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Dissertation Abstract

How Peruvians Define and Practice Leadership

Timothy Alan McIntosh
October 2007

Peru is an example of a country with practically no empirical studies on leadership, even though significant work on cross-cultural leadership on other countries exists (House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, & Gupta, 2004). This study adds to the body of knowledge on Peru by responding to the research question: how do Peruvians define and practice leadership? Five focus groups with 34 participants responded to 10 open-ended items in Lima, Peru’s capital. House et al. studied actual leadership practices and the ideal practices, often finding significant differences. This study found such differences in Peru. The data led to the following actual definition coming from the participants’ patterns of responses (Flick, 2002; Patton, 2002): leadership in Peru motivates, persuades, and builds personal trust in followers in order to gain the authority necessary to have followers move forward in the direction the leader desires, with the leader being motivated by self-serving ends as evidenced by hypocritical, unethical behavior. The following is the definition of the ideal Peruvian leader: leadership is (a) living a life of integrity, (b) serving others, and (c) encouraging maximum participation from teams in order to support the leader’s ability to motivate, persuade, and build personal trust. The participants’ patterns resulted in this summary of actual Peruvian leadership practices: Peruvians attain and maintain leadership through their ability to persuade. The leader may begin his tenure on a positive note but eventually adopts what the followers perceive as negative practices. Peruvian leaders do not lead by teams or share responsibility. Although Peru supposedly is collectivistic in orientation (Hofstede, 1980), the leaders act individualistically. Culture shapes the Peruvian leader who displays caudillo characteristics (Dealy, 1992a); yet, participants voice displeasure with the caudillo style. Over 80% of the participants viewed the leaders of their own organizations as effective, indicating that effective leadership is possible in Peru, yet those in high-ranking leadership positions in the country are corrupted by cultural tendencies. The study proposes 11 leadership theories, concluding that Peruvians desire a change in leadership practices. The study proposes six questions for future research.