KATHMANDU: Gerard Hendrik Hofstede’s, the influential Dutch psychologist, who worked with IBM human resource department in Europe,
travelled extensively to interview employees. He questioned on how problems were solved, how they worked together, and their attitudes towards the authority. Out of the five dimensions developed by Hofstede during the research, Power Distance Index (PDI) is one
paradigm that helps analyse how an organisation operates under leadership.
According to him, the culture that employees and employers belong to largely influences how an organisation operates. Moreover, every organisation needs leadership and thus it can be translated into leadership paradigm.
The study divulged how national and regional cultural groupings affect behaviour of societies and organisations. PDI indicates the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.
The study categorised countries according to power distance, that is, high or low. The southern and Eastern countries such as Singapore and Malaysia seem to have higher power difference over Western countries.
Less powerful countries have more acceptance power over autocratic and paternalistic leadership. The hierarchical and formal positions that a person holds matter more in organisations in higher PDI countries.
On the contrary, in low PDI countries such as Austria and New Zealand, more democratic and consultative environment prevails in organisations. Again, this is how the power is perceived by people. In lower PDI countries, people relate to one another more as equals regardless of formal positions. Thus, the subordinates of the low PDI countries are more comfortable with and demand the right to contribute to and critique the decision making of those in power.
In other words, PDI can help how a leadership position is perceived in an organisation or institution.
Although Nepal was not in the list of countries that was included in the research, we can easily say that the country has higher PDI.
In almost all the fronts of organisational management, the person of higher hierarchy has upper hand in all the spheres of decision making. It is also prevalent in smaller
social units such as families, where the older generations have more influence over a decision. The same is rampant in political scenario as well.
Although the study does not compare one country to another as being better in organisational management, the PDI influences how collective decisions are undertaken. In lower PDI countries, the instances of collective decision is higher while the higher PDI has less democratic decision making.
It does not mean that lower PDI countries have better office environment or vice versa. The dimension helps to compare the environment that generally persists in the researched countries, but it is not impossible to foster consultative environment in high PDI countries. On the other hand, the lower PDI countries also have autocratic office systems. For example, we can also see many organisational structures and practices in Nepal that promote democratic and consultative environment to that of lower PDI countries.
(The author is a trainer and managing director of Aadhar Development Pvt Ltd. He can be reached at email@example.com)