The purpose of this study was determine which, if any, managerial behaviors were associated with high managerial job performance in three selected countries, China, the UK and the USA. After identifying which behaviors were associated with high managerial job performance, the study then compared the results from each country to identify behaviors that were unique to a country and those that recurred across multiple countries.
This study draws from an archival database of multisource (360°) feedback rating managerial job performance. Supervisors’ ratings on 23,877 national managers from China, the UK and the USA were examined using simultaneous stepwise regression analysis.
This study found that there were unique behaviors associated with high managerial job performance in each country examined. Additionally, the study found that were also behaviors associated with high managerial performance shared between all three countries.
This study offers another insight to the unique-versus-universal managerial behaviors debate in leadership development literature. Existing literature offers mixed messages regarding universal or unique behaviors across countries. Understanding which key managerial behaviors are associated with perceived high managerial job performance in each country may help to focus the development of these managers and enhance the specificity of selection, coaching, and training initiatives.
Paetzel, D.W., Quast, L.N., Aroonsri, P., Surya, M. and Hart-Mrema, T.S. (2019), "Managerial behavior and performance in China, the UK, and the USA", European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 43 No. 5/6, pp. 505-516. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJTD-09-2018-0094
Emerald Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited
This study examines managerial behaviors displayed in the workplace and explores the relationship between these behaviors and overall managerial job performance. Multiple studies have suggested that successful managerial behaviors may not be the same in various countries (Clark et al., 2016; House et al., 2004). This study extends prior research on behaviors viewed as necessary for success in various cultural contexts, by providing a more granular examination of managerial behavior. These differences may in part be due to the phenomenon of cultural relativism, originally defined by cultural anthropologists. Cultural relativism holds that behaviors must be examined in the context of the culture in which they occur; behavior that is completely acceptable in one culture may be viewed as intolerable in another culture. Critical commentary on such relativist evaluation suggests that one must also take into account moral and ethical standards of human behavior, which may be overlooked in a simplistic application of cultural relativism (Brown, 2008). Understanding which managerial behaviors are associated with high job performance may help to focus the actions of these managers and enhance the specificity of selection, coaching and leadership development initiatives.
This study extends an analysis of managers in three countries, China, the UK and the USA (Quast et al., 2016). The original study looked for pattern differences among only expatriate managers; the present study uses a parallel approach to search for patterns among non-expatriate managers. The purpose of this study is to identify which managerial behaviors are associated with high job performance among non-expatriate managers in China, the UK and the USA. After identifying which behaviors were associated with high job performance in each country individually, we then compared results from the individual countries to see which behaviors were recurring in all three countries, and which behaviors were unique for an individual country. While some behaviors may be predictive of high job performance in all three countries, others may be associated with high job performance in only one or two of the countries examined.
This research addressed one overall objective, with three sub-questions:
Which managerial behaviors are associated with high performance in China, the UK and the USA?
Are there behaviors associated with high performance that occur in multiple countries?
Are there behaviors associated with high performance that are unique to individual countries?
The research questions were an exploratory attempt to answer empirical questions. The exploratory approach is usually attributed to Popper (1959), although it actually derives from Reichenbach (1938). This study was undertaken in pursuit of empirically derived behavioral patterns associated with high managerial job performance; such patterns, if they exist, maybe seen as evidence of the behavioral aspects of cultural relativism.
2. Literature review
2.1 Managerial behavior – job performance
Managerial behavior has been observed to have an important impact on employees’ job performance in organizations (Andersson and Florén, 2011). Victor and Cullen (1988) found that managers influence the organizational climate because employees look to their supervisor’s behaviors for guidance on how they should conduct themselves in the workplace. Wong and Li (2015) suggested that a manager’s behavior greatly influences both employee and customer satisfaction in the workplace. The impact that a manager has on their employees has been studied numerous times, including employee’s intention to quit (Mroz and Allen, 2015), employee well-being (Scott et al., 2010), employee job satisfaction and employee performance (Netemeyer et al., 2010; Yang et al., 2010), among others.
