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We are embarking on an era where the imperative transformation from an oil-based to a knowledge-based economy in the Middle East is incurring important considerations concerning different types of leadership towards that end.
In the Gulf states, and particularly in the Emirates, the multiplicity of nationalities (involving both leaders and personnel to be led) offers a rich choice of management styles and personalities. It is natural that UAE executives should figure largely in defining and developing the style of leadership in the region. This factor is strongly buttressed by the support and encouragement of rulers such as Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi. Nevertheless, the Emiratis are fully aware of the advantages of utilising foreign managers from nations such as the USA, Germany and Britain, given their long Western experience on a global scale. Also the important trading and other commercial connections with the Far East encourages due attention being paid to management and leadership styles of such countries as Japan and Korea.
In the post-war period, leadership styles have been studied and analysed by organizational culture experts for decade after decade. American leadership naturally followed their military success in World War II and their precepts dominated managerial thinking until the mid-1970s. The German miracle, the Japanese miracle and, more recently, the Korean manufacturing successes gave the world more options in planning business strategies. Since the turn of the century the LMR cultural model invented by Richard D Lewis has gained ground in western universities and business schools, as well as being adopted by the World Bank, in clearly defining a tripartite organisational division, paying adequate attention to Asian concepts, including leadership, which had been hitherto largely neglected by cross-culturalists. The LMR, or Lewis Model, is illustrated by the following two diagrams:
Middle East analysts will observe that the Arab countries, notably the UAE, are categorised as Multi-active cultures in the tripartite classification. This will have important repercussions as to how Emirati leaders will interact not only with their own subordinates, but also with employees and indeed leaders who belong to the other two categories, namely the Linear-active and Reactive divisions. Even more interestingly, the interactions of personnel at leadership level assume even greater significance in a multinational conglomerate where, for instance, executives could hail from such sources as American (Linear-active), UAE (Multi-active) and Korean (Reactive).
Leadership styles vary according to category.
Linear-active managers demonstrate and look for technical competence. They place facts before sentiments, logic before emotion. They are basically deal-oriented with a view to immediate achievement and results. Time is money.
Multi-active managers use human force and strong personal relationships as an inspirational factor. They rely on their eloquence and ability to persuade to give them control.
Reactive leaders dominate with knowledge, patience and quiet control. They create a harmonious atmosphere by displaying modesty and courtesy towards their subordinates.
Americans, Brits, Australians and Germans are good examples of linear-active leaders. Japanese, Koreans and Chinese fall into the reactive category. Most Arab leaders behave in a multi-active manner. This category also includes the Italians and other Mediterranean peoples.
Like leaders in other multi-active cultures, Emirati managers practise leadership with a human face. The basic Islamic values of respect and surface harmony encourage managers to be “hard on issues, but soft on people.” The UAE is a high power distance culture where huge salary differentials and numerous status symbols signify an emerging class system throughout the region. The collectivist nature of Arab societies, however, leads to long periods of consultation and consensus-building, which conform to the basic egalitarianism of Islamic teachings and tribal values. Indeed, in the UAE, the society at large continues to operate in a lower power distance manner, with generally contented subjects. It is within larger organisations that bureaucracy and numerous layers of power created centralisation which makes access to real decision-makers difficult. Decision-makers can also be hidden. Ottoman hierarchical systems of government that dominated Arab life for several centuries have left a permanent mark on many Arab societies.
Foreign managers interacting with UAE leaders are impressed by their preoccupation with hospitality, face, integrity and sense of honour when leading subordinates. They must be aware that Arab managers are ‘high context’, their attitudes and statements are implicit, not explicit. Newcomers must learn to read between the lines. UAE leaders respect tradition and resist sudden change. They allow time for decisions to be made (by consensus). Timing and diplomacy take precedence over speed and dilute a sense of urgency. Avoiding conflict and confrontation is paramount; managers rarely disappoint their inferiors with a simple ‘no.’ Believing that “truth sometimes destroys harmony,” leaders’ pronouncements are often delicately indirect or even ambiguous. Other multi-actives, such as Italians and French people, may be familiar with such indirectness. Linear-actives, such as Americans and Australians, however, may come across as brutally candid in comparison with UAE leaders. Reactives, such as Koreans and Japanese, appreciate occasional ambiguities, though their pronouncements are often less transparent than Arab ones.
In view of the ambitious development projects in the Gulf – many of them being undertaken by multinational joint ventures – it is imperative that all types of leaders familiarize themselves with the differing leadership habits of their partners, and strive to assure a reasonable degree of harmony and unity, enhancing prospects of successful operations.
This article will appear in Training Magazine Middle East this month. Please see
www.trainingmagazine.ae for further information.
The prospect of a union between Nokia and Alcatel raises the question: How well will Finnish and French executives interact? What will YVES MARTIN, TAUNO TAHTINEN or RITVA VAULAMO have to do to combine effectively in an international team?
Finnish males are reserved, often introvert, by nature and may seem less than cheerful when joining an international team. Tauno Tähtinen, initially unsmiling, has a firm handshake but says little after being introduced and takes stock of his companions before revealing his views. He distrusts verbosity, enjoys silences and is good at self-effacement. In due course, he will venture his opinions, but will limit his words to what he considers is necessary. Gossip and idle chat are alien to him; he has been taught not to pry or to impose his views on a listener. He has an independent streak and resists persuasion by others. One cannot twist Tauno’s arm. He dislikes the hard sell; even charisma is suspect. He never gushes and frequently appears pessimistic. When left alone, he obviously enjoys his solitude. For sociable Italians and exuberant Spaniards he is enigmatic, opaque and unfathomable.
In spite of his gruff exterior, Tauno has a heart of gold. He brings to the team not only efficiency and utter reliability, but he is essentially a very modern individual, possessing the type of perspicacity and inventiveness which enabled Finns to transform their struggling, war-battered state in 1945 into one of the most developed countries in the world. The exponential rise of Nokia from tyres and timber to leading the world’s telecommunications industry is indicative of the Finns and their characteristic business style. Tauno’s colleagues may ask themselves: how did Finland at the turn of the century become number one in global competitiveness? Why is Finland dominating the field of mobile phones? How did she become the world leader in managing water resources? Why is she designated annually (along with Japan and Korea) top in educational standards? Why are Finns regarded as the ideal peace-keepers? Why does she lead the world in environmental sustainability? Why has Finland won more Olympic medals per capita than any other nation?
Tauno probably knows the answers to many of these questions, but he is not likely to tell you. Finns are modest about their achievements and rarely mention them. They are, however, intensely proud of what they have done and have innate self-confidence (though that was not the case until the end of the 20th century). In the post-war period, they suffered from a periodic inferiority complex; it took them several decades of effort and struggle to convince themselves that they really were the best. Now they believe they are more efficient than Germans and work faster than Americans, but it rarely escapes their lips. Suffice it to say that their standards of truth, honesty and task orientation are irreproachable. Though jealous of their privacy and the right to dissent, they have a strong concept of service. Their tenacity (sisu) is legendary.
Tauno is a valuable ally to his team leader. Though decidedly reticent in discussions, he has a habit of delivering succinct summaries in the latter stages of a meeting. His colleagues notice that though he speaks little, he is worth listening to when he does. His apparent pessimism (for he often makes gloomy pronouncements) turns out to be realism. Finns regard statements as promises; Tauno is careful not to forecast anything he cannot deliver. His countrymen have retained humility in the midst of their success. Any form of boasting is taboo in Finland; adherence to facts and accuracy is mandatory. One of the great advantages of having a Finn in the team is that he is always willing to discuss worst scenarios as well as best ones. This is a valuable resource for a chairman who might feel his group is getting carried away by (American or Italian) optimism. Tauno is a good listener and hardly ever interrupts a colleague. If he disagrees, however, he will say so at the end. His directness is legendary and he is not afraid of confrontation, though he remains polite. The structure and thrust of the Finnish language does not calibrate too closely with Indo-European tongues, so that occasionally he may sound brusque (too blunt) for delicate listeners like Swedes or Japanese. Finns are in fact hardly ever impolite to the point of rudeness, but sometimes have to learn to soften their expressions as English people tend to (“That’s an original thought” = “That won’t work”).
Team managers find they can rely on Tauno’s work ethic, diligence, decisiveness and courage, fidelity, straightforwardness and dry humour. He has respect for authority; he considers status is gained through achievement. He is of course democratic and classless. As a citizen of a young, vibrant nation, he is result- and future-oriented. His twin ideals are reliability and capability.
Tauno, though reticent, has transparent goals. The team leader can motivate him by being transparent himself – open, direct and to the point. People managing Finns must remain low key at all times, display modesty and understatement. Tauno is not terribly interested in small talk; one has a cup of coffee and then starts. Importance is attached to accuracy: what is said is more important than who says it. Tauno likes clear instructions and then wants freedom to carry them out. A manager should never hover over a Finn. Finns need both physical and mental space. Give a Finn a task and he will go away and do it, preferably alone. He will bring the results to you in due course. It does, however, pay for a team leader to share his planning early on with a Finn and ask him for his ideas. If he does not, the Finn will proceed alone to an entrenched position from which it will be difficult to dislodge him later.
