1. 0 Introduction

Leadership in the Financial Services Sector

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3.5 Leadership in the Financial Services Sector

From Table 7 it can be observed that the charismatic, value-based cluster of leadership attributes is highly endorsed in the financial services sector in Ireland, thereby replicating the orientation which has been recorded in the food processing industry and in respect of societal leadership.

All the dimensions of this cluster scored above 4.9 on the 7-point Likert scale, evidencing a high level of acceptance. The charismatic cluster of dimensions, inspiration (6.32), visionary (6.29) and self-sacrificial (5.17) received a very high level of acceptance. Performance was also seen to be an important attribute in this industry. These leadership characteristics can be mapped onto the evolving requirements of the financial services industry as outlined in the preceding section. The very high score for the characteristic ‘team integrator’ is evidence of the necessity for leaders in this sector to have the ability not just to create the vision but to inspire the organisations to accept their vision. Given the pluralist allegiances within this industry and the strong support for a collective orientation, the task facing leaders is to ensure that the organisation is fully committed and inspired by his vision of the future. The notion of inspiration also constituted an important theme in the focus groups. Personal integrity is deemed to be very important and represents a value which has always been esteemed in financial service leaders. It is interesting to record that poor performance and lack of personal integrity have resulted in the recent removal of leaders from leadership positions in this sector. Administrative competence (5.40) is also rated highly, although slightly less than in the food processing sector where there is perhaps a perceived need for such expertise to guide the industry successfully through a period of turbulent change.

Being modest (4.96) and diplomatic (5.33) were ranked as important characteristics of leaders in financial services. The modesty may coincide with the fact that financial services’ chief executives have not been public figures in the past. They have been acknowledged within their context but not in the wider society, although this situation is changing. Communication can be very political and clientelist in business circles according to the focus group members, and this might help to explain the high value placed on diplomacy as a desirable attribute for leaders in the financial service sector. Factors which do not characterise effective leaders in this sector, include being autocratic (2.43), face saving (2.33), non-participative (2.29) and self-centred (1.93). Being procedural (3.37), status conscious (3.43), autonomous (3.78) and a conflict inducer (3.23) were not perceived to be attributes which single out leaders in Irish financial institutions.
In summary, middle managers in both food processing and financial services organisations in Ireland expect their corporate leaders to be charismatic, value-based leaders. Both sectors agree unanimously that being malevolent, self-centred, non-participative, face saving and autocratic are definitely not the characteristics of the leaders they wish to follow in their respective industries. Whilst the cluster of characteristics remains similar for the two sectors, the rank of personal attributes differs somewhat between the sectors, as can be seen in Table 8:

Food sector leaders are expected first and foremost to be performance-focused, secondly to be inspirational and thirdly to be visionary. By contrast, financial services’ leaders are envisaged to be charismatic; inspirational and then visionary, followed by performance-oriented. This ranking reflects the stage of development of these industries and the pressures which they face in terms of dealing with their environmental realities. Hence, it would appear that sector does matter in terms of leadership style. The challenge facing the Irish food processing industry as it competes in open markets necessitates the strong focus on performance. One might speculate that once this factor is successfully managed, there will be a shift in focus towards vision and inspiration.

4.0 Conclusion

The findings of the GLOBE study in Ireland, which have been presented in the preceding sections, reflect the significant transformation which the country has undergone since the publication of Hofstede’s research and point to the ongoing process of transition within Irish society. This period of change, which has seen Ireland’s leap from a pre to a post-industrial society, has reshaped the country from a social, economic and political point of view. The Irish GLOBE data indicate a considerable shift away from Hofstede’s conclusions, especially in respect of collectivism, uncertainty avoidance and masculinity. Ireland has remained a low power distance country despite our own perceptions to the contrary. Irish middle managers would like to see this further reduced. Irish society is perceived to be very humane and very collectivist in its orientation. In terms of values, Irish managers think that we should continue to have a stronger humane orientation, but be slightly more individualistic. Ireland is deemed to be a relatively non-assertive, non-aggressive society and wishes to maintain this level of non-assertiveness. A reasonable level of uncertainty avoidance exists, although Irish middle managers would like less emphasis on regulation and more risk orientation. Described as a patriarchal society, Irish participants in the GLOBE study recognised high levels of gender inequality in Irish society and place great emphasis on redressing gender-based inequality. Finally, despite the central role accorded to the family in the Irish constitution, the GLOBE data suggest that the centrality of Irish family collectivism has declined. The Irish participants expressed the desire for increased Family Collectivism in the future.

