Hofstede’s 1st Dimension – Power Distance.
Geert Hofstede is widely regarded as one of the foremost thinkers when it comes to the study of national cultures. Following ground-breaking research in the late 1960’s he published Cultural Consequences in which he introduced us to the 4 Cultural Dimensions (later to be increased to 6). The first of these being Power Distance. Power Distance is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. The study of Power Distance and the comparison of the Power Distance between two or more countries can help us to understand, who is in charge and who will make the decisions. Countries with a Low Power Distance, for example The United Kingdom or Norway will differ greatly from those with a High Power Distance, like, Malaysia or China. But it is not a question of extremes, it is important that culture only exists by comparison. Without comparison it just becomes stereotyping, which at best is unhelpful and at worst racist. In a country with a Low Power Distance you would expect to find a culture that errs towards:
- Leaders should share power
- Change by evolution.
- Skills, wealth, power and status need not go together.
- Scandals end political careers of those involved.
- Parent treat children as equals
- Children pay no role in old age security of parents.
- The ideal boss is a resourceful democrat.
- Managers rely on their own experience and subordinates.
- Decentralisation is popular.
- Leaders should hold power
- Change by revolution.
- Skills, wealth, power and status should go together.
- Scandals involving power holders are usually covered up.
- Parents teach children obedience
- Children are a source of old age security to parents.
- The ideal boss is a benevolent autocrat – ‘ a good father’.
- Managers rely on superiors and on formal rules.
- Centralisation is popular.