Tauno’s pace is steady and consistent, but not overly hurried. The day should finish with an understanding of items agreed upon. Mutual agreements must be adhered to, no debt of any kind must be left hanging. Protocol is minimal, lunches are quick. Almost any service or help can be extracted from a Finnish colleague by showing him that you are relying on him. The team leader should be willing to share Tauno’s silences, learn a few words of Finnish, know the name of the Finnish President and refrain from praising the Swedes or Russians too much.
Cultural traits attributed to Tauno Tähtinen, particularly with regard to communication, reflect attitudes of the Finnish male in social and business situations. Finnish women, such as Ritva Vaulamo, while sharing many of the same characteristics, are nevertheless much more outgoing than the men, displaying few signs of uneasiness in the presence of foreigners. The Finnish woman could be described as strong-willed, adventurous, restless, often fearless, not without charm, and decidedly in love with life. Her level of education is second to no one in the world of women, and this gives her a feeling of self-confidence, making her a force to be reckoned with in international business.
As a communicator, Ritva Vaulamo outshines Tauno. She often commands three or four languages (speaking better English than many British girls). Unlike the Finnish male, she plays her full part in a two-way conversation, not missing her ‘turn’ and shunning reflective silences so popular with Finnish men. She has many of the communicative qualities they would dearly like to have. With foreigners she does not always find the right message, but usually she finds the right response.
The number of Finnish women participating in multi-national teams is growing rapidly. (Perhaps the most famous to date has been Sari Baldauf, President of Nokia Cellular Systems). The trend for the future is quite clear. Given their ability to establish early rapport with non-Finns, Finnish women have been somewhat under-utilised. Ritva has much of the attractive, human-oriented magnetism that is required in an international group and has developed the psychological skills to enable her to interact successfully with ethnic cultures differing widely from her own.
Yves Martin is a Parisian, with all the clear-sightedness and quick imagination typical of the people of that city. The team leader has to keep an eye on him, for French people believe in their uniqueness (just as Japanese and Chinese do), the difference being that in the case of the French they are not shy in telling you about it. Their vivacity is such that they often see others as somewhat wooden. They accept the authority of a chairman, but are not afraid to be maverick. As they tend to clarify their own thoughts through wordiness (ruminating aloud), this can cause meetings to over-run.
While a Frenchman may not be an ideal member of any international team that wants to run smoothly and harmoniously, he nevertheless has a lot of positives to contribute.
His perceptive and quick mind will animate a team (on occasion he can set it on fire). Yves Martin is consistent – that is to say, that although he is clearly opinionated and pushes his proposals forward with vigour, he does not desert logic. Rationality – indeed Cartesian logic – is the cornerstone of French argumentation. Cartesian logic is related to Rene Descartes, French philosopher and mathematician (1596-1650).
Descartes’ methods of deduction and intuition inform modern metaphysics. The theory is to doubt all one’s impulsive ideas, but to find one indubitable truth or fact, then focus on it and proceed to build theories and propositions on it. This gives French people great confidence and momentum in pursuing an argument. Others, such as Japanese or Americans, may find fault with this approach, being guided perhaps by different cognitive processes (Asian) or simply fondness for ‘hunches’ (American). They may also judge the ‘indubitable’ truth as ‘dubious’.
Yves Martin will display considerable determination using this type of logic. Like most Frenchmen, he would rather be right than popular. It is often said that French people regard theories as more important than truth and may ignore certain facts for this reason. An official of the British Statistics Board, working on an Anglo-French team, actually quoted his French counterpart, who had been clearly shown that a certain pump had functioned perfectly for 18 months, as saying “Yes, it may work in practice, but does it work in theory?”
To be fair to Yves, he will cooperate with you readily if you defeat his logic. After that, he will be hospitable towards your suggestions and will remain your supporter and good friend forever. As long as you remain rational, of course. He is human and considerate – he just sets great store by clarity of thought and vision and always has in mind the historical perspective. He can live in the present, also be futuristic, but basically he is firmly past-oriented. The past is not dead; in fact (as Faulkner said) it is not yet even past.
French executives in teams, also at high-level international meetings (GATT, OECD, etc) not infrequently conflict with colleagues, in big and small ways. During team projects they irritate Anglo-Saxons and others by digressing from the agenda at regular intervals. They do this more than any other nationality, except perhaps Italians. Their reasoning is this: all items leading to progress on the project are inter-related: one thing affects another. If you fire M Dupont unconditionally during Item 2, you will be in desperate straits if he is the only staff member who can help you out in a vital matter which comes up in item 6.
The French have a deep-rooted distrust of the Anglo-Saxon habit of segmenting issues and finalising solutions in sequence. Discussion of the project should, in their view, be all-embracing, that is to consider actions and decisions from a lot of different viewpoints, before finalizing anything. Perhaps it is better not to decide today, but leave it till tomorrow, or even later. Anglo-Saxons habitually dislike leaving anything ‘hanging in the air’. One English chairman, working together with his loquacious and digressive French counterpart, (on a Chunnel committee I attended regularly), used to take up his pencil at 4pm every afternoon (after hours of deliberations) and say wearily, “Mr Chairman, could we please both write down any points we have agreed on?” The Englishman was not too aware that French people regard conversation as an art, and consequently have no objection to prolonging it for its own sake.
Another recurrent problem is that posed by the French sense of intellectual superiority. A Frenchman does not fully believe that a Finn, American, Swede, Slovenian or Bulgarian (among others) can ever really tell him anything he does not know. Consequently he does not listen too carefully to Americans or minor nationalities and may often adopt a condescending or patronizing tone when he addresses them. He shows a little more respect to opinions of the older, ‘established’ nations – Germany, Britain, Spain and Italy – but even with them it is a close thing.
According to modern scientists and psychologists, there exist no differences in the intellectual capacities of any human beings, whether they be Europeans, Asians, Americans, Arabs, Africans or from elsewhere. What, therefore, gives French people the belief, or inclination, to think otherwise? While most of us think we can discount the belief summarily, I see it slightly differently. We talk of the 20th century being the American century and the 19th as being the British one. If we think this way, there is no doubt that the French dominated, in the Western world at least, the 18th, 17th and 16th centuries. Does intellectual strength derive to some extent from experience? For three or four centuries the French developed expertise in a great number of fields: science, medicine, military affairs, law and civic administration, colonization, construction of infrastructure, large-scale transportation, political systems and perhaps most importantly a dominant position in the arts (painting, sculpture, music and the most extensive literature in the Western world).
With this background in the arts and sciences, not to mention their tremendous and far-reaching exposure in world affairs, is it not justifiable for a French person to assume a certain intellectual superiority towards aboriginals or Indians from the depths of the Amazonian jungle and others who have led comparatively secluded and isolated lives?
The question is: can one apply this principle also to others such as Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Albanians, Polynesians, Inuits and Navajos? And where does one draw the line? The French, who gave up any plans they might have had to conquer or dominate the world, still believe that it is their mission to civilise it. That was the avowed aim of François Malraux when he was appointed Minister of Culture by De Gaulle in 1974. The French still spend more money supporting the Instituts Français around the world than the British and Germans spend combined on the British Council and Goethe Institut.
Be all this as it may, Yves Martin is likely to be criticized by his fellow colleagues as being too verbose, too opinionated, too French-centred, anti-American or anti-Anglo-Saxon and lacking understanding of other cultures. He is also too fond of long lunches!
How to control him? A good start is for the team leader to speak good French – if he can, it will win him a lot of allegiance. He should also mention La Belle France, as well as French history, culture and brilliance at every opportunity. He should acknowledge that the French resistance to American influence is partly consistent with playing the role of Defender of European Culture. A good tactic to defend the team from French verbosity is to agree with him early on. One can always re-package later or confuse him with funny stories.
Yves will appreciate a chairman who is well dressed, tries his hand at wit and knows something about French wine and cheese. He enjoys fierce debate. The team leader should let him win; Yves is ready to compromise later if some small concessions are made. One should, however, avoid the word ‘compromise’ as French correlate it with American wheeling and dealing.
The chairman should show Yves his human side – mild emotion suits both. He should also display generosity when he can, even hubristic Frenchmen respond well to and reciprocate generosity. He should try to ignore too much body language, extroversion or cynicism, also tolerate over-inquisitiveness or finicky behaviour. Long-windedness and French interruptions may also have to be permitted. Yves means well, but is used to perorating in a French environment. Also, when negotiating a point he may only reveal his hand at a late stage. Americans see this as devious. The chairman should point out to Yves that ‘all-embracing’ solutions are often difficult and slow to achieve and that HQ has a tendency to encourage quick action. Above all, the team leader should be careful not to contradict himself, use self-deprecation as a tactic and, when he can, tell Yves something he doesn’t know!
It has been proved in the past, e.g. in the case of KONE, that French and Finnish executives can work harmoniously and profitably in combination. However, as the two cultures are based on very diverse premises, tact, understanding and patience are persistently required.
