Leadership Philosophies and Practices through a Bourdieusian lens: Case Studies of Chinese and Indian Leaders in New Zealand
This research examines the relationship that is known to exist between leadership and culture. In an increasingly seamless world where boundaries are constantly being renegotiated on a number of levels, such an investigation can aid understanding and knowledge of the causes and consequences of differences in leadership. China and India have achieved levels of economic growth that have been well noted worldwide. Both countries have distinctive cultural knowledge underpinned by unique philosophies and sets of social practice. This necessitates a study of leadership as informed by culture. Recognized Western leadership styles are best suited to describe conditions in Western contexts and may not capture the subtle nuances that exist outside these domains. It is argued in this thesis that approaches that investigate ‘context dependent’ leadership can offer another dimension to studying leadership. Philosophies and social knowledge that guide behaviours differ markedly across cultures. India has an underlying belief system derived from Hinduism, while Chinese thoughts and values are informed by Confucianism (among others). These world views comprehensively inform particular contextual cognitive knowledge about many facets of individuals’ daily social practice and therefore action. Bourdieu’s meta-theory of social practice can aid understanding of leadership practices in cultural contexts through examination of its key concepts, namely habitus, field, and capital. Habitus is in part formed by an individual’s history, shaped by the values and beliefs of one’s culture, which constitutes part of the field in which an individual operates. Capital (in all its forms) is a resource that allows an individual agency to compete for a position in the field and to strategically utilize available capital. The purpose of this research is to apply Bourdieu’s theory of social practice to culturally unique leadership styles and explore how this theory could expand knowledge of leadership practices across cultures. The key contribution made by this document is the application of Bourdieu’s meta-theory to the impacts of cultural context on leadership. Relatively little work has been conducted in this area and this research is an attempt to acknowledge that theories of social practice can and do explain the ways in which leaders and followers ‘engage’ with their environment. Adopting the research methodology of the case study allows for phenomena to be examined ‘in depth’ as multiple data collection is conducted. For the purposes of this study the principal data collection methods were questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, media examination including newspapers, web sites and magazines, and personal observations. The interviews were conducted in New Zealand, with leaders of Chinese and Indian descent (as surrogates, primarily because funding was not available to visit China and India in the context of this project). The data were then analysed by identifying common themes and arranging these into matrices. The findings include the following: Chinese and Indian leadership styles show consideration for their respective societies’ underpinning philosophies. Some leadership characteristics seem to be unique and ‘emic’ to these leadership styles. Common to both Indian and Chinese leadership styles is the importance of context, indicating that social practice is heavily influenced by both tacit and non-tacit cultural knowledge. Tacit knowledge is an integral part of both culture and cultural manifestations as it is transmitted through socialization processes, while non-tacit information is more readily available. Contextual leadership makes intelligent use of tacit knowledge.
Advisor: Everett, Andre
Degree Name: Master of Commerce
Degree Discipline: Management
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Leadership; Bourdieu; China; India
Research Type: Thesis