Leadership has meaning only in an organizational context, and only in the sense of on managing within a system of inequalities. Superior-subordinate relationships help to define leadership behavior, and the culture in any particular society influences the nature of these relationships. Two leadership roles are common to all societies, however. The first is the Charismatic role, or the capability to provide vision and inspiration. This emphasized by transformational leadership concepts. The second is the instrumental role, or the capability to design effective organizational processes, control activities, and meet organizational objectives. This describes the functional expectations of someone is a leadership role. However, each society determines the relative importance of each role and therefore what makes a good leader.
Cross-cultural research has identified a pattern of characteristics common to effective leaders in these two roles, but these commonalities do not constitute shared traits. They include:
- Conscientiousness Dependability, achievement orientation, and perseverance within the scope of one's responsibilities
- Extroversion Open, accessible attitude, as opposed to remaining insulated from group activities
- Dominance Appropriate use of authority in a system of inequalities
- Self-confidence Comfort in one's own skills and abilities for managing
Recent research has also suggested that regardless of cultural contingencies, effective leaders tend to display intelligence, energy, emotional stability, and openness to experience.
In the international context, this last characteristic encourages cultural sensitivity without ethnocentric imposition.
Each society assigns unique meanings for most of these characteristics, and consequently their importance varies in all societies. For example, Mainland Chinese people agree with those in the United States that perseverance is an essential attribute of a conscientious manager, but the two societies do not interpret achievement in the same way; unlike Americans the Chinese ascribe little value to individual success. Other terms, such a dominance, carry value-loaded and controversial meanings,