Among the tasks of a manager are the necessities of instructing, motivating and leading his subordinates. He may often lead by example, but as far as motivation and the issuing of directives are concerned, he will be heavily dependent on language.
Different languages are used in different ways and with a variety of effects. Hyperbolic American and understated British English clearly inform and inspire listening staff with separate allure and driving force. Managers of all nationalities know how to speak to best effect to their compatriots, for there are built-in characteristics in their language which facilitate the conveyance of ideas to their own kind. They are, in fact, only vaguely aware of their dependence on these linguistic traits which make their job easier.
With increasing globalisation, problems will arise in the following instances:
a) when a manager is involved in international team building
b) when he himself has to use a language other than his own
An example of situation (a) is when a Briton or American addresses a team containing, among others, Germans. The occasional quipping or half-serious remarks typical of Anglo-American managers will only too often be taken literally by Germans, who may carry out “orders” which were only being casually considered.
An example of (b) is when a Japanese managing Anglo-Saxons hints at directives in such a courteous and half-suggestive manner that all is lost in a fog of impeccable courtesy.
How does the particular genius of a certain language, manifested by its structure, vocabulary and tones, play its part in conveying instructions and inspiration to its listeners? Let us examine some of the characteristics of languages which are tools of management in the industrialized world.
It is fitting to begin with German, for the tightly disciplined, regular native of the language heralds a facility to convey unambiguous, closely-directed instructions, which, one can suppose, would constitute good management. Germans belong to a data-oriented, low-context culture and like receiving detailed information and instruction to guide them in the performance of tasks in which they wish to excel. In business situations, German is not used in a humorous way, neither do its rigid case-endings and strict word order allow the speaker to think aloud very easily. The German subordinate has not wish to hear his manager think aloud – what he wants are clear directives!
Highly-structured German, with few homonyms (in contrast to, for example, Chinese) is conducive to the issuing of clear orders. The almost invariable use of the sie (formal) form in business fits in well with the expectancy of obedience and reinforces the hierarchical nature of the communication.
As far as motivating subordinates is concerned, German would seem to be less flexible than, for instance, bubbly American English. The constrictive effect of case-endings make it difficult for the German speaker to chop and change in the middle of a sentence. He embarks on a course plotted partly by gender, partly by morphology in a strait-jacket of Teutonic word order. He does not have the flexibility of a thinking-aloud Anglo-American brainstormer. The verb coming at the end obliges the hearer to listen carefully to extract the full meaning. The length and complexity of German sentences reflects the German tendency to distrust simple utterances. Information-hungry Germans are among the best listeners in the world; their language fits the bill.
An American manager need not be cautious. In the United States, there is no phobia about the exercise of management or the drive of senior executives. Public opinion, in general, does not exhibit and anti-business streak observable in several European societies. In the USA, the manager, if not always a hero, is viewed in a positive and sympathetic light, as one of the figures responsible for the speedy development and commercial success of the nation.
The language reflects this spirit – American English is quick and direct. The frequent tendency to hyperbolize, exaggerating chances of success, overstating aims or targets, allows the American manager to ‘pump up’ his subordinate – to drive him on to longer hours and speedier results. American salesmen do not resent this approach for they are used to the ‘hard sell’ themselves. Tough talk, quips, wisecracks, barbed repartee – all available in good supply in American English, help them on their way.
The ubiquitous use of ‘get’ in US English facilitates clear, direct orders. You get up early, you get going, you get there first, you get the client and you get the order, got it? The many neologisms in American English, used liberally by the manager, permit him to appear up-to-date, with it, aphoristic, humorous and democratic. It is oh, so state-of-the-art.
In England, the language has quite different qualities and, as a management tool, is much more subtle. The English staff member who would be put off, disturbed, by American exaggeration and tough talk, falls for a more understated, laid-back version of English which reflects (and toys with) his own characteristics. Managers manipulate subordinates with friendly small talk, humour, reserved statement of objectives and an oh-so-casual approach to getting down to work. You don’t arrive on the dot and work round the clock, instead you show that things flow for you. Staff are gently massaged by off-hand references to goals, witticisms, anecdotes and even parables. English has been practising these tricks since the days of Chaucer and Shakespeare. An English manager may use a fable to show his wisdom. His liberal use of sporting terms – “sticky wicket”, “even bet”, “offside” – shows his sporting nature and his solidarity with leisure-minded staff.
The variety of types of humour available in the British Isles enables the manager to be humorous, to praise, change direction, chide, insinuate and criticize at will. He may even level criticism at himself in this way. Irony is a powerful weapon either way.
Both British and American English are excellent media for brainstorming, due to the richness of vocabulary, double meanings, nuances, word-coining facilities and abundance of neologisms. American managers and staff often use coined-yesterday business terminologies which neither fully understands, but which unite them in wonder at the spanking newness of the expression. Brits, in contrast, shy away from neologisms, often preferring woolly, old-fashioned phrases which frequently lead to sluggish thinking. “Muddling through” is the result – the British are famous for it (in war and business!).
A foreign executive is often at a loss in trying to follow the train of thought or interest of an English manager for many of the signals are coded. Where a German would criticize directly, a Briton attacks in an oblique manner. Understatement and faint irony often lead to the opposite being said of what is actually meant. It is difficult for a foreign national to decode British ways of criticizing, praising, suggesting, condemning and abandoning. Also, different types of humour and critique are used according to status and social class. English managers can appear astonishingly patronising to secretaries, often taking to them like they were servants. But no offence is intended or taken. It is a kind of theatre where everyone knows his or her part (and says the right lines).
There is a certain similarity in the language of management in Britain and Japan, though the basic, ever-present indirectness of the Japanese style makes the British, by comparison, seem clinical thinkers!
Nevertheless, they have something in common – an aversion to “rocking the boat.” The British manager’s understated criticisms, his humorous shafts in attack, his apparent reasonableness of expression at all times, are gambits to preserve harmony in his team. In Japan, the drive towards harmony is so strong that it takes priority over clarity, even truth itself.
The Japanese manager does not issue orders; he only hints at what has to be done. The language is custom-designed for this. The structure, which normally stacks up a line of subordinate clauses before the main one, invariably lists the justifications for the directive before it reaches its listeners.
“Quick, tidy up the office, the President is coming!” in American English would be expressed in Japanese as, “As we shall be honoured shortly by a visit of our President, and since we would wish to show him how tidy our office is…”
The actual order is never given – there is no need. The staff are already tidying up.
Japanese has its built-in mechanisms creating a strong impact on the listener. The general mandatory politeness creates a climate where staff appear to be quietly consulted in the most courteous manner. This very courtesy encourages their support and compliance. In fact, they have no choice, as the hierarchy of communication is already settled by the status of the manager, based on the quality of his university degree. In-built mechanisms of honorifics reinforce, however, the hierarchical situation. The different set of expressions (again, mandatory) used in formulating the subordinate’s response to the manager’s remarks, close the circle of suggestion, absorption, compliance. A German friend of mine – a scientist – was disturbed when, on suggesting various hypothetical experiments to a Japanese co-worker, the Japanese brought him the results every Friday! I had to point out to my German friend that if one begins a sentence with, “If only we tried this…,” it corresponds to an order in Japan!
Other characteristics of the Japanese language, which serve managers in instructing and motivating staff are the Passive Voice, used for extra politeness, the impersonal verb, which avoids casting direct blame, the use of silence or a special intake of breath on certain issues which indicate clearly to the subordinates what the manager’s opinion is. Reported speech is not popular in Japan, for one subscribes to the myth that all one-to-one conversations are delivered in confidence. It is interesting to note, however, that the language does not possess a reported-speech mechanism (this may be one of the rare examples where linguistic structure reflects social preference).
French managers inhabit quite a different world, are clinically direct in their approach and see no advantage in ambiguity or ambivalence. A British manager, perhaps uncertain or uncommitted on some aspect of policy himself, may take the easy way out and “waffle” at the critical moment. His staff may, in fact, like this, since they do not feel too regimented and relish the options open to them (they might be able to show their originality). The French manager, though roundabout and wordy in is exposé, steers his staff along his selected avenue in the end.
The French language, like many daughters of Latin, is clinical, clear, unambiguous. It is a crisp, incisive tongue, a kind of verbal dance or gymnastics of the mouth which presses home its points in an undisguised logical urgency.
The French education system, from childhood, places a premium on articulateness and eloquence of expression. Unlike Japanese, Finnish and sometimes British children, the French child is rarely discouraged from being talkative. In the French culture, loquacity is equated with intelligence. Silence does not have a particularly golden sheen. Lycée, university and École Normale Supérieure education reinforce the emphasis on good speaking, purity of grammar and mastery of the French idiom. The French language, unquestionably, is the chief weapon wielded by the manager in directing, motivating and dominating staff members. Less articulate Frenchmen will show no resentment. Masterful use of language and logic implies, in their understanding, masterful management.