Defining and assessing managerial job performance may be more complex than assessing the performance of an individual contributor. In addition to demonstrating expertise in technical aspects related to the job, a manager is also expected to oversee their direct reports to help them achieve their goals. This may include facilitating the employee’s development (Lindholm, 1990), directly guiding and coaching an employee on their performance, having a direct impact on employee job satisfaction (Netemeyer et al., 2010), to name a few typical managerial activities. Therefore, it has become a standard practice to provide feedback to managers on the effectiveness of their leadership behaviors, often using a multisource (360°) feedback instrument (Day et al., 2014). Dai et al. (2010) found that using multisource (360°) feedback to identify areas for development was associated with higher levels of improvement on those areas identified when compared to outcomes without multisource feedback as input. This may help them maximize their performance on the job. Managing employees is not an easy task because individuals differ by personalities, beliefs, values and working styles. People from different cultures may have different expectations of what effective managerial performance looks like (House et al., 2004).
2.2 Country differences
House et al. (2004) found that differences in culture may be responsible for variations in the perception of effective leadership. Therefore, it may be necessary for managers to understand these differences to avoid misunderstandings and enhance performance. Effective managerial performance may require different behaviors in different countries (Clark et al., 2016). High performing managerial behaviors may be directly impacted by culture (Hofstede, 1983). Dorfman et al. (1997) found that when comparing leadership in Western and Asian countries that there were both recurring (universal) and culture specific (unique) behaviors. Muczyk and Reimann (1987) suggested that acting with consideration, concern for production, and rewarding others appeared to be effective across all countries they examined, while they also noted that there was inconsistent support for other constructs such as participation and direction. In a more extensive cross-cultural leadership study, House et al. (2004) collected data from over 17,000 managers in 62 cultures on cultural dimensions and leadership attributes and found both commonalities and differences.
In this study, we anticipated similar findings. That is, we expected to find some behaviors associated with high managerial job performance recurring across all the countries examined, while finding other behaviors that were unique to individual countries.
Past studies demonstrated both universal and unique patterns of managerial behavior. For example, when comparing models of leadership developed independently in the UK and the USA Hamlin (2005) found that a majority of the competencies were similar or related to one another. A small number of the competencies did not compare favorably to the other model. Hwang et al. (2015) found a positive relationship between charismatic leadership and managerial job performance in both China and the USA. However, directive, participative and supportive leadership showed distinctly different patterns of relationship with managerial job performance. In the GLOBE study, House et al. (2004) assigned China to the Confucian Asian cluster, while the UK and the USA were assigned to the Anglo cluster. This was based on the score given in each of the following criteria: individualism, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity and power distance, reflecting distinct differences on these characteristics among countries in different clusters. Our study is designed to explore and identify managerial behaviors that are associated with high managerial job performance in China, the UK and the USA and is intended to offer a contribution to the stream of cross-cultural research. For this study, we used country as a surrogate for national culture. This is in line with Minkov and Hofstede’s (2012) study where they found that in a study of four groupings of countries including their subcultures that their subcultures aligned with the national culture in the vast majority of cases (i.e. East and Southeast Asia – 88.1 per cent, sub-Saharan – 90.6 per cent, Latin America – 96.7 per cent, and Anglo – 86.9 per cent).
2.3 360°and multisource feedback
Naquin and Holton (2006) suggest that “Competency-based approaches to management and leadership development are considered to be the best practice today” (p. 161). Smither et al. (2005) found that while there are a number of factors that influence the effectiveness of multi-source feedback, it can be a useful tool for development. A multi-source feedback (MSF) instrument, sometimes called a 360° feedback tool is an approach to a performance appraisal in an organization. Ideally, the use of performance appraisal aims to enable the organization to meet their strategic goals as well as its employees to meet their performance targets and obtain advancement (Daoanis, 2012). These goals must be developed together because high performers are critical to achieving the organizational strategic target (Michlitsch, 2000). One of the ways to develop high performing employees is through a holistic view of job performance using feedback from supervisors, colleagues, and subordinates.
