. Or maybe they can’t accept so much change all at once. President Neito certainly exudes power and machismo.
It may serve Meade well to do the same. Maybe riding in armored and bulletproof chauffeured SUVs, and flying in private jets would help him develop a “tougher” image. He may need to present in a more masculine manner and talk about crushing his opponent. Perhaps adding machismo to his message, and speaking more to the elites than the common man may put him in a position to make substantial changes as Mexico’s president.
Abramson, Neil Remington; Moran, Robert T.. Managing Cultural Differences: Global Leadership for the 21st Century. Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
Agren, D. (2018). José Antonio Meade: Mexico’s common man struggles to connect. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/22/jose-antonio-meade-mexico-pri-presidential-candidate-common-man-struggles-connect#img-1 [Accessed 20 Mar. 2018].
Hofstede, G., & Hofstede, G. J. ( n.d.a. (no date)). Dimensions of national cultures. Retrieved from http://geerthofstede.com/culture-geert-hofstede-gert-jan-hofstede/6d-model-of-natio nal-culture/ (http://geerthofstede.com/culture-geert-hofstede-gert-jan-hofstede/6d-model-of-national-culture /)
Pennsylvania State University. (2018). Leadership in a Global Context–OLEAD 410. Lesson 09: Central America & Mexico. Retrieved from March 18, 2018 from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1916378/modules/items/23640570
Solomon, D. (2018). Mexico leftist leads presidency race, PRI hopeful struggles: poll. [online] U.S. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-election-poll/mexico-leftist-leads-presidency-race-pri-hopeful-struggles-poll-idUSKBN1F61RH [Accessed 20 Mar. 2018].