Cross-cultural leadership by Chinese managers with their South African Xhosa-speaking employees

Wang, Xingmin (2007-12)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2007.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Purpose. This study investigates how foreign-born Chinese managers in the Cape Town area perceive their own leadership in a cross-cultural business situation, and compares these perceptions with how the local South African Xhosa-speaking employees perceive the styles of their foreign managers. The study is important because of the growing private investment in Africa by people from China. Approach. Ten small businesses owned and managed by Chinese nationals were studied: five retail, two wholesale, one restaurant and two Chinese supermarkets. A Likert-type questiormaire was created by operationalising 10 of the 19 aspects of cross-cultural leadership identified by Suutari and Riusala (2001). These ten aspects are: decision participation, autonomy-delegation, consideration, rewarding, informing, conflict management, production emphasis, criticizing, goal setting, and inspiration. Each aspect had four questions associated with it. The questiormaire was given individually to the ten managers and to 20 of their Xhosa-speaking employees, two per business. It was followed by an open interview based mainly on the questiormaire content. The questionnaire responses were analysed statistically, first to test for the sameness of responses of the employees as well as the sameness of responses of the managers, using the Sign Test. Responses of the two groups were compared for each aspect. Interview responses were used to help interpret the numbers and formulate findings. Findings. There are clear, statistically significant differences between the perceptions of the managers' leadership style by the two groups on all ten of the aspects. The Chinese managers show a similar leadership approach when interacting with their employees. The Xhosa-speaking employees have perceptions similar to one another about their managers' leadership style. Thus a disjunction is shown between the two culturally different groups. The responses of the Chinese managers were analysed in light of the literature on Chinese culture, and in most ways they were seen to be managing using a traditional Chinese-based style. In general, they make the decisions and do the planning, do not delegate much, withhold infonnation, do not reward good performance, and are not inspirational. However, they do tend to be kind. Research limitations. The study compared only those two ethnic groups in a small geographic area, with small sample sizes. It also studied reported perceptions. Further research could tty to isolate just cultural differences, and focus more on leadership behaviours. Practical implications. Acknowledgement of the local culture and perhaps use of a more inclusive, less authoritarian management-leadership style seem important for existing and future Chinese managers. Culturally-based management training can be offered for them and for potential investors, to support future small business investors in South Africa and beyond.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Doel. Hierdie studie behels 'n ondersoek na hoe buitelands-gebore Sjinese bestuurders in Kaapstad hulle eie leierskap beoordeel in 'n kruis-kulturele sake omgewing. Hierdie sienings word dan vergelyk met die persepsies van hoe plaaslike Suid-Afrikaanse Xhosa-sprekende werknemers die bestuurstyl van hulle buitelandse werkgewers beoordeel. Hierdie studie is belangrik vanweë die toenemende private belegging in Afrika deur Sjinese burgers. Benadering. Tien klein sake-ondememings wat deur Sjinese burgers besit en bestuur word, is ondersoek: vyf in die kleinhandel, twee in die groothandel, een restaurant en twee Sjinese supermarkte. 'n Likert-tipe vraelys is saamgestel deur die operasionalisering van 10 van die 19 aspekte van kruis-kulturele leierskap s00s deur Suutari en Riusala (2001) geïdentifiseer. Hierdie tien aspekte is: besluit-deelneming, outonomie-delegasie, konsiderasie, beloning, inkennisstelling, konflik-bestuur, produksie-beklemtoning, kritisering, doelsteIling-bepaling, en inspirasie. Elke aspek is aan vier vrae gekoppel. Die vraelys is aan elkeen van die tien Sjinese bestuurders gegee, en aan 20 van hulle Xhosa-sprekende werknemers, twee per sake-ondememing. Dit is opgevolg deur 'n oop onderhoud wat hoofsaaklik op die inhoud van die vraelys gebaseer was. Die antwoorde op die vraelys is statisties ontIeed, eerstens vir die ooreenstemming van die antwoorde van die werknemers, sowel as die ooreenstemming van die antwoorde van die bestuurders deur middle van die "Sign" toets. Die antwoorde van die twee groepe is met mekaar vergelyk vir elke aspek. Die terugvoering vanaf die onderhoude is gebruik om die getalle te interpreter en om resultate te help formuleer. Bevindings. Daar is helder, statistiese beduidende verskille tussen die beoordeling van die bestuurders se leierskapstyl deur beide groepe wat betref al tien die aspekte. Die Sjinese bestuurders toon 'n soortgelyke leierskap benadering wanneer hulle met hul werknemers omgaan. Die Xhosa-sprekende wer1cnemers het onderling soortgelyke persepsies betreffende hul bestuurders se leierskapstyl. Dus bestaan daar 'n uiteenlopende siening tussen die twee kulturele groepe. Die beoordeling van die Sjinese bestuurders is ontleed in die lig van literatuur oor Sjinese kultuur, en dit het geblyk dat hulle 'n tradisionele Sjinese bestuurstyl navolg. In die algemeen is daar bevind dat hulle die besluite neem en die beplanning doen, dat hulle nie veel delegeer nie, dat hulle inligting weerhou, dat hulle nie goeie werkverrigting beloon nie, en dat hulle nie werkers aanmoedig nie. Desniteenstaande is hulle goedhartig. Navorsingsbeperkings. In hierdie studie is slegs twee etniese groepe in 'n klein geografiese gebied, met klein steekproewe, ondersoek. Persepsies waaroor verslag gedoen is, is ondersoek. In verdere navorsing kan daar probeer word om kulturele verskille te isoleer, en om op leierskapsgedrag te fokus. Praktiese implikasies. Erkenning van die plaaslike kultuur en miskien 'n meer insluitende, minder outoritêre bestuurstyl blyk belangrik te wees vir bestaande en toekomstige Sjinese bestuurders. Kultuur-gebaseerde bestuursopleiding kan vir hulle en voornemende beleggers aangebied word om toekomstige klein sake-beleggers in Suid-Afrika en elders te ondersteun.

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