3.1 Instrument: the PROFILOR® for managers – description
The behavioral data gathered for this study were taken from The PROFILOR® for Managers, a multi-rater feedback questionnaire that collects responses from supervisors, peers and direct reports of managers who are participants in leadership and management development programs. The PROFILOR® for Managers (Hezlett et al., 1997) contains 135 items, grouped by the publisher into 24 competency scales. Individual behaviors are rated on a five-point Likert-type scale ranging from “not at all” to “a very great extent” (Hezlett et al., 1997). The PROFILOR® for Managers is intended to represent behavioral performance competencies generally required of managers. Median internal consistency and reliability coefficients for The PROFILOR® for Managers scales range from 0.75 for the self-perspective to 0.90 for the direct report perspective (Hezlett et al., 1997). Interrater reliability computed as intraclass correlation coefficients for three raters range from 0.47 to 0.60 for peers and from 0.48 to 0.61 for direct reports (Hezlett et al., 1997).
The sample consisted of 23,877 individuals, participating in development programs at the request of their employer, provided the archival data for this investigation. Data used in this study were purged of all information that could potentially identify participants prior to starting the study.
The instrument consists of 135 items selected to assess managerial behaviors. The items are divided into 24 competencies (PDI Ninth House, 2004). This study looked at all items, irrespective of their assigned competency and data were analyzed for the years 2003-2015. Persons who completed The PROFILOR® for Managers did so voluntarily at the request of their employer. Each participant was informed that their responses would be used for research purposes, but no personal or identifying information would be made public. Only managerial responses from non-expatriates were included in this study.
The PROFILOR® for Managers includes a five-item scale measuring job performance. These five behavioral items were developed by a panel of subject matter experts to adequately represent the construct of perceived overall managerial job performance (Hezlett et al., 1997). Based on the results of an item analysis for the five behavioral statements in the job performance scale (Tkachenko et al., 2018), the job performance scale used in this study was reduced to four items, α = 0.869. The scale included the following items:
accomplishes a great deal;
gets the job done;
gets work done on time; and
produces high-quality work (Table I).
To identify behaviors that were associated with perceived job performance, the remaining 130 items were used as independent variables. Using IBM SPSS, descriptive statistics were assessed, and a simultaneous stepwise regression analysis was conducted to determine which, if any, managerial behaviors were predictive of job performance in China, the UK and the USA (Table II). This was done by using the split file function in SPSS, which allows for a comparison among groups. Given that each of the behavioral items aim to assess some form of effective managerial behaviors, it is reasonable to expect a moderate correlation between each of the independent variables. Multicollinearity was checked using VIF and inter-item correlation, and there is no indication of problems with collinearity. Through exploratory stepwise regressions, we also identified convergence and divergence in the managerial behaviors that were shown to be indicative of job performance.
We controlled for age and manager level, excluding any response from those who were not between 18 and 80 years of age. The total sample for this study consisted of 23,877participants, from China, the UK and the USA. Broken down by gender, the China sample was 58.7 per cent male and 41.3 per cent female; the UK sample was 68.0 per cent male and 32 per cent female; and the USA sample was 61.5 per cent male and 38.5 per cent female. The majority of the sample consisted of first line and middle management with approximately 70.1 per cent of the respondents from China and nearly 80 per cent of the respondents from the UK (78.1 per cent) and the USA (80.5 per cent) identifying with one of those managerial levels (Table III).
4.1 Exploratory step-wise regressions
We initially conducted an all-inclusive stepwise regression to narrow the list of behaviors to those most highly associated with managerial job performance. As more items were added to the model, the significant contribution of each additional item approached zero. Therefore, we began with the behavior showing the largest R2 and continued to add behaviors until the change in R2 was less than 1 per cent of the variance in job performance. This yielded a manageable set of 12 behaviors with a high utility in predicting job performance in the designated country. The second step involved conducting an exploratory stepwise regression using the sample of 12 behaviors run uniquely for each country. In China, the resulting list of seven behaviors accounts for 76.8 per cent of the variance in managerial job performance. In the UK, the resulting list of six behaviors accounts for 71.7 per cent of the variance in managerial job performance. Finally, in the USA, the resulting list of five behaviors accounts for approximately 73.2 per cent. Results revealed that there were four recurring behaviors (i.e. lives up to commitments, makes timely decisions, puts top priority on getting results, and knows the job) associated with job performance in each of the three countries examined. There was a fifth behavior, sets high personal standards of performance, which was a significant contributor in both China and the UK, and was the next behavior emerging in the step-wise regression for the USA. However, our threshold of significance was that a behavior incrementally adds at least 0.01 to the cumulative Δ R2 calculation, indicating that it contributes a minimum of 1 per cent to the change variance and is useful in predicting high managerial job performance. This behavior met that criterion in China (Δ R2+ = 0.013) and the UK (Δ R2+ = 0.042), while in the USA, it fell just short of inclusion in our model (Δ R2+ = 0.009).
