Leaders around the World: Who Comes out on Top?

leaders-image*This is a guest post authored by Adrian Chew, principal consultant at Peter Berry Consultancy (PBC). 

Globalization and the expansion of organizations across international borders have created opportunities and challenges for current and future leaders. As a consultant, psychologist, and coach, I am excited to see more organizations around the world investing in psychometric and multirater feedback data for leadership development.

Having reputational data available can be tremendously helpful to leaders for understanding and narrowing down key areas to focus on for development. Many multirater assessments allow leaders to compare themselves to other leaders around the world using global benchmark scores (for example, the Hogan 360°, powered by PBC, does this). Having the ability to use benchmarks to understand how leaders differentiate themselves is great, considering how globally connected we are. But given how diverse we are from country to country and culture to culture, are we missing any critical nuances that need to be considered when supporting our leaders and managers in their development?

As part of our commitment to better understanding leadership and talent, PBC recently conducted a study looking at observed leadership behavior around the world. The study was based on data collected from 2012 to 2017 using the Hogan 360°. The data consisted of more than 5,600 ratings of 1,642 leaders in eight countries: Australia, Denmark, Greece, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Essentially, we wanted to see if leaders around the world tended to show up in similar ways.

The Similarities

Two key themes emerged from our findings. The first was that leaders around the world are still struggling to fully demonstrate the competencies often associated with transformational leadership: building and maintaining relationships with others; motivating and coaching others; and holding others accountable to work toward innovative and strategic business outcomes. In fact, it was in the Hogan 360°’s Working on the Business competency quadrant where we saw the least amount of variability among leaders.

Secondly, but unsurprisingly, we found most leaders — particularly those in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Japan, and Singapore — were rated highest in the Working in the Business competency quadrant, especially with regard to perceived work ethic, industry knowledge, and expertise. This seems to reflect a common phenomenon observed in so many organizations, where technical expertise and operational prowess are catalysts for progression into people management and leadership roles, while relationship management skills and the capability to motivate others are much less prevalent.

The Differences

We saw the most variation in leaders when it came to how resilient and emotionally intelligent they appeared. Leaders also differed significantly in how invested they were in building trust and rapport with others through strong relationships. For example, we found that leaders in Mexico are more likely than leaders in the other countries in the sample to be perceived as polite, respectful, and able to manage stress well. This may be a reflection of the expectation that leaders in Mexico need to be flexible, hardworking, and operate with integrity (Kowske & Anthony, 2007). In contrast, leaders from the U.K. appeared to have less of a focus on managing their emotions.

We also saw a lot of variability in leaders when it came to the Hogan 360°’s Relationship Management competency quadrant. Leaders from Mexico once again showed strengths in this domain, with leaders from Greece, Australia, and the U.S. also scoring relatively high. Leaders from Denmark, Japan, and Singapore scored particularly low for this domain. When we investigated this further, we learned that leaders from Japan had been rated particularly low for the People Skills competency, which included behaviors associated with being a positive role model, making others feel valued, and being warm and thoughtful in interactions with others. Considering the high in-group collectivist culture that likely exists in countries such as Japan and Singapore, where duties and obligations take precedence over personal needs, this seems to make sense. 

So, knowing that there are, indeed, differences in what can be expected of leaders around the world, what can we do?

  • The use of standard global benchmarks can be used to provide a baseline for leaders who increasingly need to operate more globally.
  • The use of country-specific benchmarks in 360° assessments can help organizations better understand how local leaders compare with each other (while accounting for country-specific nuances in expected leadership behavior).
  • By recognizing nuances and better understanding the expectations that teams, colleagues, and managers have of their leaders, organizations can become more focused and prioritize relevant areas for their leaders to develop professionally.
  • We can continue to help leaders of leaders understand differences in their teams’ behavior.

You can read more about our findings on how leaders from each country scored in our white paper.