Cross Cultural Management and Leadership

Research programmes and projects

Research programme on Global Virtual Teams: Multicultural Leadership

Global teams have long been on the rise and are today routinely used by global organizations to cope with our increasingly competitive, complex and culturally diverse 21st century world.  The challenges of virtual work, transcending space and time across national, cultural and linguistic borders is by now established knowledge. The importance of team leadership for managing such challenges and bringing out the best in multicultural groups is well recognized. Yet, surprisingly little is known about global virtual team leadership.

Research project on Global virtual team leaders: Unexplored opportunities for multicultural management

This project is about incoming team leaders of global virtual multicultural teams. Earlier research has shown that in collocated teams the incoming leader is judged by the team on visible attributes, which has an impact on the leader’s possibility to lead the group. Where leaders deemed as low status are evaluated more harshly and have less degrees of freedom as to how to lead the team, compared to those leaders perceived as having high status. Similar results have been found in research comparing men and women as leaders, where men have more choices as to leadership behaviour, and women have less options and are judged more harshly than the men. In other words, the incoming leaders’ leadership is evaluated based on who they are rather than what they do.  

In interviews with virtual global team leaders we found that women and non-white men were positively surprised at their ability to lead the teams, while the white men were disappointed as their leadership did not lead to anticipated outcomes. Is it possible that organizing work in global virtual teams opens up to unexplored opportunities for multicultural management? And if so how did the successful team leaders organize work virtually across national, cultural, linguistic and time zone borders? To address these questions data has been collected during two years and includes interviews, questionnaires and focus groups together with an external jury’s evaluation of the team outcomes. The results from this project can increase our understanding of organizing work in global virtual teams and importantly what leadership opportunities that this could entail.

Project leader: Lena Zander
Project members: Audra I. Mockaitis (Monash University, Australia); Peter Zettinig (Turku University, Finland) and Stephan Gerschewski (Henley Business School, UK)
Duration: Sabbatical project 2016-2018
Financed by: Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ) funded Lena Zander’s sabbatical project

Researc project on Creativity, culture and leadership in global virtual teams

One of the largest benefits of multicultural teams is their potential for creative problem solving and creative outcomes. Varying cultural backgrounds are associated with differences in perspective, information and experience, if managed in such a way that these are leveraged, are argued to lead to fruitful outcomes. It is suggested that leadership matters for reaching such outcomes, especially for multicultural teams, but also that the team culture is critical for supporting (and generating) creative team outcomes. In this project, we study the relationship between team creativity, team leadership, team members’ perception of the team climate such as trust, team cohesion, and the team learning environment.

Project leader: Lena Zander
Project members: Olivia Kang, Audra I. Mockaitis (Monash University, Australia); and Peter Zettinig (Turku University, Finland)
Duration: 2014-2018

Research programme on Migration and integration: Highly qualified migrants' cultural integration in Swedish global firms

In the wake of international migration, highly skilled individuals find new work opportunities across borders. Historical facts indicate that some countries, such as Sweden have benefitted in a pivotal way from earlier migrants' knowledge, skills and ideas. But what does it look like today? This research program’s overall significance lies in the ambition to provide a deeper understanding of the problems and solutions involved in cultural integration of highly skilled migrants into Swedish global firms.

This research program currently includes two projects. In the first project, highly skilled migrants’ integration in Swedish firms will be compared to that of highly qualified migrants in ten other countries, in an international study with implications for theory and practice. The second is a doctoral dissertation project with the focus on diversity management practices from both employer and the migrant perspectives.

Research project on A multi-level investigation of the individual, organizational and societal influences on migrants’ acculturation processes and integration outcomes

The study will be carried out at the individual, organizational and societal level with the purpose of providing a more comprehensive understanding of cultural acculturation and integration. At the individual level, from the skilled migrants' point of view, the aim is to identify, describe and analyze ways to realize their potential and the role played by cultural integration in Swedish global firms. Questions will include individuals’ original motivation for migration, coping strategies, and learning strategies. At the organizational level the organizational core values and diversity climate will be in focus in the attempt to identify in what way, if any, firms can contribute to highly skilled migrants’ (cultural) integration in Swedish MNCs. The study will also address whether societal level migration policies and practices, and societal values contribute to easing highly skilled migrants’ integration into Swedish firms. As this project is part of a larger international comparative research endeavor the Swedish results will be compared to the results in ten other countries. Overall the project is expected to generate theoretical insights and practical implications of value to both scholars and practitioners.