While some regression coefficients in the models are not ideal, a review of the residual plots, showed the models to be acceptable. In the China sample, the normality plot displayed a few outliers, but we found that they did not have a significant influence on the regression. The aim of this exploratory research was to identify individual behaviors, that when taken collectively, account for the largest share of the variance in the dependent variable (managerial job performance). As the first phase of the analyses included 130 predictor variables, it is possible that the model was overfitted. The second phase of analyses was conducted with fewer items that were shown to be significant in the first phase. As we are not attempting to create a scale or generalize the model to populations outside of the tested locations, the fit of regression coefficients is not the most important consideration in this case. The incremental change to R2 is the critical metric. These models are intended to inform future studies and the models should be taken as a guide for further research with more robust testing. See Tables IV and V for specific items in each model and stepwise regression output.
For Q1a, we found that each country examined had behaviors associated with high managerial job performance. In China, a total of seven behaviors were identified (i.e. Lives up to commitments, Knows the job, Puts top priority on getting results, Takes a stand and resolves important issues, Pursues learning and self-development, Sets high personal standards of performance and Makes timely decisions). In the UK, there were six behaviors (i.e. Lives up to commitments, Makes timely decisions, Sets high personal standards of performance, Knows the job, Puts top priority on getting results and Coordinates work with other groups). In the USA, there were five behaviors (i.e. Lives up to commitments, Puts top priority on getting results, Makes timely decisions, Knows the job and Initiates activities without being asked to do so).
For Q1b, we found that there were four behaviors (i.e. Lives up to commitments, Makes timely decisions, Puts top priority on getting results and Knows the job), that recurred in all three countries. There was a fifth behavior, Sets high personal standards of performance, that was significant in both China and the UK and was just short of significance in the USA.
Answering Q1c, we found that all three countries had behaviors that were unique to that respective country: China – Takes a stand and resolves important issues and Pursues learning and self-development; the UK – Coordinates work with other groups; and the USA – Initiates activities without being asked to do so.
5.1 Patterns observed in the findings
In this study, we attempted to identify and compare managerial behaviors associated with high managerial job performance in China, the UK and the USA. Kuchinke (1999) noted the limits of culture in predicting leadership effectiveness:
Cultural values predicted leadership styles but accounted for only a small portion of the variance. This suggests that cultural values have an effect on leadership, but that other variables exert possibly stronger effects. The low effect sizes speak to the fact that leadership is a complex construct that is influenced by a number of variables other than the three dimensions of culture assessed in this study. (p. 151)
A number of researchers have examined managerial behavior and culture across multiple countries. In the GLOBE study, House et al. (2004) identified ten clusters of five to six countries each purported to share cultural traits. By contrast, Clark et al. (2016) found that the GLOBE clustering of countries may mask, rather than clarify, important individual cultural influences on leadership among and between countries in a single cluster. Milliman et al. (2002) analyzed the patterns associated with effectiveness in China. The finding of both universal and culturally specific behaviors is not foreign to the HRD and Global leadership fields. Dorfman et al. (2012) as well as numerous studies (Kowske and Anthony, 2007; Park et al., 2018) have also supported these patterns.
The results show support for both recurring and unique patterns of behaviors that are associated with high managerial job performance in the countries examined. The findings have prescriptive implications for management and leadership development practices within the three countries examined, and for the development of managers from other countries wishing to succeed in the examined countries. It is the specificity of the behavioral patterns by country that are associated with high managerial job performance that is the unique contribution of this study. On one hand, most of the managerial behaviors identified in this study are consistently associated with high managerial job performance in all three countries study regardless of possible cultural differences. Specifically, we found the following behaviors: Lives up to commitments, Puts top priority on getting results, Makes timely decisions and Knows the job are associated with high managerial job performance in all three countries examined. In addition, the behavior, Sets high standards of personal performance, was a predictor in two countries and just shy of significance as a predictor in the US sample. Further studies may indeed reveal that Sets high standards of personal performance is significantly associated with high managerial job performance in the USA. These behaviors emerged in this analysis as the universal behavioral predictors of high managerial job performance in the three countries studied.
