Sunday, November 1, 2015

ARTICLE | Analyzing American Management

In 2011, I had the privilege of working with Americans in a company operating in Saudi Arabia. As a Filipino, I have observed the striking differences with the way Americans work and how they manage people. 

Related article: Lessons from Boss

In a nutshell, Americans tend to be very direct and professional, which means there is no room for personal emotions; to them, work is work and everyone is expected to work dutifully and with no excuses. Excellent work deserves recognition, while falling short of obligations meant corresponding consequences. 

Sometimes, Americans tend to get very brutally frank and Filipinos take this very personally as if a comment on their work performance is an attack to them. Truly, there's distinct difference between Americans and Filipinos, so here's an article to guide as Pinoys on how to deal with them and what to expect:

Americans are very: 
  • Direct
  • Competitive
  • Achievers
  • Independent and Individualistic
  • Questioners
  • Dislike Silence
  • Punctuality
  • Value Cleanliness

In terms of work/leisure:
  • Lives to work
  • Leisure seen as reward for hard work
  • Money often end in itself

In terms of direction/delegation:
  • Managers delegate responsibility and authority
  • Executive seeks responsibility and accepts accountability

In terms of theory vs. practice:
  • Basically pragmatic mind
  • Action-oriented problem-solving approach

American Management Values
  • Moderate Power Distance
  • Low Uncertainty Avoidance 
  • Low-Context Communication Style 
  • Monochronic Time View Systematic Organization Style 
  • Universalistic View of Life 
  • "Doing" Orientation to Activity

Resulting Assumptions and Ideal Behaviors
  • Middle managers should be able to make decisions concerning their own work.
  • Job descriptions should exist and be applied. Each person should have his own job, and the same task should not be asked of more than one person.
  • Information should be shared, so that decision-makers may make informed choices. Too much secrecy can lead to duplication of results, thereby increasing costs.
  • Decisions should not be changed impulsively, especially since planning is a serious, costly activity.
  • Superiors should not involve themselves in minute details, but should leave them to subordinates to handle.
  • Feedback, positive as well as negative, is vital to an employee's self-esteem and the efficiency of operations. In addition, it is a powerful motivating force.

It is important to 
  • Define a method before tackling a problem.
  • Work is best accomplished in private; interruptions are unwelcome.
  • Unquestioning obedience to authority results in poor decisions, which have to be changed, meaning waste of time and money. 
  • Teams should not be asked to find a way to implement decisions made by someone else.
  • Job satisfaction is gained when a person is able to carry out a project from beginning to end.


There is less freedom of action for executives and boards in America than in Asia.
Common in America are firms that are run by professional managers who are replaced by other professional managers, either as a consequence of retirement or of replacement by the board of directors of the firm. 

The better companies have sophisticated programs for developing executives within the firm, and ordinarily choose a next chief executive officer from among them.

American CEOs average about thirty years with their firms and own less than 4 percent of its shares. (These CEOs are driven by a need to excel in a competitive environment (they want to win), and they insist that money is less important to them than professional achievement)

Many American firms, especially most of the large ones, are more dependent on capital markets for their capital (equity and debt) and so pay much more attention to Wall Street than is yet common in Asia. 

To a significant degree, large American firms are at a later stage of development than many Asian firms—they have passed from founders' family leadership to professional management and to capital obtained from the capital markets (rather than obtained from government—directly or indirectly—or from family fortunes). In this transition they have adopted particular styles of leadership responsive to boards (often led by outside directors) and to Wall Street.


Leadership styles are more varied in America today than in Asia. In America there are five:

The first four reflect how an executive deals with subordinates in the company; the final one is directed at people outside the firm.


Directive leadership is well known in America, but is declining in frequency. It stresses the direction given by executives to others in the firms. The leader is very much in charge. This style is very common in Asia.


Participative leadership, which involves close teamwork with others, is more common in Europe, where it is sometimes required by law (as in northern Europe, especially Germany) than in America. It is also common in a variant colored by national cultural norms, [as] in Japan.


Empowering leadership is relatively new, and stresses delegation of responsibility to subordinates. American companies that operate with largely autonomous divisions employ this style of leadership. 
At the core of empowering leadership is the ability to energize the people in a company. Jack Welch commented, "You may be a great manager, but unless you can energize other people, you are of no value to General Electric as a leader."

