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A study of leadership and its impact on vision, strategy and change management in three Russian financial services business: a case study approach

Levene, F. (2015) A study of leadership and its impact on vision, strategy and change management in three Russian financial services business: a case study approach. DBA thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

This study aims to explore how a vision and strategy were developed and implemented in three Russian financial services businesses. The businesses were all part of Basic Element, one of the largest Russian industrial and financial services conglomerates owned by Oleg Deripaski, one of the richest Russian oligarchs with extremely close connections to the Kremlin. The CEOs that led each business were from different nationalities. A Russian national led Ingosstrakh, the insurance company, a British CEO led Bank Soyuz, and a Canadian CEO led the leasing company, Element Leasing. Each demonstrated distinctly different leadership styles. The literature suggests that the transfer of leadership theory to non Anglo-USA-centric cultures may well lead to findings different from the current ones. Indeed, it is proposed that the dominant national culture will impact both the enacted leadership style and the followers’ expectations and acceptance of such a leadership style. The literature and the popular press have articulated that the most effective leadership style and the one most preferred by Russians, even in modern Russia, is the stereotypical autocratic leader—the kind who ‘takes no prisoners’. Thus, the Russian authority figure is expected to exercise a high power-distance relationship with followers, as a distant and highly directive, coercive leadership style is still believed to be the most effective in contemporary Russia. In addition, the literature calls for more research to explore leadership styles and practices outside of the Anglo-USA context. This study contributes to the call for more information on leadership styles and behaviours in different national cultural contexts. The study employs a case study method using 20 in-depth interviews with the above stated companies. The interview style used a semi-structured format and interviewees included the three CEOs (each of a different nationality) and 14 directors (all of whom were either direct reports or fellow board members). The interview transcripts were analysed using a combination of a priori and emergent coding. These analyses were then used to explore the 10 propositions developed from the literature review. The findings demonstrate that more engaging and authentic leadership styles can be, and are, effective in a culture that is significantly different from the UK and the USA in terms of the Hofstede dimensions of power distance and uncertainty avoidance (Hofstede). From the data obtained, the effectiveness of the CEOs and their related styles were not overly influenced or constrained by their nationality. The assessment of the CEOs’ effectiveness included the views and reactions of followers. These indicated that, contrary to expectations, followers from the home nation preferred a more engaging and involving style of leadership. This represents a challenge to established cross-cultural literature and contributes to this literature by challenging models and assertions within a global business context. It should be noted that the study was based on direct access to CEOs and direct reports of significant companies within the Russian context. This contributed to much of the cross-cultural leadership literature that relies on survey-based data or case studies employing secondary data. In terms of this study’s contributions to leadership practice, this case study contradicts the conventional narrative regarding what Russian managers should do in order to organise people; it also contradicts the idea that an autocratic leadership style is preferred. Against this background, the current study contributes to the call for more information on leadership styles and behaviours in different national cultural contexts. This has particular implications for leadership development in multinational corporations (MNCs) in terms of both the parent company and their branches in other countries. In talent management, succession and leadership development, it is important that future leaders are developed to cultivate followers’ behaviours and expectations by understanding their basic common human qualities and employing a leadership style that transcends national boundaries and caricatures. In addition, leaders should do this based on an indepth understanding of the “real” national culture rather than on stereotypical assumptions. Furthermore, in practical terms, the study provides a note of significant caution to potential Russian investors and management development experts from the West in terms of simplistically stereotyping the Russian mindset. The limitations of the results with regard to generalisability have been considered, and suggestions for future research presented.

Item Type:Thesis (DBA)
Thesis Supervisor:
Thesis/Report Department:Henley Business School
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Henley Business School
ID Code:84592

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