Global and Comparative Leadership

Mary Ann Von Glinow and William D. Schneper

in Management

ISBN: 9780199846740
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:
Global and Comparative Leadership


The body of research related to global leadership is both vast and confounding. Some observers trace the field’s domain back thousands of years to the first rulers and military commanders with worldwide aspirations or to religious and spiritual figures such as Abraham, Laozi, Gautama Buddha, Confucius, Jesus, and Muhammad. Within the business context, the literature is considerably younger but still includes some of the earliest international management classics, such as Perlmutter 1969 (cited under Global Mindset) and Levitt 1983 (cited under Globalization). Despite the accomplishments of past research, critics contend that our understanding of global leadership has progressed too slowly. Joyce Osland, in Osland 2008 (cited under Developing Global Leaders and Ensuring Effectiveness), compares the state of the field to the earliest phases of domestic leadership scholarship. Indeed, the bulk of the literature remains conceptual, normative, and prescriptive. There is a scarcity of rigorous ethnographic work, and quantitative studies often focus more on measuring and comparing rather than developing and testing complex theory. Even the definition of global leadership is uncertain. This is partially due to the breadth and diversity of leadership research in general. As Ralph Stogdill noted as far back as 1974, “there are almost as many definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept” (Handbook of Leadership, New York: Free Press, p. 259). Hollenbeck 2009 (cited under Traditional Leadership Theories) finds global leadership to be “even more mysterious, with something about the term that beckons interested writers and researchers to offer their own definitions. There is a temptation to dance on the head of a definitional pin” (p. 5). In other words, the definition of global leadership depends on one’s personal inclinations and theoretical starting point. Global leadership means something different to managers and policymakers, as it does for scholars in organizational behavior, strategy, or psychology. To encompass such diverse perspectives, we define global leadership broadly as the capacity to bring about change and enhance organizational performance across national borders. This capacity in turn requires the skills and acumen to influence and energize employees, business partners, and other organizational stakeholders. Closely related and overlapping with the study of global leadership, the cross-country or comparative leadership field explores the similarities and differences in leadership traits and practices across countries, which helps explain the aspects of leadership that are generally universal across countries, or largely dependent upon the unique institutional and country context.

Article.  13681 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »