Addressing Similarities & Differences

Different people react differently to leadership tactics and strategies, while similar people will likely react similarly. It is the leaders job to correctly identify the type of person which whom they are dealing and adopt the appropriate leadership strategy for that specific type of person, time period, culture, and environment. There are seven levels at which similarity and dissimilarity between individuals can be identified.

1. Humankind: These characteristics are essentially universal among human beings. The humankind level includes: DNA, breathing, drinking, eating, reproducing in addition to personal characteristics such as humor, socializing, love, power, and freedom (Clawson, 2012).

2. Regional culture: These differences are apparent between large regional cultural breaks (Clawson, 2012). For example Europe will differ in customs and beliefs from Asia, and Asia will differ from Africa and North America.

3. National culture: “People from ethnically similar regions learned over the years to behave in dissimilar ways” (Clawson, 2012). For example Mexico will have different customs and opinions than Guatemala just like Germany and Poland will have their differences. Although these nations have a similar “regional culture” their respective “national cultures” can be very different.

4. Subnational culture: Within most nations, similar regions (states, providences, territorys, etc.) will exhibit differences when compared to other regions within the nation as a whole (Clawson, 2012). In the United States subnational cultural differences can be observed in the political and ideological differences between individual states or geographical regions.

5. Organizational culture: Corporations and organizations can develop cultures that inspire certain traits to be exhibited by employees (Clawson, 2012). When employees of one company are compared to those of another significant behavioral differences can be observed, even within the same industry.

6. Family culture: People are heavily influenced by their respective upbringing and principals taught from a young age (Clawson, 2012). A lot of behavioral traits recognized later in life can be attributed to the familial environment in which that specific individual was raised.

7. Individuality: People long to differentiate themselves from others, by controllable means such as art, activities, appearance, and personal beliefs. Some features about each person are unique (Clawson, 2012).

Leaders must take into account all of these levels of similarity and dissimilarity when dealing with other people. It is best for the leader to understand the cultural context in which the other person is present, try to understand it, and approach the situation favorably within that context. This idea is very thoroughly examined in texts about international business and executive cultural training.

To give a final example about how this process can be used to evaluate and understand a potential business partner or employee I will apply it to myself.

  • I am first and foremost a person, with all the same innate needs and desires as everyone else.
  • I am from North America where colonies were established by European interests.
  • I live in the United States of America, a country of immigrants, that differs from other North American countries in terms of diversity and Geopolitical influence.
  • I live in Texas, the largest continental US state which has primary interests in the energy and agricultural sectors.
  • I am employed in the financial services industry and promote financial sustainability and risk management to my clients.
  • I was raised in a stable and supportive household of farmers & ranchers.
  • I enjoy creating things with my hands, either out of wood, leather, or iron.

As you can see above I did not really give any specific details about my life or what I think about a specific issue in addressing these seven levels where similarity or dissimilarity can be identified. After you read through that list though it is hard to argue that you don’t have a ‘pretty good’ idea about who I am. By working through this seven step process designed to highlight similarities and dissimilarities between individuals the leader can have a better understanding of said individual and approach situations accordingly.
Clawson, J. G. (2012). Level three leadership: Getting below the surface (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Prentice Hall.


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