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  • Writer's pictureDr. Asma Abdullah

Cultural Dimensions of Anglos, Australians and Malaysians

Source:  Asma Abdullah PhD, Human Resource Department, ExxonMobil, Kuala Lumpur and Lrong Lim PhD, Department of Business Administration, Kagawa University, Japan in  Malaysian Management Review, December 2001 


In an ever-globalizing world, effective management requires not only a keen understanding of business principles but also a nuanced appreciation of cultural nuances. A recent study delving into the cultural dimensions of Anglos, Australians, and Malaysians sheds light on how these dimensions shape the mindset of managers. In this blog post, we'll explore the key findings of the study and delve into how understanding these cultural dimensions is crucial for cultivating a versatile and culturally intelligent managerial mindset.


1. Collectivism vs. Individualism:

Dr. Asma’s study reveals that Malaysians, particularly Malays, exhibit a strong inclination towards collectivism. This cultural dimension emphasizes group harmony and interdependence. In contrast, Anglos and Australians lean more towards individualism, prioritizing personal goals and autonomy. This stark difference underscores the importance of recognizing and adapting one's mindset to varying expectations around collaboration and independence in different cultural contexts.


2. Hierarchy vs. Equality:

The emphasis on hierarchy in Malaysian culture, especially among Malays, suggests a mindset that values respect for authority and adherence to established structures. On the flip side, cultures favoring equality prioritize egalitarianism and open communication. For managers operating in diverse environments, adopting a flexible mindset that can navigate and appreciate both hierarchical and egalitarian structures is essential.


3. Religion:

Religion plays a significant role in shaping the mindset of Malaysian managers, particularly Malays. The study highlights a worldview where spiritual values influence decision-making and work ethics. This finding underscores the importance of recognizing and respecting different cultural approaches to religiosity, emphasizing the need for a culturally sensitive mindset in leadership roles.


This study actually aligns closely with the theme of 'mindset.' A mindset is a lens through which individuals perceive and respond to the world around them. In the realm of management, a culturally intelligent mindset is crucial for success. Here's how:


- Adaptability: A flexible mindset allows managers to adapt to different cultural norms. Understanding that collectivism is as valid as individualism, and vice versa, fosters adaptability in diverse professional settings.


- Communication: A culturally sensitive mindset recognizes the impact of hierarchy and equality on communication styles. Managers can adjust their communication approaches to resonate with the cultural expectations of their teams.


- Ethical Decision-Making: Understanding the influence of religiosity on decision-making helps cultivate an ethical mindset that respects diverse value systems. This is crucial in fostering trust and maintaining ethical standards in multinational teams.


Thus, in the tapestry of global business, a one-size-fits-all approach to management is obsolete. The study on cultural dimensions emphasizes the need for managers to cultivate a mindset that is not only astute in business strategy but is also adept at navigating the intricacies of diverse cultural landscapes. Whether it's adapting to collectivist or individualistic tendencies, understanding hierarchical structures, or appreciating the influence of religiosity, a versatile mindset is the key to effective leadership in an increasingly interconnected world.


Written by Dr. Asma Abdullah


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