Beyond the universal recurring behaviors shared by all three countries, there are several unique behaviors important to the prediction of high managerial job performance. The unique behaviors, takes a stand and resolves important issues and pursues learning and self-development, may reflect Chinese cultural preference for strong leadership and reverence for learning. The single behavior identified in the UK, coordinates work with other groups, may represent a British preference for keeping the team informed and coordinating large-scale initiatives with multiple groups. In the USA, the single behavior identified, initiates activities without being asked to do so, may reflect an American preference for autonomy and taking action. These unique behaviors are consistent with patterns described by prior researchers (Hofstede, 1983; House et al., 2004). Further research would be required to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of these differences.
5.2 Implications and future research opportunities
The findings from this study have both academic and practitioner implications. Based on our findings, practitioners may find it helpful to examine behaviors highly associated with managerial job performance in the destination country when considering new talent acquisition or expatriate assignment. Furthermore, the focus of training and development for managers considering moving to a new country and culture should include consideration of the behaviors that are uniquely associated with high job performance in that location. Practitioners may consider the unique set of behaviors when implementing certain types of interventions. Additionally, practitioners may also be interested behaviors that are shared across multiple countries when considering expatriate assignments or when developing organization-wide employee development initiatives.
National culture plays a role in the development of high-performing managers (Kowske and Anthony, 2007). Feedback given and received through a multisource feedback intervention allows managers to learn how their level of performance is seen by their supervisor, peers and subordinates. It allows them to guide professional development toward meeting or exceeding expectations on critical competencies. We infer from our findings that an HRD professional working to develop leaders in each of the three countries examined (China, the UK and the USA) would need to focus on developing these behaviors: follow through on commitments, make (work-related) decisions in a timely manner, focus on accomplishments and be knowledgeable of their own work. If managers in these countries cannot make such behaviors evident to immediate supervisors, co-workers and subordinates, the likelihood of that person being seen as a high-performing manager in that country context may decrease. Therefore, it may be necessary for managers to look for opportunities and strategize ways in which they can make these three behaviors standout in the context of their work.
Based on our findings, there appears to be some supporting evidence of universal behaviors that are associated with high managerial performance. It is an important point for HRD professionals to consider when developing managers in, or for, the countries examined. Additionally, HRD professionals developing managers in, or for, the three countries examined also should emphasize the unique behaviors for each country. In China, that includes Takes a stand and resolves important issues and Pursues learning and self-development. A practitioner working with the UK in mind should emphasize Coordinates work with other groups. Finally, for those focusing on the USA, the practitioner should develop the behavior Initiates activities without being asked to do so.
For academic purposes, the implications of this study suggest that there may be certain behaviors that are shared across multiple countries or cultures. However, our findings also indicated there may be behaviors which are unique to a specific country. Replicating this study in additional countries could provide additional insight as to the amount of, if any, behaviors which are recurring in multiple countries. Our findings seem to both support and not support the idea of universal behaviors that are associated with high job performance.
Future study is needed to further discover if the four recurring behaviors identified in this study (i.e. Lives up to commitments, Makes timely decisions, Puts top priority on getting results and Knows the job) are present in additional countries.
The selection of the three countries examined in this paper was done based on a desire to mirror a previous study examining expatriate managers (Quast et al., 2016). Additional research will be required to further expand the understanding of the similarities and differences among and between managerial behaviors associated with high job performance in multiple countries.
This study was completed using archival data collected using a MSF instrument developed by a western-based consulting firm. Organizations who use this type of firm and product are generally mid- to large-sized multinational organizations. No attempt is made to generalize the findings of this study to organizations which may be of a smaller size or operating in a single country. Additionally, our study examined three countries, and no attempt is made to generalize our findings to countries that were not included in this study. Based on the type of data available for our study, we substitute country for culture. We realize that within each country multiple sub-cultures exist, so we make no attempt to generalize our findings to all parties within a specific country.
