Last week I wrote about the French hierarchical style of leadership, and since then I have recently read an article in the Guardian concerning a different style, that of Ban Ki-moon.
I prefer not to comment on the general question of his effectiveness as a UN Secretary General, however it does seem that his Asian style of leadership is judged harshly in the West.
A comparison was made with the charismatic previous Secretary General, Kofi Annan.
Whilst I would agree that Kofi Annan seemed a very effective leader, I do believe it is important to challenge the assumption that because someone is charismatic, then they are a great leader. Charisma is positive and inspiring in the right circumstances, however as Jim Collins asserted in his book, from Good to Great (1991), “great leaders are leaders who have both personal humility and professional will … who are very humble on a personal level, but who possess a great deal of drive and desire to succeed, where success is not personal, but defined by creating something great that will outlast their time at the helm.”
This does not seem to equate with charisma, does it?
Coming back to cultural differences, South Korea, Ban Ki-moon’s native region, has a very interesting profile, compared to the US for example, see Hofstede
Individualism is very low, (almost a comparison of two extremes), uncertainty avoidance much higher and a definite high difference in long term orientation.
So the question is how do we accommodate these differences in culture and accept that they do not equate to a lack of effectiveness?
Creativity and innovation require diversity and working towards an acceptance of a diverse range of styles would be very healthy, even if difficult to manage at times.