Different countries – different leaders? : A thesis about cultural differences in Austria and Sweden and to what extent these cultural differences affect the leadership behaviour in small and medium-sized enterprises

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för organisation och entreprenörskap (OE)

Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to investigate to what extent differing cultural backgrounds influence the way leaders of small and medium-sized enterprises in Austria and Sweden deal with difficult decisions. For this purpose, first an extensive desk research was conducted in order to lay the groundwork for the empirical part of my thesis. Literature concerning leadership, small and medium-sized enterprises and cultural studies, most importantly the GLOBE study, were taken into consideration. With my empirical part, I wanted to analyse the underlying motives and reasons behind the statements and proposed actions of the interviewed leaders. Therefore, I opted for a qualitative research for which I created scenarios, strongly based on the findings of the GLOBE study, where five leaders of Austrian as well as five leaders of Swedish SMEs had to work through these scenarios, make difficult decisions and share their insights while doing so. This empirical research showed that, indeed, cultural backgrounds influenced the way the interviewed leaders approached the given situations. Differing viewpoints concerning the cultural dimensions Institutional Collectivism, Assertiveness, Performance Orientation, Gender Egalitarianism and Uncertainty Avoidance could be investigated, which had an effect on how the situations were assessed. The findings gained through my thesis show the importance of obtaining cultural competencies in today´s strongly connected and heavily internationalized business world. Another insight is that cultural backgrounds heavily influence the way we act and behave and a person has to take that into consideration when going abroad, working in an already established company or setting up an own enterprise and be self-employed.

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