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Does the Use of Influence Tactics Vary Across Cultures?

Posted by Darleen DeRosa February 1, 2017


Although there are many leadership models, influence is a universal competency that seems to consistently be linked to successful leadership. Because of this it is important for global leaders to understand how influence tactics vary in effectiveness across cultures and the cultures for which each tactic is most and least relevant.

One of the more extensive cross-cultural studies, conducted by our colleague Gary Yukl along with Jeffery C. Kennedy, and Ping Ping Fu, looked at the use of influence in 12 countries – China, France, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and the US. Here are some of the most interesting findings of the study. 

  • Rational Persuasion (the use of facts and logic to support a proposal) is the most frequently used tactic in all countries and the one considered most effective by managers regardless of country
  • Consultation (involving people in shaping the final proposal/idea) and collaboration (working together to find ways to make it easier for the other person to comply with your request) were universally rated as effective tactics, appearing in the top five lists of all countries.
  • Pressure Tactics (the use of threats or persistent reminders) and Appeals to a Higher Authority (involving a person who is more senior than the person you’re trying to influence) were consistently rated as least frequently used and least effective across countries
  • Personal Appeals (asking for a personal favor) were also seen as relatively ineffective and were ranked in the bottom five of 11 out of 12 countries.

Despite the similarity in the ranking across countries, individual ratings of tactics differed in ways that were consistent with broader cultural values. In particular, the cross cultural differences in ratings of consultation and collaboration are closely related to cultural values of individualism and power distance. Leaders in cultures characterized by low power distance and individualism considered these tactics to be more effective than did managers from other cultures.

Do you need to influence cross-cultural colleagues? What actions have you found to be effective when trying to gain the support of these individuals or teams?

To learn more about which influencing behaviors are most effective across cultures and under different circumstances, explore this interactive influencing guide. 


Topics: Work Better Across Boundaries, influencing styles, influencing skills, influencing others

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