Other languages such as Russian, Spanish, Arabic and Swedish, to take a few, are management tools in their respective areas and each one possesses linguistic characteristics which intertwine with management goals. In the Gulf States, for example, a good manager is a good Muslim. The language used will make frequent references to Allah and align itself with the precepts and style of the Koran. A didactic management style is the result. The inherent rhetorical qualities of the Arabic language lend themselves to the reinforcement of the sincerity of the speaker. A raised voice is a sign not of anger, but of genuine feeling and exhortation.
Swedish, as a language of management, leans heavily on the “Du” (informal) form and dry, courteous expressions which clearly stratify the manager at the same level as his colleagues or, at the very worst, as a primus inter pares. I recently heard a television journalist in his mid-twenties address the Prime Minister as “Du” on TV. I thought it rather presumptuous, but it made a point about interpersonal communication in modern Sweden.
To take a rather different example, Spanish, used as a language of management, comes from a much more vertical angle. The Spanish manager is usually happy to use the “tu” form to subordinates, but the declaimed nature of his delivery, with typical Spanish fire and emphasis, make his pronouncement and opinions virtually irreversible. Spanish, with its wealth of diminutive endings, its rich vocabulary and multiple choice options on most nouns, is extremely suitable for expressing emotion, endearments, nuances and intimacies. The Spanish manager’s discourse leans on emotive content. He cajoles, he persuades, he woos. He wants you to know how he feels. The language exudes sensuousness, ecstasy, excitement, warmth, ardour and sympathy. The senior executive has a wonderful tool for demonstrating his own human force.
The assertion that linguistic categories are directly expressive of overt cultural outlines, supported by Whorf but resisted by his contemporary, Edward Sapir, is by no means proven at the present time. Holden points out that linguistics and management hardly intersect as intellectual disciplines. Yet we can see that cultural traits, such as American directness or Japanese avoidance of confrontation, have had some influence on the fundamental structure of language (or was it the other way round?). A Spanish manager would find Swedish, even if he spoke it well, a difficult medium in which to motivate his colleagues. The Swede, “managing” in Spanish, would find many features of the language superfluous to his purposes.
We have seen how the French manager dominates by language, the Japanese by status, the Spaniard by human force, the Swede by self-effacement, the German by imposing procedures and regulations, the Briton by careful control of self and expression, often flavoured by humour or subtlety. In each case, the managers know the linguistic ropes, as they deal with their own nationalities. When it comes to leading and inspiring international teams, modification is obviously required, for the different “receiving apparatus” of others. Yet most communicators lack the insight to construct a message that neutralizes the influence of the language being used.
Team builders, when addressing partners, must be aware that language, besides being an excellent symbolic system of reference (Germans use this strength), also possesses submerged, quasi-mathematical patterns which have a tremendous intuitive vitality. This vibrates on a different wavelength from language to language. It is beyond the abilities of international managers to capitalize on the variety of effects described, even in this short paper. Not only would a great talent for languages be required, but an intimate knowledge of the cultural make-up of team members would be essential.
The best we can hope for is that builders of international teams will develop a general orientation regarding the relation of the management concept in a particular culture to the way it is expressed in the language. Outpouring of clinical, logical French will rivet the attention of staff members on their charismatic leader. Japanese listeners, suspicious of verbal skills, prefer a loose structure of argument to pure reason; the Japanese manager, suggesting and illustrating rather than ordering, exploits the clever impersonality and detachment of the Japanese language to satisfy this preference. He, among all managers, appears to have the lightest touch; in reality, the hierarchical structure of Japanese companies and the lifetime employment pattern leave staff with little alternative to ready compliance and obedience.
The dust may have settled internationally for now on the Scottish Referendum, even though some new debates have been created in the process. However, it remains striking how little specific attention was given at the time to the cross-cultural nature of the debate. As a Scot living in southern England, with a great interest in cross-culture, I followed the debate with keen interest. This led me to give a presentation on the topic at Riversdown House, Hampshire, in December 2013. I made a point then that those opposing independence were trying to persuade Celtic people with Anglo-Saxon arguments.
When interacting with people in other countries, Scots can be quick to point out that they are Scottish - and thus not English. They have a way of demonstrating a strong and explicit way of repeatedly reinforcing their national identity to others as well as to each other. For example, the world hardly needs telling that the tennis player Andy Murray is a Scot, despite him hardly ever playing for a Scottish team. Scots are an imaginative, passionate and romantic people, which the 'No' campaign (meaning ‘No’ to independence) seemed to have great difficulty to respond to. On the other side, the ‘No’ campaign epitomised an aspect of the psyche of Scots people that fits their Enlightenment tradition of hard-headed rationality and their quiet pleasure in being thought canny (shrewd) in financial transactions. The 'Yes' campaign (meaning ‘Yes’ to independence) failed to recognise that aspect sufficiently. In consequence, Scottish voters were obliged to choose between two rather polarised versions of their unique way of looking at the world. The websites of the two opposing campaigns gave ample evidence of this difference.
Little, if anything, was said in the speeches and debates leading up to the referendum that many Scots were most eager to be separated from the Welsh or the people of Northern Ireland. The nation that many Scots wanted to be separated from was England, and most especially that far-away, governing part of it called Westminster. Within England itself, London has continued to develop a cultural quality of its own. This is not necessarily of a kind that looks attractive to those living elsewhere in the United Kingdom, other than in its relative prosperity. For example, it has a very large ethnic population, but deeper friendships still seem to be substantially ghettoised within people’s ethnicity.
Personalities in a cross-cultural context can also be fascinating. In this case, the star personality was surely that of Alex Salmond the Scottish First Minister. The Lewis Model (described for instance in When Cultures Collide by Richard Lewis) analyses the world’s cultural types into three categories (and their combination), called linear actives, reactives and multiactives, Alex Salmond has shown himself to be a multiactive.
Multiactives are primarily relational: people are more important to them than facts, deals and processes. They can be talkative and impulsive, being ready to think aloud and do many things at once. They are not good at following pre-arranged plans. Their conversation can be animated and roundabout. They can be very creative, with the ability to think well spontaneously and out of the box, thus deliberately leaving the straighter path taken by a typical linear active (that is so characteristic of the southern English). The overall picture matters more than the details to a multiactive. The details can be worked out later. They admire and do their best to practise good oratory, show vision and do what stirs the heart. Alex Salmond’s waving of an outsized saltire (Scottish flag) at the moment of Andy Murray’s Mens’ Singles triumph at Wimbledon in July 2013 gave a memorable visual illustration of his unsquashable and multiactive bravura.
George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the British Finance Minister), is a much more linear active politician. Linear actives like to do things sequentially and in an orderly manner. They are task-oriented and can be highly organised. Speech is for information exchange and direct communication. They tend to regard the truth as something absolute. They are ready to speak the truth even if that may involve distress and confrontation. They dislike discussion that appears to them to be going round in circles or, worse still, is disorganised or chaotic. For a linear active it is important to be realistic about facts and what is actually possible.
Within a speech given in Scotland in February 2014, George Osborne made it very clear that the Scottish people would not be allowed to keep the Great Britain Pound (GBP) if they became independent. His well intentioned message did not work out as planned, though, because many Scots took his sober warning as an expression of disbelief in their ability and potential to succeed as an independent nation. The gap in the opinion polls proceeded to close in the months after George Osborne’s speech. If there is one thing that most Scots are agreed on it is the quality of their people. This sassenach (a Scottish word for someone English or a Lowland Scot) had, in the eyes of many, seemingly dared to challenge that deeply cherished belief.
The ‘No’ campaign’s faltering share of support was changed substantially for the better by ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He was one of the few prominent politicians who could present both linear active and multiactive oratory with the kind of passion that rivalled that of the ‘Yes’ campaign. Although the quest for Scottish independence was lost in the result of the vote, the cause of gaining more self-rule for Scotland was not. Multiactives can flourish in situations that they may regard as less than ideal, rather better than linear actives may imagine.
In contrast to Gordon Brown, the party leaders David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg did not finish nearly so well cross-culturally. Although maybe personally the nicest man of the three, Ed Miliband seemed the most uncomfortable in Scotland. While inwardly passionate to see the Union continue, all three did little to shift the campaign in their favour, while they did manage to appear panicked in the final stages. All this speaks much about the dangers of going into cross-cultural settings insufficiently prepared. Being a nice person displaying heartfelt reasoning, important as that is, is not nearly enough.
If there is going to be a United Kingdom in the longer term, the more linear active English need to develop more of the skills and approaches of the more multiactive Scots. This includes putting people, communities and relational thinking at the heart of public policy.
It is very difficult to see a warm rapport towards the English developing short-term in Scottish minds that were not already persuaded that way. However, some genuine efforts by the English to understand, value and embrace Celtic culture more would be one good place to start.
The people of northern England could be enlisted to mediate and establish stronger connections between all the people of England and Scotland, not just those living in the Borders (who did not want a division anyway).
A greater appreciation by the Scottish people of their very impressive reach and influence far beyond the bounds of geographical Scotland might help them to become a little less absorbed than previously with what happens ‘north of the border’.