If one turns to the organisational culture data, the direction of change on the majority of the scales is comparable with the societal cultural data, which would suggest the intermeshing of the two domains. Some differences do exist, giving credence to the hypothesis that industrial sector can matter in terms of the emphasis placed on culture. The differences can be summarised as follows: food processing firms want more uncertainty avoidance on an organisational cultural level and less on a societal level and more assertiveness in society and less in an organisational cultural context. Financial services organisations place more value on Collectivism (as opposed to individualism) in an organisational setting and more individualism at societal level. The results for power distance on the societal and organisational levels are worthy of comment. The respondents suggest that on the level of societal culture much less power distance is desirable. Whilst on the level of organisational culture the direction of desired change is the same, the degree of change is considerably less. This might indicate that power distance has been managed better within organisations than on a societal level or that power is seen to be less centralised in organisations than society.
The profile to emerge from the qualitative and quantitative data is that within Ireland charismatic value-based leadership is endorsed together with a very strong emphasis on performance. The attributes of leaders in Irish society which are deemed to influence leadership substantially are performance orientation, vision, inspiration, integrity, decisiveness and ability to integrate. Other characteristics which feature as positive contributors include modesty, diplomacy, willingness to sacrifice self, humanity, administrative competence and team organiser. By contrast, significant inhibitors include face-saving, self-centredness, malevolence, non-participative orientation and autocratic style. Such attributes are also endorsed within the focus groups, the ethnographic interviews and the review of unobtrusive measures and, in turn, correlate significantly with some of the findings from the quantitative study of societal culture. In the two sectors, middle managers in both food processing and financial services organisations in Ireland also endorse charismatic, value-based leadership with a strong focus on performance and reject malevolent, self-centred, non-participative, face saving and autocratic attributes. Whilst the cluster of characteristics remains similar for the two sectors, the ranking of attributes varies somewhat between the sectors.
One striking observation to emerge from the GLOBE data is the confidence with which middle managers identified the attributes of successful leadership contrasted with the reluctance of participants in the qualitative study to identify leader figures in the Irish business community. There was disagreement as to whether the outstanding Irish businessmen both in a domestic and international setting, could be considered as outstanding leaders. The belief was that they were outstanding business people but not outstanding leaders. With reference to societal leadership, collective memory is more firmly focused on the patriot-hero, as commemorated inter alia by stamps and monuments, who is symbolic of Ireland’s struggle for and transition to independence. Unobtrusive measures attest an ideal of leadership, built around this notion of the romantic hero and liberator, which would appear to remain valid within Irish society in the 1990s.
Related to this latter point is the emphasis placed on context in shaping leadership effectiveness. There is a belief that leaders within the business community are effective within the context of their organisations, but not as outstanding leaders within society. Our relatively late emergence as an industrialised nation may explain the reluctance to elevate prominent business figures to the status of societal leaders. It would appear that we have not made the transition from lauding ‘men of destiny’ towards recognising ‘men of achievement’. Might it be the case that members of Irish society look to the past for their role models, that their expectations are too aspirational to fit the ‘post revolutionary’ reality? The answers to these questions may lie in the search for self-identity in the 1990s; there is a need to reconcile the legacy of a post-colonial mindset with the far-reaching social and economic changes within Irish society. Looking toward external role models or the ‘ideal’ figures of past (Kane 1986) are manifestations of this search. As one commentator has observed:

The final quarter of the twentieth century saw extraordinary changes in the Irish psyche and in Irish society. The transformations touched virtually every aspect of life in Ireland – personal, educational, economic and political. Changes that were working their way through the body politic and the body social in the seventies and eighties came to the surface in the nineties, catching many people unawares. (Walshe 1999, p.1)

The GLOBE study in Ireland has captured some of the dilemmas within Irish society and attitudes toward leadership in the closing decade of the millennium. The process of shaping self-identity is continuous and responds to the changing socio-cultural context; it remains to be seen how long our perceptions of leadership bear the ‘imprint of bygone circumstances’.

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1 A certain number of flights between the US and Dublin are required to land in Shannon so as to ensure the viability of the airport in Co Clare. This has become known as ‘The Shannon Stopover’.

2 Divorce had been banned in the 1937 Constitution. The ban was lifted after a referendum which led to the legalisation of divorce in the Family Law (Divorce) Act of 1996.

3 O’Reilly rose to fame when appointed at 30 years of age as chief of the Irish Sugar Company. He went on to become CEO of the Heinz Corporation.

4 A commemorative stamp to Countess Markiewicz appeared in 1968.

5 Dublin is the only European capital without an equestrian statue (Hill 1998, p.83).

6 We would like to acknowledge the assistance of our colleague, Gemma Donnelly-Cox in this phase of the research.

7 It is possible to recall a point made by Kenny in the introduction to In Good Company: Conversations with Irish Leaders (1987). Kenny notes that when he decided to write a book on Leadership, a number of those featured in the text expressed unease with the title. One rejected it outright as ‘he associated the leadership concept with the Führer Prinzip of the dictatorships which clouded so much of our adult experience’ (p.3). Whilst the average age of the focus group participants was lower than the leaders featured in Kenny’s book, it is nonetheless interesting to record the durability of such associations.

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