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School of Business | Department of Management Studies | Organization and Management | 2015
Thesis number: 13899
Multicultural team leadership in an MNC: a middle manager's perspective
Author: Anttila, Jaana
Title: Multicultural team leadership in an MNC: a middle manager's perspective
Year: 2015  Language: eng
Department: Department of Management Studies
Academic subject: Organization and Management
Index terms: johtaminen; management; organisaatio; organization; tiimit; teams; kansainväliset yhtiöt; international companies; kulttuurierot; cultural differences
Pages: 116
Full text:
» hse_ethesis_13899.pdf pdf  size:2 MB (2003090)
Key terms: multinational corporation; multiculturalism; leadership; middle management; team
New multinational corporations are constantly being established in different parts of the world. Globalization and increasing mobility of people are driving a change whereby labor is becoming more and more heterogeneous. Even in Finland, which is traditionally considered to be quite homogeneous, workplaces are becoming more multicultural. Thus, it is important to learn how multicultural teams can be led as multiculturalism has been found to pose considerable challenges to leadership. Therefore, more research on the experiences of managers in leading multicultural teams is needed.

The research interest of this study lies within the middle managers' experiences in face-to-face multicultural team leadership in the context of a multinational case corporation. Middle managers are an interesting research focus as their position between the strategic management and operational staff is challenging - even without taking the cultural factor into consideration. Lack of time, limited resources, high expectations and pressures from both the upper and lower levels of the hierarchy, and lack of power to make decisions are typical issues describing the role of middle managers. Bringing the challenge of multiculturalism on top of these issues makes their role even more demanding. By examining the middle managers' experiences, this research wishes to contribute to the organizational understanding of the case company on how to better support multicultural team leadership.

The study is conducted by using a qualitative single case study approach, with the empirical data gathered by semi-structured interviews. The interviewees (10 persons) have been selected with the assistance of a case company representative, and they all have experience in leading multicultural teams. Drawing upon their experiences, stories, and opinions, the content analysis was conducted by thematizing the most prevailing areas of multicultural team leadership and analyzing them abductively guided by the theoretical framework of the study.

The theoretical framework determines six areas that leaders of multicultural teams may find challenging in leading their teams. These are: 1) cultural sensitivity, 2) team cohesion and trust, 3) motivation, 4) cross-cultural communication, 5) power and hierarchy, and 6) decision-making. The study examines in which areas the interviewees have the most experience in leadership of their teams and which areas they find challenging.

Consequently, the findings of this study highlight the following four areas as the most prevailing ones in the everyday working life of middle managers in the case company: 1) cultural sensitivity, 2) cross-cultural communication, 3) team cohesion and trust, and 4) motivation. Despite this, however, the biggest issues seem to relate to the context of a multinational corporation of the case company and its strategy and structure affecting middle managers' leadership role, and the position of the interviewees in the middle management.
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