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«Group & Organization Management Cross-Cultural Generalizability of Paternalistic Leadership: An Expansion of Leader-Member ...»

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Group & Organization



Cross-Cultural Generalizability of Paternalistic Leadership: An

Expansion of Leader-Member Exchange Theory

Ekin K. Pellegrini, Terri A. Scandura and Vaidyanathan Jayaraman

Group & Organization Management 2010 35: 391

DOI: 10.1177/1059601110378456

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Generalizability sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/1059601110378456 of Paternalistic http://gom.sagepub.com Leadership: An Expansion of Leader–Member Exchange Theory Ekin K. Pellegrini1, Terri A. Scandura2, and Vaidyanathan Jayaraman2 Abstract Paternalism is an emerging concept with significant potential for international leadership research. Paternalistic leaders combine benevolence with authority. Paternalism is a prevalent leadership style in non-Western business organizations. In this article, the authors extend research on paternalism to the Western business context. They compare the attitudes of employees from the United States (N = 215) and India (N = 207) with respect to paternalistic leadership and its correlates. Paternalism had a significant positive effect on job satisfaction in India, but the relationship was not significant in the United States. In both cultural contexts, paternalistic leadership was positively related to leader–member exchange and organizational commitment. Results suggest paternalistic leadership may generalize across cultures.

University of Missouri–St. Louis, St. Louis, MO, USA University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, USA

Corresponding Author:

Ekin K. Pellegrini, University of Missouri–St. Louis, College of Business Administration, Department of Management, St. Louis, MO 63121, USA Email: pellegrinie@umsl.edu

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Keywords leader–member exchange, paternalistic leadership, India, organizational commitment Despite an increasingly global business environment, international management knowledge is still sparse. In addition, published literature is still scant beyond the North American context (Tsui, Nifadkar, & Ou, 2007). Paternalistic leadership is a research area that is experiencing increasing attention in non-Western management literature (Aycan, 2006; Farh, Liang, Chou, & Cheng, 2008; Pellegrini & Scandura, 2008). Paternalism indicates that managers take a personal interest in the workers’ off-the-job lives and attempt to promote workers’ personal welfare while offering career-related support (Gelfand, Erez, & Aycan, 2007). Paternalistic leaders combine benevolence with control of subordinates’ decision making (Martinez, 2005).

Paternalism evokes conflicting perceptions in Western and non-Western cultures, and therefore, as a construct, it has significant potential to yield variation in cross-cultural research (Aycan, 2006). However, research has yet to examine paternalistic leadership in the Western context. Research has also yet to study how paternalistic leadership is related to employee attitudes across diverse business contexts. A growing body of theoretical literature on paternalistic leadership has emerged in the past two decades; however, empirical research has lagged behind (Pellegrini & Scandura, 2008).

U.S.-based literature portrays paternalism as “benevolent dictatorship” (Northouse, 1997, p. 39); however, research suggests it has long been considered to be an effective management approach in Latin American, Asian, and Middle Eastern organizations (Cheng, Chou, Wu, Huang, & Farh, 2004;

Osland, Franco, & Osland, 1999; Pellegrini & Scandura, 2006). Paternalistic leadership is an emerging area in leadership research where the need for construct clarification is now critical. Uhl-Bien and Maslyn (2005) argue that the unidirectional downward influence of the paternalistic leader is undesirable and should be avoided. Colella & Garcia (2004) framed paternalism as a possible form of workplace discrimination. They suggested that, through its emphasis on power differentials, paternalistic relations may create a disadvantage for subordinates. Yet research on paternalism is still developing, and we are aware of no cross-cultural empirical research that examined how paternalistic leadership relates to employee outcomes.

Typically, theoretical approaches take a U.S.-based perspective, and then researchers study whether they generalize to other cultural contexts (Tung, 2003). The Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Downloaded from gom.sagepub.com at UNIV OF MISSOURI ST LOUIS on August 24, 2010 Pellegrini et al.

(GLOBE) study (House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, & Gupta, 2004) found paternalism to be strong in high-power distance and collectivistic countries (such as Mexico, Iran, China); however, they employed a U.S.-based theoretical perspective as a starting point. The present study attempts to increase understanding of paternalism by adopting an approach that begins with a non-U.S.

concept and then study the extent to which its associations may generalize to the U.S. business context. First, we provide construct clarification of paternalistic leadership by delineating its distinction from the well-researched construct of leader–member exchange (LMX). Both paternalism and LMX are relational leadership constructs and it is essential to differentiate paternalistic leadership from related constructs to provide theoretical as well as empirical clarification.

We then explore the unique influence of paternalistic leadership on job satisfaction and organizational commitment, above and beyond the influence of LMX, which has well-established relationships with these employee attitudes.

Accordingly, the primary objective of this study is to test the associations among paternalism, LMX, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction in a Western business setting and a non-Western business setting. The results of this study aim to extend the nomological network of paternalistic leadership, which is essential specifically in an emerging research area. To attain practical significance from future research, pioneer research on paternalistic leadership should strive to build strong theoretical frameworks via testing and extending theory. Further, this study will also extend LMX theory by studying the augmenting effects of paternalistic leadership, which may offer a wider range of leadership behaviors consistent with the LMX model.