Job performance scale and reliability statistics
|Country||N||Mean||SD||N of items||Chronbach’s alpha|
Descriptive statistics for job performance scale
|Total sample size||Male||Female||Supervisor of hourly||First line||Middle||Executive||Top|
|China||683||401 (58.7%)||282 (41.3%)||5.3||32.8||37.3||17.9||6.7|
|UK||2,013||1,369 (68%)||644 (32%)||4.5||43.9||34.2||15.2||2.2|
|USA||21,181||13,018 (61.5%)||8,161 (38.5)||8.0||44.6||35.9||9.8||1.7|
*Gender and managerial level based on valid percentage; *2 Participants in USA did not provide gender
Exploratory stepwise regression
|Predictor (s)||R||R2||Δ R2||Std. Error||F||df2|
|Lives up to commitments||0.697||0.486||0.486||0.41154||626.470||663|
|Knows the job||0.788||0.621||0.136||0.35342||543.222||662|
|Puts top priority on getting results||0.831||0.690||0.069||0.31987||491.149||661|
|Takes a stand and resolves important issues||0.849||0.721||0.030||0.30397||425.873||660|
|Pursues learning and self-development||0.863||0.745||0.024||0.29088||384.414||659|
|Sets high personal standards of performance||0.870||0.758||0.013||0.28369||342.604||658|
|Makes timely decisions||0.876||0.768||0.010||0.27779||310.442||657|
|Lives up to commitments||0.739||0.546||0.546||0.40162||2368.571||1971|
|Makes timely decisions||0.791||0.625||0.079||0.36491||1643.338||1970|
|Sets high personal standards of performance||0.818||0.669||0.043||0.34319||1324.648||1969|
|Knows the job||0.830||0.689||0.020||0.33259||1089.972||1968|
|Puts top priority on getting results||0.839||0.705||0.016||0.32416||938.847||1967|
|Coordinates work with other groups||0.847||0.717||0.012||0.31757||829.071||1966|
|Lives up to commitments||0.745||0.555||0.555||0.39536||25917.341||20755|
|Puts top priority on getting results||0.801||0.642||0.087||0.35454||18641.396||20754|
|Makes timely decisions||0.829||0.688||0.045||0.33143||15219.652||20753|
|Knows the job||0.845||0.714||0.027||0.31693||12968.998||20752|
|Initiates activities without being asked to do so*||0.856||0.732||0.018||0.30695||11335.586||20751|
|Sets high personal standards of performance***||0.861||0.741||0.009||0.30178||9892.818||20750|
*denotes final model summary, ρ < 0.001;
ΔR2 denotes the change in R2, df1 = 1 for all models
Item coefficients by country
|Predictor (s)||Unstandardized coefficients|
|Lives up to commitments||0.211||0.022||9.716||0.000|
|Knows the job||0.205||0.020||10.365||0.000|
|Puts top priority on getting results||0.129||0.022||5.961||0.000|
|Takes a stand and resolves important issues||0.119||0.018||6.484||0.000|
|Pursues learning and self-development||0.107||0.017||6.148||0.000|
|Sets high personal standards of performance||0.113||0.019||5.800||0.000|
|Makes timely decisions||0.117||0.022||5.408||0.000|
|Lives up to commitments||0.285||0.014||20.920||0.000|
|Knows the job||0.128||0.012||10.594||0.000|
|Puts top priority on getting results||0.128||0.012||10.368||0.000|
|Sets high personal standards of performance||0.147||0.013||11.219||0.000|
|Makes timely decisions||0.172||0.014||12.288||0.000|
|Coordinates work with other groups||0.099||0.011||9.135||0.000|
|Lives up to commitments||0.311||0.004||74.941||0.000|
|Knows the job||0.147||0.004||40.694||0.000|
|Puts top priority on getting results||0.175||0.004||44.702||0.000|
|Makes timely decisions||0.170||0.004||39.649||0.000|
|Initiates activities without being asked to do so||0.133||0.004||37.051||0.000|
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Conflict of Interest: We note that Louis N. Quast formerly had a financial interest in PDI Ninth House, the copyright holder of The PROFILOR® for Managers used in this study.