Dr. Nigel Paterson
The months-long debate and analysis of the referendum concerning possible Scottish secession seemingly centres on class disparities between underprivileged, nationalistic Scots and a complacent, over-privileged, Westminster-directed elite often referred to as the “Establishment”. It is an easily discernible classification not necessarily closely-bound to the dictums of the Labour and Conservative parties.
It is no secret that the United Kingdom, since the social stress of the unfolding of the Industrial Revolution, has been a polarized society, unable up to now to rid itself of class questions that have been dealt with successfully in the 4 Scandinavian countries and to a lesser extent in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The divisions in British society are, however, not merely dual, but clearly multiple. It is worth noting, therefore, that the Scottish referendum was seen in a different light, perhaps felt in a more visceral manner, in separate regions of Britain and particularly the North. We are talking about the heavily-populated northern heartlands of Lancashire, Yorkshire and the North-East. During the campaign, the question was often, “Who are the Scots?” Perhaps even more pertinent to this dispute is the question, “Who are the English?”
For decades the British film industry, enriched by the talents of such actors as Alec Guinness, Peter O’Toole, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Alastair Sim, George Cole and Charles Laughton, have put him on the screen for the world to see. The BBC, in such admirable programmes as “Upstairs Downstairs”, “Yes, Minister” and “Downton Abbey”, has reinforced the image.
[These diagrams show how English and Scotish managers address their staff in very different ways.]
The Englishman dresses in tweeds or a three-piece pin-striped suit and a Burberry mackintosh on rainy days. He wears a bowler hat, carries a tightly furled, black umbrella with a cane handle, has a pink newspaper tucked under his left armpit. He goes to church on Sunday mornings and eats roast beef with Yorkshire pudding for Sunday lunch. He is a man of principle, insists on fair play for underdogs, does things in a proper manner and shows more affection for horses, cats and dogs than for children, foxes and grouse. He probably went to Eton and Oxford (Cambridge?) and frequents Ascot, Wimbledon, Twickenham, Lord’s and Wentworth. He believes in the Monarchy, the Empire and the Conservative Party. When not in his Club (no ladies allowed) he sits in the local (pub) with gardeners and game wardens, with whom he sips warm beer called ‘real ale’. Often he has tea with the vicar, with whom he discusses the Church of England, farming, poaching, the village fête and his years with the Guards.
Englishmen are fond of cricket, croquet, rugby, sheepdog trials, detective stories and queuing. When queues are slow, one does not complain, as English people must never make a scene, not even if they have a doublebarrelled name. The same applies to poor service in restaurants, railway stations and that place where you get your passport.
The antidote to such frustrating situations is the stiff upper lip. When queuing or sitting in a train one does not enter into conversation with others – that is the reason for carrying a newspaper everywhere. When a train was derailed in a tunnel in the London Underground a few years ago, an elderly City gentleman walked half a mile down the line to the next station, where he proclaimed: ‘It’s horrible down there in the dark. People are talking to each other!’
This powerful stereotype of the British character has been etched on other nations’ minds by several generations of British films. Huge populations abroad, including the Japanese, Indians, South-East Asians and Africans, still subscribe to it and send their children to Britain to be educated along the same lines.
[These diagrams show how English and Scottish managers lead in diverse ways.]
The majority of British people bear little resemblence to the stereotype. Not only is the image one of an upper class personage of a former era, but it does not take into account regional differences, which in the UK are extremely marked. If you draw a latitudinal line through the city of Oxford, it is questionable if you will find anyone north of it who behaves in the manner of the stereotype. In the first place, nearly 10 million Britons are Celts (Scots, Welsh, Irish, Cornish and Manx). These people are essentially romantic, poetic and emotional. They, like millions of midland and northern English people in the ‘wilds’ beyond Oxford, are extremely critical of the archetypal Englishman existing in foreign minds. There is a type of English person who roughly corresponds to the projected image, but he is southern, upper class and almost extinct! Even in the south, we are talking about a tiny, although often highly visible (and audible) fraction of society. Foreigners, often laughing at the eccentric English stereotype, are unaware that 50-odd million Britons laugh at him too. Northern, midland and Celtic Britons feel much more affinity with some Europeans (Norwegians, BRITAIN 179 Danes, Swedes, Finns, Dutch, Belgians, Germans, Swiss) than they do with the braying figure in tweeds. Britons are supposed to be poor at learning languages – this is a myth. Scots, Welsh, Irish and most people north of Watford learn foreign languages well and often with a good accent.
What are real English people like? The ‘world image’ bears some resemblance to the reality, but not much. The class system is still in evidence in Britain – an unfortunate anachronism which North America and most of Europe have dispensed with – but in fact most British people could be called middle class. They do not have a strong political party to represent them, although both Conservatives and Labour eagerly pretend to do so. The absence of a moderate centrist party contributes, sadly, to the continuing polarisation of British society.
Polarised or not, how do British people behave? Whatever the status, a pattern can be observed. Yes, we are a nation of queuers and probably the only time British people complain vociferously is when someone jumps the queue. But the stiff upper lip can move – British people today hold nothing sacred. While royalty is respected, the Royal Family is often ridiculed, both in the press and on TV. If the British can laugh at themselves, so can the monarchs – what could be more democratic than that?
Humour is a saving factor in British life – some say it is a product of a fickle climate – and many English people feel that as long as there is humour, there can never be utter despair. It is no accident that the BBC – the most humorous television service in the world – is highly popular in most countries fortunate enough to be able to receive it.
It is true that British people love detective stories. Agatha Christie is the world’s most translated novelist and the British easily lead the world in library book loans. Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous and popular Englishmen of all time. The fact is, the British have a strong conspiratorial streak – they love plotting. The most beloved characters in the extensive British theatrical literature are villains. Guy Fawkes, who was hanged after failing to blow up Parliament, became an instant hero and the nation still celebrates his anniversary every 5 November. The biggest heroes of British naval history were Francis Drake and John Hawkins – both pirates. Apparently polished and sophisticated in diplomacy, the British are masters of intelligence gathering and political blackmail.
If we come back to the North – a fairly clearly defined region or even concept in British life (by contrast, there is no clear South) – there is little doubt that the proposed ‘Yes’ campaign found greater sympathy in the North than in England as a whole. As we have discussed above, inhabitants of the North identify much more easily with Scots aspirations and characteristics, than do peole who live south of Oxford. Apart from the century-old struggle for better living conditions, higher wages and more regional say, people in Lancashire and Yorkshire feel they share the following traits with their cousins north of the border. They are straighforwardness, hard-headedness, taciturnity, modesty, under-statement, inventiveness, thrift, cosiness, friendliness, frankness, simplicity, openness, fidelity, reserve and sense of fair play. Moreover, they consider themselves less diplomatic, less snobbish, less casual, less flippant, use less coded speech and are certainly less patrician than southerners.
This self-image of a reasonable, yet clearly focussed, sporty English Northener seems mirrored to a large extent in a kind of cultural Northern Dimension with our close European neighbours in colder climes – Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Finns, Icelanders. Scots, both mainland and insular (Orkneys, Shetland, Hebrides), clearly fit into this rather close-knit, democratic dimension. The sea-route from Newcastle to Bergen is short, and well-travelled for centuries. The Vikings bequeathed more influence than they perhaps are aware of in Northern Britain.
It remains to be seen to what extent the impetus and excitement of the Scottish Referendum will stir up aspirations and demands in diverse English regions, not to mention Wales and Northern Ireland.
Richard D. Lewis
The Vietnamese cultural classification is basically reactive and Confucian influence is still strong. They are, however, dialogue-orientated, this partly due to the French influence and, in the south, prolonged contact with the Americans.
The list of values and core beliefs below straddles northern and southern concepts:
• Confucian: work ethic, duty, morality
• Respect for learning
• Filial Piety (pre-Chinese)
• Theme of sacrifice
• Resistance to foreigners
• Resilience, tenacity
• Sense of proportion
• Collectivist (society over individual)
• Women play important role
• Pride, self-respect (esp. North)
• Entrepreneurism (esp. South)
Tradition is of a collective leadership according to Confucian tenets. Before Chinese rule (beginning in 100BC) old Vietnamese society was organised along hierarchical feudal lines. Tribal chiefs - civil, religious and military - were often large landowners and controlled serfs. Power was hereditary. A shogun-like figure was usually ‘king’.
The societal structure showed strong affinities with the Mon-Khmer, Tai and Melano - Indonesian peoples (not the Chinese).
Vietnamese are a group-orientated society used to living and working in close proximity to each other. The Red River Delta with almost 19 million inhabitants is one of the most densely populated areas on earth. They are not, however, tactile.
Their sense of time, basically Asian and cyclic, has been affected by French and American influences, so that mañana tendencies observable in the Philippines and Indonesia are less of a problem in Vietnam. The bureaucracy is, however, stifling, particularly in the North.
Communication patterns and use of language
French influence is readily observable. Facial expression is much more evident than in, for instance, Japan, Korea or China, and some body languages reminiscent of the French is to be seen. Emotional factors can be used in argument. Good education and a high rate of literacy lends people confidence in communication. The literary tradition is strong particularly in poetry. People in the South tend to be more open and frank than many Asians (no doubt due to prolonged contact with the Americans).
