Assessing Leadership Across Cultures with the SIGMA Radius

Leaders are role models for their organization. They are responsible for completing their own work but also for motivating other employees to produce high quality work, develop their skills, and stay loyal to their company.1,2 Thus, leaders are central to the success of their organization. Today, companies are seeking to grow in a global environment by increasing diversity, collaborating with international teams or departments, and broadening their client base. As a result, there has been an increasing need to address what defines strong leadership across cultures.3

Leader success can be examined in various ways, and there are different competency models that can be used to assess leader traits and behaviors. Regardless of what approach is used, it is important to consider how broader variables can influence the way a leader is evaluated by others. This includes organization-specific variables (e.g., company norms, organizational culture), as well as more macro variables such as leadership across cultures. In this guide, we will expand on how culture might influence perceptions of leadership and how the SIGMARadius has been validated with these cultural variables in mind.

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Cross-Cultural Leadership and the SIGMARadius

The SIGMARadius and 360 Degree Feedback

The SIGMARadius is a 360 degree measure of individual behavior at work. 360 degree feedback measures are unique from other performance appraisal measures in that information is collected from relevant individuals. Specifically, multiple perspectives are gathered from leaders, colleagues, direct/indirect reports and self-ratings, and this results in a holistic understanding of a leaders’ performance.

The Radius was created using best practices for 360 degree feedback systems combined with a validated model of leadership competencies. Feedback captured with the Radius includes both numerical ratings and narrative comments about the ratee’s behavior, providing individuals with the opportunity to build self-awareness about their strengths and potential development opportunities.  

The Radius is specifically designed to help build and develop essential leadership competencies, such as Integrity, Conflict Management, and Communication. These critical leadership competencies, based on SIGMA’s scientifically validated leadership competency model, capture various behaviors associated with effective leadership.

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360 Feedback Approaches and Culture

It is important to consider how 360 degree feedback systems may be influenced by the culture in which they are implemented. Though research has generally supported the use of 360 degree approaches cross-culturally,4 a critical first step when administering a 360 degree feedback system in a new context is to ensure that the competencies that are being measured are relevant within the cultural context.5 In a large cross-cultural sample of leaders, GLOBE researchers set out to answer how cultural context influenced leadership perceptions. The GLOBE research project included over 70 researchers, more than 1,000 CEOs and 5,000 senior executives across 24 countries and a variety of industries. They found that leadership styles that focus on Motivating Others, Integrity, Teamwork, and Interpersonal Relations (e.g., charismatic and team-oriented leadership) were most positively valued across cultures.6 Examples of charismatic leadership includes skill in using words and actions to engage their employees and motivate them toward a specific vision, whereas team-oriented leadership involves skill in working with others, delegating work effectively, and promoting group cohesion. In contrast, competencies such as Ambition are often seen in self-protected leadership styles. Self-protected leadership styles are illustrated by a focus on individual status and the preference for these styles was culturally-dependent, with Eastern cultures preferring this leadership style more than Western cultures.

The GLOBE findings highlight how important it is to measure leadership competencies that are valued universally in addition to considering specific leadership preferences based on the culture one is in.  Accordingly, the 50 competencies within the Radius model contain both those widely desirable leadership behaviors as well as behaviors that may vary slightly due to preferences across cultures. This inclusive model of leadership competencies allows for a dynamic understanding of a leaders’ performance based on their specific cultural workplace context.

The Radius can also be modified to better fit a particular company culture. This is done via benchmarking, a process where the report content is narrowed to focus only on the most important competencies for a given context. Specifically, an organization can decide which of the 50 competencies align best with their cultural or organizational values to focus the report exclusively on relevant competencies. This flexible approach allows companies to customize the Radius to meet the needs of specific sub-cultures or niche departments within their organization.

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The Big Picture: Leadership Across Cultures

Though culture may influence preferences for leadership styles or approaches, research indicates that 360 degree feedback systems can be successfully implemented across cultures.4 An important consideration for organizations that are expanding in a global environment is to carefully consider how the specific culture they are in might influence how a leader is evaluated. This is because facilitating leader development via performance management is key to organizational success. Thus, ensuring that leaders are evaluated on relevant competencies can unlock important information about how to grow within their role and beyond.

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Getting Started with the SIGMARadius

The SIGMARadius is an easy-to-use, adaptable measure of performance that can meet the specific needs of an organization. With the comprehensive coverage and flexible administration, organizations can be confident that the SIGMARadius captures the essential components of leadership, regardless of culture or other external factors. Paired with coaching, the SIGMARadius is a valuable tool for employee development and growth. Contact us to learn more about how the SIGMARadius can help your organization develop strong leaders.

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1 Vatankhah, S., Alirezaei, S., Khosravizadeh, O., Mirbahaeddin, S., Alikhani, M., & Alipanah, M. (2017). Role of transformational leadership on employee productivity of teaching hospitals: Using structural equation modeling. Electronic Physician, 9, 4978–4984.

2 Caillier, J. (2018). Can changes in transformational-oriented and transactional-oriented leadership impact turnover over time? International Journal of Public Administration, 41, 935–945.

3 Giles, S. (2016). The most important leadership competencies, according to leaders around the world. Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2016/03/the-most-important-leadership-competencies-according-to-leaders-around-the-world.

4 Shipper, F., Hoffman, R. C., & Rotondo, D. M. (2007). Does the 360-feedback process create actionable knowledge equally across cultures? Academy of Management Learning & Education, 6(1), 33–50. https://doi.org/10.5465/AMLE.2007.24401701

5 Nowack, K. M., & Mashihi, S. (2012). Evidence-based answers to 15 questions about leveraging 360-degree feedback. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 64(3), 157–182. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0030011

6 House, R. J., Dorfman, P. W., Javidan, M., Hanges, P. J., & Sully de Luque, M. F. (2014). Strategic leadership across cultures: The GLOBE study of CEO leadership behavior and effectiveness in 24 countries. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.