Finally, we examine whether the relationships among our four study variables will show comparable associations across diverse cultures.

Previous research suggests paternalism is congruent with the values of collectivistic and high-power distance cultures (Aycan, 2006). Accordingly, we chose countries that provide variation on the cultural dimensions of collectivism and power distance. Our samples include employees from India and the United States. We specifically chose to compare these business contexts as previous research suggests paternalism to be a prevalent management practice in India (Aycan et al., 2000; Mathur, Aycan, & Kanungo, 1996), but paternalism in the U.S. context has yet to be examined. Furthermore, India is an understudied region in the leadership literature despite numerous calls for more research to understand the leadership dynamics in this region (Kirkman & Law, 2005; Pillai, Scandura, & Williams, 1999). Recently, Chhokar (2007) noted that, in spite of the widespread interest in global perspectives on leadership, there is still a dearth of rigorous academic research from the Indian business context.

Downloaded from gom.sagepub.com at UNIV OF MISSOURI ST LOUIS on August 24, 2010 394 Group & Organization Management 35(4) Paternalistic Leadership Gelfand et al. (2007) define paternalism as a “hierarchical relationship in which a leader guides professional and personal lives of subordinates in a manner resembling a parent, and in exchange expects loyalty and deference” (p. 493). Paternalism is a prevalent managerial style in Asian, MiddleEastern and Latin American cultures (Ali, 1993; Kim, 1994; Osland et al., 1999). In an empirical study, Aycan et al. (2000) found India, China, Pakistan, and Turkey to be higher on paternalistic values as compared with more individualistic cultures such as Germany and Israel. According to Sinha (1990), the high scores in India may be because of the traditional family structure where members are expected to comply with the decisions of the father. In her ethnographic study of families from India, Seymour (1999) reported that children are taught very early that their needs do not come first and that they must submit to the authority of others in order to foster family coherence and harmony. In Indian organizations, there are strong norms that define who is expected to communicate with whom. Junior employees follow these norms and do not simply approach senior employees (Zaidman & Brock, 2009).

Consequently, in the workplace, leaders maintain strong authority whereas subordinates are expected to accept the leader’s values as if they were their own (Cheng & Jiang, 2000).

Notwithstanding increasing urbanization and education, India continues to be a traditional, male-dominated society (Chhokar, 2007). Although the number of women in the workforce has been increasing in urban areas, caring professions such as nursing and teaching are considered more appropriate (Chhokar, 2007). Given the extent of gender inegalitarianism in Indian society (House et al., 2004), working women may not have similar access to the care and protection provided by paternalistic leaders. Thus, in India, the practice of paternalistic leadership may further enforce the hierarchical structure and gender inegalitarianism in work organizations.

Paternalistic leadership suggests people in authority assume the role of parents. The leader’s benevolence is coupled with a controlling authority, which requires loyalty to the authority figure (James, Chen, & Cropanzano, 1996;

Pasa, Kabasakal, & Bodur, 2001). Farh and Cheng (2000) define paternalistic leadership as “a style that combines strong discipline and authority with fatherly benevolence” (p. 91). Sinha (1990) suggests that the coexistence between benevolence and authority stems from values in traditional societies pertaining to the father figure who is nurturing, caring, dependable, and yet authoritative, demanding, and a disciplinarian. In paternalistic relations, subordinates reciprocate the leader’s benevolent care and protection by showing Downloaded from gom.sagepub.com at UNIV OF MISSOURI ST LOUIS on August 24, 2010 Pellegrini et al.

loyalty, deference, and compliance. Followers are expected to be devoted to their leaders in exchange for the resources and the holistic concern that the leader provides. However, loyalty and obedience do not necessarily entail authoritarian decision making. In fact, if leaders ignored their paternalistic duties to their close circle, the followers would criticize their leadership.

In other words, when paternalism transforms into autocratic leadership, leaders would be criticized for lack of concern for their followers and lose their loyalty (Kabasakal & Bodur, 2007).

Paternal benevolence shown by the leader may seem similar to “individualized consideration” in the Western leadership literature (Bass, 1985). However, the two constructs differ in important ways. According to Cheng et al. (2004), benevolent leadership is more long-term oriented and extends beyond being considerate on the job to the subordinate’s personal issues. Further, individualized consideration in the Western context is displayed in the context of equal treatment and equivalent rights, whereas benevolent leadership is enacted with a large difference in authority and power distance between leaders and followers.

Paternalistic leadership is congruent with the values of collectivistic cultures (e.g., the Middle East, Latin America, Asia). In collectivistic cultures, such as India, individuals are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups that continue protecting them in exchange for loyalty, whereas in individualistic cultures, such as the United States, personal choices and achievements shape the identity of members (Hofstede, 2001). Although a paternalistic leader’s involvement in an employee’s personal life is the norm in collectivistic cultures, it may be perceived as violation of privacy in individualistic cultures, such as the United States (Aycan, 2006).

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