Vietnamese are good listeners, expecting speakers to be clear and logical. They are well-versed in French style debate.
In essence the style is a combination of French rationality and Vietnamese tenacity. Though basically courteous, negotiations are cautious and give little away. They have no immediate trust for Chinese, Japanese or Westerners, being suspicious of all. The current relaxation of hostility to Americans is because they see the US as a political counterweight to China, as well as an economic counterweight to Japan. They are opening up to ASEAN countries for the same reasons. Decision-making is by consensus. Political (socialist) considerations have up to now dominated business, but the doi moi (renovation) process has done a lot to liberalise the economy and soften attitudes. Ideals of equality have been abandoned. Salary differentials have been vastly widened. Bureaucracy is, however, still tortuous and corrupt, according to most standards.
Basically Asian and restrained, but with French and some American traits
The age-old tradition of respect for the elderly is reflected in the leadership. Traditions (especially in the countryside and mountains) adhering to totemism, animism, tattooing, chewing betel nuts and blackening of teeth, have little application to modern city life but indicate the cultural affinities of the Vietnamese to the Khmer and Melano-Indonesian peoples and stress the non-Chinese side of their culture. Music and the water puppet theatre are strong elements of folklore. Political dissension is of course currently taboo.
The traditional enmity for and resistance to China is the central theme of Vietnamese society. The Americans were wrong - there was no Sino-Vietnamese international communist conspiracy. Countries are not dominoes. They are living entities with national leaders who pursue their own agendas. The Vietnamese became communist by accident, because only the far left in France supported their independence.
Chinese cultural influence in Vietnam is, however, pervasive, just as it is in Japan. This is evident in art, architecture, religion, music, literature, poetry, theatre and language (script, governmental, literacy, philosophical and technical vocabulary).
Currently the Vietnamese are trying to solve their problems by following the Chinese model - i.e. to liberalise the economic as quickly as possible and encourage investment, while at the same time maintaining strict political control (communism)
Consider everything from the Vietnamese viewpoint - their long struggles against the Chinese, French and American ‘invaders’; their duty and morality in resistance; the provocations they suffered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Asians can probably handle them well, but should remember they have some Western characteristics including French rationality and emotive behaviour as well as occasional American free-wheeling traits. Self respect and loss of face are very much on their mind. They are not dealing from strength, but have great pride and will not be humiliated. Their old men must be deferred to and are currently in control in any case. They are always tenacious and only surrender anything with reluctance. One must always appear just in their eyes.
As most of us know, close to three-quarters of the world’s population will turn their attention to Brazil this summer. The mesmerizing fascination of football will be widely displayed as hundreds of athletes representing 32 different countries will arrive to play in the latest FIFA World Cup. The matches will be played in twelve different cities, next to dozens of strategically located training centres where delegations will be headquartered as the competition progresses. In short, Brazil will be living and breathing its most beloved sport from mid-June to mid-July.
From the hot and humid Amazon rain forest to the surprisingly freezing Porto Alegre in the South - a 7 hour non-stop flight away-, viewers from all over the planet will catch a first glimpse of our cultural diversity. Strikingly enough, most of them will see for the first time that Brazil has much more to offer than the hurly-burly lives of 'Cariocas' and 'Paulistas' - as we call people from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo respectively.
In the aftermath of the competition, local business communities hope to be shortlisted as favourite destinations for world travellers. Salvador, Recife and Fortaleza are only a few of the state capitals that expect to attract future tourists from Europe and North America as they present themselves as embodying a notion of deep-Brazil. On top of the beauty of white-sanded beaches and green coconut trees, it is a more convenient location for the Northern Hemisphere.
As enthusiasm wins over hearts and minds in the most remote places of the globe on a daily basis, conservative types wonder whether Brazil will be able to organize things according to FIFA’s Swiss perspective on "Ordnung". And with full justification, they wonder if local authorities - and ordinary Brazilians like millions of us - will deliver the world something similar to recent tournaments such as in Germany, France, South Korea and Japan.
The debate is far from over. Even among locals, the argument is still raging. Some of us would bet our last pennies on the likelihood of giving the global audience its most beautiful Cup ever. Others are skeptical and say exactly the opposite. The former say our joyful nature will offset unavoidable troubles. The latter say we are just counting on pure luck. If it fails, and Murphy’s Law says it will, disaster will be the result.
Of course such questions will not surface during the time of competition. It is not in Brazilians’ nature and traditions to wash their dirty laundry in public. Brazilians are above all very proud of their country’s capabilities - which does not mean proud of their governors - and at such a stage it is useless to reflect on what happened behind the curtains between FIFA and local authorities. After all we did not have the World Cup imposed on us; we fought for it. If it was too expensive, that is a different matter.
It is very hard even for an expert to predict how all of this will unfold during the event. But we can always highlight a few points taking into account that a whole generation of football fans view the World Cup as something very unique in our lives. All of us know of somebody who cherishes memories about similar events: Helsinki in 1952; Seoul in 1988 and so forth.
As a native Brazilian - even though of long forgotten European origin - I would like to share with our overseas visitors a moderate optimism on our ability to charm the world both as football players and citizens, even if we have to rely on our 'jeitinho'- the Indian equivalent of ´jugat´, or the last minute fix.
Why? Well, Brazil as a country enjoys overall a great deal of sympathy. No matter how far you travel, you will always be greeted with a gentle smile whenever you say where you are from. It is such a privilege that I would wish more nationalities could enjoy this feeling when visiting other countries. I think the only other nationals that attract that sort of spontaneous cheering would be the Mexicans.
The most striking challenge we face however is represented by our poor infrastructure which is visibly insufficient to fulfil even local demand. How shall we face unheard of demands for IT, air and land transportation, and decent accommodation for millions of people in transit, as well as reliable security in major cities?
In addition to this, authorities should be prepared for power cuts and even water shortages in major centres due to the very dry summer we had earlier this year.
Being a cross-cultural observer, it is impossible not to admit that we lack some basic tools that are abundant in most emerging countries. So don’t be surprised if even in top-ranked hotels and restaurants the vast majority of waiters and housekeepers know almost no words in a foreign language. Also be prepared for many hours stuck in traffic jams.
Our ultimate wish is for everybody to have a good time and many of us think what happens with our national team is not really as important as what happens with organization itself. Spaniards and Germans could defeat Brazil on the field and the show would go on.
In short: the World Cup is already helping us in the sense that we are becoming more mature on how to deal with our own feelings and how to respect other people’s right to fully enjoy a good moment. Just to wrap it up, let me give some advice on situations that tend to prevail in 2014 both in the papers and in the streets.
a) Brazilians love making friends and do not be surprised if they invite you to join them in their celebrations - family, working teams, bars and "churrascarias".
b) Brazilians, on average are very poor linguists so try to learn a few words in Portuguese and people will appreciate it dearly.
c) Brazilians tend to be good entrepreneurs and lots of them cherish this occasion as a gateway to make new friends and maybe to enlarge business perspectives.
d) Try to make your plans in advance in order to avoid abuses and very high prices. Don't forget Rio is squeezed between the sea and mountains so the space is as expensive as Manhattan.
e) Do not blame lousy local organization. Planning is not praised as a great advantage. Brazilians think that improvising solutions when problems arise is a indeed quite an accomplishment.
f) Do not be surprised if Brazilians forget about traditional rivalry against Argentina and support them during the World Cup. The love for the beautiful game may drive the youth to cheer for our neighbours. Moreover Buenos Aires is our favourite destination on the continent. African teams will however always be our second choice.
g) When eating a "churrasco" (some restaurants could serve as much as 20 varieties of meat) try to be moderate in the first 30 minutes of your meal. Fine beef cuts tend to be served when waiters notice you are full so you will eat less.
By Fernando Dourado Filho
Fernando Dourado Filho, current Managing Director of Merken Consultants, is a well-known business advisor on overseas trading and corporate internationalisation. He has been travelling the world since 1973 and specialises in complex cross-cultural environments and negotiations and is a licensed partner of Richard Lewis Communications (RLC). Fernando has managed overseas business units and large multicultural teams both in Brazil and overseas, and has opened more than 80 markets for Brazilian manufactured goods and commodities. Author of: "Ao redor do mundo - Convivência e negociação com culturas estrangeiras para brasileiros" (Around the World - Living and Negotiating with Overseas Cultures for Brazilians), he has also written and published more than 200 articles on how to build international competence in a global environment.
The first decade of the 21st century heralded an era of challenge among the actual and wannabe superpowers girdling the globe – a contest of increasing intensity as the second decade gets under way.
The United States, China, the Russian Federation and the European Union vie for influence in their respective hemispheres. What is generally referred to as the West hung on to more than 50 per cent of world production (GDP) until 2013, when a tipping point was reached and the newly-formed BRICS union claimed that the four major members – Brazil, Russia, India and China (with South Africa tagging along) – accounted for 51-52 per cent.