Charismatic/Celebrity (superstar) 

Celebrity leadership is very different. It looks outside the company to the impact on others—customers and investors. The CEO becomes a star and is sought after by the media like a screen star. Ordinarily it requires good looks, a dramatic style, and an ability to deal effectively with the media. It is in a bit of a slump in the United States right now due to the corporate financial reporting scandals, which have focused attention on CEOs with the ability to get things done right in the company; but celebrity leadership will make a recovery. Boards looking for top executives to revitalize a firm look for superstars; they seek outgoing personalities.


Energizing others is the core of the new leadership in America.Corporate governance in the West means oversight from regulators, boards of directors, even institutional shareholders.

The role models available for business leadership in the different regions of the world are significant. In America, with its longstanding experience with professional business leadership, the most readily available role model for the head of a company is the corporate CEO.

Key qualities that people seek in a successful leader:
  • Passion 
  • Decisiveness 
  • Conviction 
  • Integrity 
  • Adaptability 
  • Emotional Toughness 
  • Emotional Resonance 
  • Self-Knowledge 
  • Humility 

The emotionalism that goes with passion is more common in America than elsewhere.

Adaptability is a pronounced characteristic of American leadership generally.

Deep political involvement is still a route to business success in America, but it is much less common than in Asia.

Emotional resonance, the ability to grasp what motivates others and appeal effectively to it, is most important in the United States and Europe at this point in time

Self-knowledge is important in avoiding the sort of over-reach so common in America; it is less common a virtue in America than in Asia, and is a strength of the Asian executive.

Humility is a very uncommon trait in the American CEO. It is sometimes found in Asia. It is often a trait of the most effective leaders, as it was in the best-respected of all American political leaders, Abraham Lincoln. (Once, when the Civil War was not going well for the Union side, a high-ranking general suggested that the nation needed to get rid of Lincoln and have a dictatorship instead. The comment came to Lincoln's ears. Lincoln promoted the general to the top command in the army anyway and told him, "I am appointing you to command despite, not because, of what you said. Bring us victories, and I'll risk the dictatorship.")

American bosses often try to play down their authority and hide their privileges

It would be inaccurate to leave the impression that Americans are completely lacking in a need to impress. In fact, the French frequently point out that 

Americans flaunt their wealth. 

The American 

Need to display rank seems likely to be manifested in symbols of material comfort, rather than in symbols of cultural savoir vivre, referring to Americans' "showing off" with big rings and flashy ties. There are several possible explanations for this kind of behavior. 

The American need to measure achievement, as described by Stewart (1972), may explain why Americans need to prove their worth in tangible terms. Stewart also points out that Americans possess a formidable competitive drive, which may explain why it is important to many of them to be seen as having more than others. 

Strong authority held by relatively few upper-echelon managers means that subordinates are extremely dependent on their superiors, constantly consulting them for approval. 

Hofstede (1989) believes that 
"managers from the USA... succeed rather well in adapting their style to the subordinates' greater need for dependency."
Hofstede (1980) defines uncertainty avoidance (UA) as "the extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by uncertain or unknown situations."

Americans rarely hesitate to demote or fire a person whose work is not satisfactory, perceiving it as a gain in efficiency.

Americans, who use the latter, believe that the firm should function like a well-run machine. The French, who use the former, see the firm as a living organism; 

Americans are famous for meddling in world affairs, based on their belief that if people are rational and of good will, any problem between them can be solved. This focus on problem-solving comes from an emphasis on accomplishing objectives, which is related to Americans' "doing" orientation, as defined by Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck (1961). In the United States, says Stewart, people are measured by what they accomplish and how well they achieve their goals.

American management requires that decisions be supported by objective figures because the American style of thinking is analytical, as opposed to the French holistic style of problem-perception, described by Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars (1993).

Monochronic Americans like to do one thing at a time, systematically reducing a complex task to a series of smaller ones by identifying which steps have to be taken first.
Americans are more insistent on clearly stated definitions of rights, duties, and objectives.

Americans tend to work individually.... When they have been given a function specified in a job description, defined from the outset, they consider that they are paid to... follow this job description, not deviate from the job, and especially not to look at what is going on around them. And therefore they tend to work individually, and not to report [to the boss]. They have a tendency to [work as though they were in] a cell of a bee-hive, without any interaction with others, except if it can satisfy their preoccupation with carrying out a task.

Americans will never share in what they consider another person's task.
it appears that the American is refusing to "pitch in" and help another person. Actually, the American is simply practicing what to him are good manners: not interfering in colleagues' prerogatives, as well as their chances for promotion.

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