Project leader for the Swedish study: Lena Zander
International Research Team Coordinators: Aida Hajro (Brunel University London, UK), and Günter K. Stahl (Vienna University of Economics and Business, WU Vienna, Austria)
Country coordinators:

  • Australia: Dan Caprar, University of New South Wales
  • Austria: Wolfgang Mayrhofer, Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU Vienna)
  • Canada: Mila Lazarova, Simon Fraser University and Jelena Zikic, York University
  • Finland: Ingmar Björkman, Aalto University
  • France: Jean-Luc Cerdin, ESSEC Business School
  • Germany: Torsten Kühlmann, University of Bayreuth
  • New Zealand: Prithviraj Chattopadhyay, University of Auckland
  • Spain: Sebastian Reiche, ESADE
  • Sweden: Lena Zander and Sarah Glännefors, Uppsala University
  • Switzerland: Joerg Dietz, HEC Lausanne
  • UK: Chris Brewster, Henley Business School, University of Reading

Duration: 2017-2021
Financed by: Handelsbankens forskningsfonder (Jan Wallanders och Tom Hedelius Stiftelse, Tore Browaldhs Stiftelse) provides funding for Lena Zander, and Torsten Söderbergs Stiftelse provides funding for Sarah Glännefors

Doctoral thesis project: The integration of highly qualified immigrants-a study on the relationship between intercultural interactions and individual knowledge sharing in the Swedish organisational context

In the past decade, the migration of highly qualified workers to OECD countries has significantly increased. This phenomenon has raised the integration of highly qualified immigrants in host societies to the centre of a lively debate. Highly qualified migrants’ competencies are considered valuable assets for the broader knowledge economy and a possible tool for their sustained, long-term integration at the workplace. In this respect, the understanding of the relationship between intercultural interactions and individual knowledge sharing is important to advance the state of knowledge regarding the underlying factors which favour the integration of highly qualified immigrants at the workplace, a process deemed crucial by international firms.

In this context, the study attempts to investigate how the integration of highly qualified immigrants can evolve from the relationship between the cognitive, communicative and affective intercultural interactions on the one hand and the individual knowledge sharing on the other hand. This study searches for inspiration in the literature on cross-cultural management, knowledge management and diversity management. The study proposes a multi-method research design based on quantitative (questionnaire) and qualitative (semi-structured interviews) methods, conducted within the Swedish organisational context.

Project members: Sarah Glännefors, Lena Zander and Gundula Lücke
Duration: 2017-2021
Financed by: Torsten Söderbergs Stiftelse

Research project on Cultural diversity and learning in the global classroom

Work is increasingly carried out in culturally diverse teams in domestic as well as in global organizations. At their best, multicultural teams are cherished for their ability to be more creative, innovative and productive. However, at their worst the inherent complexities of such teams can result in negative team processes, less than hoped for team outcomes, even in more extreme cases project standstill. Both knowledge and experience are critical to be able to successfully work in, and lead, multicultural teams. Higher level education commonly provides cross-cultural management courses. What is specific to the knowledge content are cultural theories, models for interacting across cultures, as well as theories on working in and leading multicultural teams. In addition to the these the courses typically include an experiential component such as carrying out a team assignment in collaborative multicultural working groups.

We aim to study to what extent university-level multicultural team-based assignments are associated with an increase in students’ cultural intelligence, and whether students consider such teams a good way to improve their multicultural skills.

Project leader: Lena Zander
Project members: Olivia Kang, Rian Drogendijk (University of Groningen) and Peter Edlund
Duration: 2014-2018
Financed by: Forum för ämnesdidaktiska studier, Uppsala University have funded writing time for Lena Zander and Olivia Kang