Apart from the resolute pursuit of more control of the world’s financial institutions (IMF, World Bank etc.) by the ‘emerging superpowers,’ a regrettable aspect of the Zeitgeist has been the persistent friction between them and the West (and also between each other) due to a variety of causes since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In Asia, China, Russia and India have traditionally been uneasy bedfellows – the great length of joint frontiers and competing cultural and philosophical persuasions engendering periodic disputes – but the dominant feature of conflict since 2000 has been the sharpening rivalry between Russia and the United States.
One might ask oneself why this antagonism should be so renewable, for it is easy to see how cooperation between these two nations would lead to mutual benefit. Their peoples are not so unalike as they first may seem. Both are mainly of European ancestry, frontier pioneers, mission-imbued, pragmatic, technically skilled, future-oriented and post-monarchical. When they meet as persons, as colleagues, as fellow-scientists, as astronauts, they find each other blunt, friendly, congenial, even jolly.
Unfortunately, a Cold War mentality has lingered both in Moscow and Washington. It is first one thing and then another: NATO expansion; the war in Iraq; ‘colour’ revolutions in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan; differing views about Iran, Libya and Syria; the Edward Snowden affair; now Ukraine and Crimea. Angela Stent, in her recent book, “The Limits of Partnership: US-Russian relations in the 21st century,” points out that what Russians crave most is not complete agreement on important issues, but respect from representatives of other nations in conformity with Russia’s land area, economic assets and, above all, her rich and resplendent historical record. While ancient European nations such as France, Spain and Sweden (formerly superpowers in their own right) recognize such sensitivity, the young, pragmatic American republic is less delicate in her foreign relations, especially with authoritarian regimes.
The future alignment of powers is by no means certain or settled for the coming decades. The somewhat astonishing growth of the BRICS countries in the 1990s has fostered no little self-confidence and something approaching unity in their stance vis-à-vis the West, but China has never promoted an enduring alliance with any other country during her long history. Eventual Russo-Chinese rivalry along the Sino-Siberian border is highly probable; Russian economic clout is precariously perched on a wobbly platform of oil-and-gas supply. India, with her Western connections, is hardly the most reliable partner in growth as she grapples with near-insoluble problems of societal and physical infrastructure while Brazil, already struggling, seems out on a limb geographically and a somewhat incongruous partner for her Eastern hemisphere associates.
Shifts in alliances or economic unions could be multiple, even kaleidoscopic, in the long run. Humans have a poor record in forecasting even cataclysmic political, military and economic swings and developments. The Russian Revolution, the First World War and the Depression played havoc with the map of Europe. The attack on Pearl Harbour, the economic ‘miracles’ of defeated Germany and Japan and the collapse of the Soviet Union were unforeseen, as were the 9/11 shock, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab Spring and the massive ubiquitous investment of Chinese capital in the United States, Africa and elsewhere.
A world population of 7 billion people unleashes unimaginably powerful currents of growth, development, alliances and face-offs. Globalists speculate on the growing influence of emerging mini-giants such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Mexico, all with burgeoning 100 million-plus populations. Also discussed has been a ‘second division’ of promising ‘emergers’ such as South Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Turkey and post-mullah Iran.
With so many contenders for pre-eminence, substantial power and influence can only be guaranteed if groupings are sufficiently large to resist domination by a true superpower such as China or the US. Assuming the BRICS will eventually disband, which are the likely ‘super-blocs’? Four seem inevitable:
• China (1.3 billion inhabitants)
• India (1.3 billion inhabitants)
• EU (500 million inhabitants)
• NAFTA (400 million inhabitants)
Who else is there? Japan and Australia would remain close to the US. The Transatlantic Trade and Development Partnership is likely to be cloned by a Transpacific one which would attract Japan, Australia, S. Korea, the Philippines and possibly other states in S.E. Asia.
Russia will need to join somebody, building on her own Eurasian Customs Union. For Russia, the EU is a more likely partner than China, India and the US. Proximity favours Africa leaning towards some attachment with the EU, though China and India put out feelers there where they can. With all these considerations in mind, what kind of balance emerges between East and West? Have we forgotten anybody? Japan, for instance, would add substantial weight to East or West, depending on her affinity with Asia or the US. Japan’s economy, albeit stagnating around $6,000 billion, is greater than the whole of Latin America’s though her population is 20% and land area 5%. Japan’s current relations with China suggest that she would favour a Transpacific trading pact before an Asian one.
Maps of the world are usually printed on a flat surface using various kinds of projections based on land surveys, aerial photographs and other sources. If we open up such a map where Russia and Canada were coloured in a similar manner, we should see that, together with Greenland, they occupy 20% of the earth’s land surface. Russia’s land area (17 million sq km) appears to dwarf that of her arch-rival the United States (9.373 million sq km) but if we join the US to Canada, the North American territory grows to 19,344,000 sq km and, with Greenland, to 22 million sq km.
On the surface at least, we see an approximate parity of land area between East and West – Russian and American spheres of interest. Taking Canada into account, how significant is this? Much of Canada’s northern territory and certainly Greenland have temperatures below freezing point for large parts of the year but have summer – April to September – relatively free from ice and snow. The same applies to Russian Siberia. Many people live in Arctic lands and have long exploited the minerals abundant in the area. Russia’s economy has benefited hugely from oil deposits, gas and a variety of minerals in Siberia. Canada, with a lower profile, is the world’s leading producer of uranium, potash and zinc ore. She is 3rd in aluminium, 5th in nickel and in the top ten producers of lead, tin, copper and cobalt ore. Other resources include gold, silver and precious stones. Of great significance to Canada’s future include her developing into a major producer of oil, natural gas and shale gas, as well as having 7% of the world’s fresh water. Her sources of hydro-electricity are limitless. Canada is the 6th largest producer of world energy. She ranks 7th in wheat harvests.
Abundance of commodities and vast natural resources are not the only considerations that qualify Canada for quasi-superpower status. She has a multi-faceted robustness ingeniously disguised by the unpretentious, almost homely role she plays in world affairs. She is not big just in area: her GDP is bigger than that of the whole of South and Central America (excluding Brazil) and equals that of mighty Russia! Her GDP per capita stands at over $50,000, exceeding that of the United States and any other major power! (USA $48,312, Japan $45,903, Germany $44,021, France $42,319, UK $39,974, Italy $36,130)
When it comes down to business, her all-round ratings are formidable. Third in the world in listed domestic companies, she has the 5th largest stockmarket capitalisation, ranks 9th in industrial output (actually 15th in car production!), is the world’s 10th biggest exporter and trader of goods, has the world’s 5th longest road and rail networks (passenger and freight) and is 5th in global competitiveness.
While Canada has the 5th best business environment on the planet, her standards of quality of modern life are equally impressive. Canadians have more computers per capita than any other nationality (130 per 100 people), are 13th in patent registrations, 7th in world peace, 8th lowest in corruption, 3rd in gender equality and 3rd in giving to others!
Canada, multilingual and multicultural, with favourable demographics and substantial economic freedom, is destined to exercise far greater influence amid the great powers than she hitherto has chosen to do: laid back and universally popular (who hates Canadians?), protected on either side by two great oceans and with access to a slowly-warming third, and with a friendly neighbour to the south, Canada can choose her friends and partners with little fear of being rebuffed.
No two countries in the Arctic region share so much in common as Canada and Russia. A map of the Arctic Ocean with the North Pole at its centre shows that the ocean is virtually closed by the coastal areas of Russia, Canada and Greenland. By far the largest Arctic nations, Canada and Russia – neighbours across the North Pole – bear a shared responsibility for the state of affairs in the region and must see each other as strategic partners. Dr. Natalia Loukacheva, Fellow of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, points out that both countries share a common legal framework for the management of the Arctic waterways and sees transportation, both maritime and aeronautic, as being an obvious area of bilateral cooperation. For instance, Canada could join Russia’s effort to modernise the Northern Sea Route by offering aid and working to develop the Northwest Passage.
Russia has exploited the Arctic for centuries. About one-fifth of the Russian landmass lies above the Arctic Circle. Two million of her people live there. Cooperation with Western nations, though rare, is not new. Russians and Norwegians share Spitsbergen and the two nations have managed fisheries in the Barents Sea. In 1997, Russia ratified the United Nations Law of the Sea. She also planted a Russian flag on the sea-bed under the North Pole in 2007. When the US and Canada complained, Russian minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the event as only symbolic and confirmed that Arctic issues should be tackled solely on the basis of International Law. In 2008, Canada, Russia, Denmark, Norway and the United States met in Ilulissat, Greenland to hold the Arctic Ocean Conference which stated in the Ilulissat Declaration that any demarcation issues in the Arctic should be resolved on a bilateral basis between contesting parties. An example of such bilateral agreement was reached between Russia and Norway in 2010.
