While reading your appraisal of Lee, Scandura and Sharif (2014), I was intrigued by your critique of their inconclusive conclusion. You seem, if I read you correctly, to be arguing for a reassessment of Lee and colleague’s work based on the interdependence-independence pathway theory of Greenfield and associates (2003), and be suggesting that the issue of collective or independent is far from established. In this, I concur.
I attended a presentation a few years ago given by an American teacher in Japan who explained his study abroad programme. He placed Japanese 16-year-old pupils in homestay families who had 14-year-old American children, claiming that there was an equivalency of maturity between the children. Children seemed happier with this arrangement because the development of independent thinking produced by a 16-year-old Japanese was roughly similar to that of a 14-year-old American. Of course, he was taken to task for this by members of the audience who were appalled at the cultural arrogance on display. The criticisms from the floor included the disparity of language skills: the US children had no Japanese abilities and the Japanese children’s English was—as to be expected—not so strong. I asked about the issue of parity regarding socialisation skills. Were the US children as able as the Japanese to avoid conflict, to read the mood of a room, to understand the value and methods of searching and finding solutions to common problems that minimised the discomfort for the majority? Greenfield and colleague’s model (2003), perhaps especially their emphasis on ecoculture as a mediator in socio-psychological development, speaks to many of the issues raised.
What Greenfield and colleagues bring to the table is the call for extreme sensitivity in the presentation of cross-cultural items as constructs in research, and for our purposes, in the interpretation of questionnaires and other instruments that may turn out to be too blunt to be useful. Actually—and personally—this is an exciting time to be a doctoral candidate. We are moving away from superficial approaches and towards more appropriate methodologies. This has the effect of drawing a line under the theory to date and opening up the possibilities for whole new swathes of research and new knowledge.
To link this discussion back to leadership traits or characteristics, the construct of the individual—collective continuum (Hofstede, 2010) cannot be decided by superficially straightforward questions in a questionnaire if those items are presented (even in translation) in identical ways to individuals across cultures. The quasi-experimental method aims to reduce the number of variables (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2011), and Lee and colleagues seem to have issued what I may call a single-item-single-approach method in their questionnaire. Yet, as Greenfield and associates (2003) argue, this method fails to address cultural variables that critically affect the likely interpretation of the items. Do you know if there is any work being done in single-item-multiple-approach questionnaires?
Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2011). Research Methods in Education. Professional Development in Education (7th ed.). Abingdon: Routledge. http://doi.org/10.1080/19415257.2011.643130
Greenfield, P. M., Keller, H., Fuligni, A., & Maynard, A. (2003). Cultural pathways through universal development. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 461–490. http://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.54.101601.145221
Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and organisations: Software of the mind. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Lee, K., Scandura, T. A., & Sharif, M. M. (2014). Cultures have consequences: A configural approach to leadership across two cultures. Leadership Quarterly, 25(4), 692–710. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2014.03.003