The warming of the Arctic Ocean and the subsequent opening up of a myriad of opportunities for oil and gas exploration and exploitation has transformed the Arctic area from being a remote, largely inaccessible, frozen wilderness into a likely rapidly-developing resource bonanza for Canada, Russia, Greenland and the United States. The rapidly-receding ice in the Arctic Ocean exposes the prospect of early negotiations between Russia and Canada, the major stakeholders, with regard to agreeing the bilateral delineation of the continental shelf. If the question of overlapping entitlements on the shelf can be resolved amicably, though it may take several months or even years, then many other possible disputes may well disappear. One of the keys to reaching a successful resolution is the well-known Canadian skill-set in reasoned negotiating. This has long been observable in international business teams as well as in the realms of politics and diplomacy. There are not the same bones of contention between Canada and Russia as there are between Russia and the United States. Canada and Russia have many commonalities that are reflected in their Arctic identity, Arctic expertise in technologies and challenges in survival in the hostile north.
While Russia has clearly manifested her intense interest in her two main aims in Arctic development – oil and gas exploration and northern transportation routes – Canada’s stake is also huge. Her experience in different parts of the country (Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Mackenzie Delta and the Far North) has given her unrivalled expertise in petroleum and gas exploration. Canadians have drilled some of the world’s deepest offshore wells (Annapolis G24 gas well (20,000 ft); they also built the world’s largest oil platform (Hibernia GBS) and have developed extremely specialized drilling systems in the Beaufort Sea. For millions of years, sediments have been pouring out of the mouth of the Mackenzie River, creating tremendous banks of sand and shale – laminates of sedimentary rock warped into promising geological structures. As early as 1977, its established gas reserves were 200 billion cubic metres. According to a US Geological Survey, there are 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas north of the Arctic Circle, as well as over 90 billion barrels of oil. Estimates of oil and gas reserves continue to increase as more exploration is initiated.
Extraction of Arctic oil and gas, in improving, though still hostile, environmental conditions, will only be maximised if wide-ranging cooperation takes place between Russia and Canada in assuring the navigation, communication and safety of the Arctic transportation system. This includes both maritime and aeronautic collaboration. Some initial steps taken in this area are the Churchill-Murmansk Northern Sea bridge and discussions between Winnipeg and Krasnoyarsk on the Northern Air-bridge. One can envisage the Arctic as being a forum for international cooperation rather than conflict.
Against this background, tractable, deferential yet stoic Canada will have the opportunity not only to substantially enrich her economy, but also her destiny as an Arctic power, using her non-belligerent equable nature to placate her Arctic neighbours. If hurdles that might impede Canadian-Russian rapprochement can be removed in the near future, there is a good chance that the joint Russo-Canadian collaboration in the Arctic Ocean might usher in an era of sensible amity and concurrence that other oceans and other powers have failed to achieve.
[Statistics from Economist Pocket World 2014]
The European Union is currently an uneasy one. Evolving from the European Coal & Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951, signing the EEC Treaty of Rome in 1957, the original 6 members – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and The Netherlands have increased the EU membership to 28, the latest to accede being Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 and Croatia in 2013.
So far, nobody has left the Union, but some members have hinted that they might do so. The United Kingdom has reiterated at regular intervals its dissatisfaction with the present structure and three members – the UK, Sweden and Denmark – have declined to enter the Euro zone, which in the last five years has had wobbles, troubles and tribulations.
The EU can, however, count its achievements, which continue to be prized by most members. These include, above all, prolonged continental peace, but also removal of dictators, strengthening of democratic institutions, social benefits, human rights, independent judiciaries, a single currency, free movement of labour, relaxed border controls, bail-outs for fragile economies, lower tariffs in a market of 500 million and a general enhancement of “soft power” in world affairs.
Nevertheless, current unease and, in some cases, outright dissatisfaction with the existing European structures have manifested themselves in the rise of rightist political parties that were formerly somewhat marginal, but now threaten to be pivotal in future elections. These include UKIP in the UK, Forza Italia in Italy, Golden Dawn in Greece, the Party for Freedom in The Netherlands (led by Geert Wilders), the Jobbiks in Hungary, Marie Le Pen’s Front National in France, even the relatively moderate True Finns party in Finland. These parties are likely to considerably increase the number of their seats in the European Parliament and gain pivotal roles in their national politics. Most discontent, apart from criticism of over-bureaucratic edicts emanating from Brussels and waste of money, swollen expense sheets etc. arises from migration policies which, say the critics, threaten employment prospects of nationals in various member states and abuse of social benefits by a flood of new arrivals.
While migration and refugee matters top the list of pressing problems, of greater import and interest is the issue of future membership of the EU and its likely direction and criteria for admission. Ukraine and Turkey – both bigger in area than any EU member – are obvious candidates, as are smaller fry such as Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Moldova, Israel and Morocco. Apart from strictly political considerations, what are the EU’s ambitions? Is it to remain a “Christian club” or are Muslim countries welcome to membership? Must territories actually be in Europe or do we go by a looser definition? Only a small part of Turkey is in Europe; Israel and Morocco have no such foothold. How stringent are humanitarian considerations or legal constraints? Are dictatorships acceptable? Does the EU want to be bigger? At times it seems unwieldy as it is. Given that the terms “Europe”, “Asia” and “Eurasia” are all arbitrary geographical concepts, could the EU (under another name) be expanded with the prime aim of constructing the world’s biggest market/trading bloc so as to compete better with rival giants China, India, the United States and (ultimately) South America. How competitive does the EU want to be in rivalling Chinese penetration into another huge emerging bloc – Africa? Where does Russia stand in all this?
This writer has in previous articles raised consciousness of the importance and influence of the great land mass of the Russian Federation, not only as a prime mover in the BRICs alliance but as a key player in a greater Eurasian context. Germany and France currently contend for leadership of the EU (Germany the stronger of the two). The latter, with its 80 million population and number 4 ranking in world trade, is incontestably the heart and engine of Europe and the European Union. Germany’s 82 million outnumber France’s 60 million, UK’s 59 million and Italy’s 57 million, but Russia counts with 146 million inhabitants, most of whom can be classified as Europeans. How European are the Russians? A comprehensive study I made of the Russian character during 2008-10 revealed the following traits in comparison with major European ones:
Respect for the elderly
Italy, Spain, Germany
Italy, France, Portugal
Germany, Finland, Britain
Italy, Spain, Portugal
Love of theatre, ballet
Love of music, opera
Talent for literature
France, Spain, Britain
Germany, Nordic countries
France, Spain, Italy
Sense of humour
Britain, Denmark, Finland
Nordic countries, The Netherlands
Where Russian traits in the left-hand column correspond strongly with those of certain European countries, the latter are placed alongside in the right-hand column. Therefore we see that Russian generosity, a well-known trait, is matched faithfully in Italy and Spain but not particularly in Germany. Russia shares outstanding technical ability with Germans and Nordics; countries in Southern Europe – Spain, Italy, Portugal, do not shine technologically. But these countries do match Russia and France in vision and imagination. Russian family closeness is similar in Italy, Spain and Germany, but not in Britain and Scandinavia. Russians openly show compassion, as do Italians and Portuguese, but Britons and Finns do not. You can find soul friendship in Russia, Finland, Germany and Britain but not so much in Latin countries. Russian courtesy is matched in Italy, Spain and Portugal, but not in Germany or Finland, where people are much more matter-of-fact. Russian love of ballet and theatre is shared by Britain and France, their love of opera by Italy and Germany. The best writers in Europe are Russian, British, French and Spanish. Russian sense of humour is matched in Britain, Denmark and Finland. Russian linguistic ability compares with that in the Nordic Countries and The Netherlands.
Different European countries show quite diverse characteristics, for instance Italian talkativeness and Finnish tight-lipped behaviour. What is remarkable about Russians is that they seem to possess all the European characteristics, while many other Europeans seem to exhibit only some of them. The loquacious, emotional Italian is almost the opposite of the modest, humorous Englishman, but Russians seem to adapt well to either. It is a question of breadth of vision – itself a Russian trait. This is a basic Russian quality – one that they have possessed for hundreds of years. This breadth of vision is enhanced by one or two Asian traits – stoicism, self-sacrifice, adaptability, face protection.
If one had to sum up Russian psychology and abilities in one word, “versatility” would come to mind. Being a natural land bridge between East and West, they have a certain facility in dealing with neighbours from both sides. With land borders with 14 different countries, remoteness from other nationalities is never an option. Whether Russians like it or not, leadership beckons at all turns.
The creation of the Eurasian Union (EAU) is a current Russian-inspired venture and interferes with Ukrainian aspirations to join the EU. As such it is contradictory in nature to any Russian inclination to cooperate with the EU. But how about the long term? How huge will the Chinese commercial clout be in 2050 and beyond? Neither can American dominance be discounted. Coordination between the EU and the EAU – Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Armenia, Tajikistan , Belarus, and possibly Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Turkey and Mongolia would engender impressive growth in population, land area and assets, hindering unstoppable Chinese or Indian roll-outs across Eurasia. It is long term thinking, but might be a better option for Russia than just facing east. It would be a northerly side-step, focussing less on the bustling economies of south and south-east Asia, but given the Russian Federation’s reach and interest in Arctic latitudes, it might be an alluring choice. Russia and the EU might need each other more than they presently believe.
A version of this article has appeared in The Helsinki Times