Cultural Types - The Lewis Model

Empowerment Coaching Blog-Cultural Types The Lewis Model

Change is a challenge in itself. And leading a multicultural team through change is even more of a challenge. Especially for the leader. So how to ensure success in such a situation?

If, as a leader, you want to effectively implement a change in international teams, before you start, it is worth paying attention to:

  • understanding the "reflexive" reaction of people to changes resulting from the specificity of the national culture in which they were brought up

  • understanding the culture of the organization in which you work and the resulting strong, unwritten rules regarding behavior in specific situations, especially in the event of a change

  • conflicts and synergies that result from national and cultural diversity in your organization

The complexity of combining cultures and nationalities, understanding leadership, and common values ​​are strongly conditioned by national characteristics. And we often forget about it on a daily basis.

The most important differences concern the way of expressing emotions, verbal and non-verbal language, building relationships, approach to hierarchies and authorities, and, as a result, approach to goals and people.

There are many models and theories about the dynamics of multiculturalism. One of the leading ones is the model developed by the British expert on cultures and languages, Richard Lewis, which has gained recognition all over the world. This model is considered to be the most practical and the easiest to use in everyday communication today.

The Lewis Model was developed in the 1990s and was published in Richard Lewis' bestseller. When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures (1996). Lewis has visited 135 countries and, working in over 20 of them, has developed a model that uses three main categories, based NOT on nationality or religion, but on BEHAVIOR.

He named and described these categories as follows:

Linear–active: introvert, both listens and speaks, has undivided attention, is structured but firm and specific, displays limited body language and gestures, plans actions step by step, sometimes impatient, sticks to facts, refers to logic, cares about own good name, respects the law, values ​​truth more than diplomacy, likes privacy, separates personal life from professional life.

Multi-active: extrovert, speaks more than hears, people-oriented, social, has divisive attention, can interrupt and disturb, shows affection and willingly talks about them, displays expressive body language and gestures, makes general plans, has a flexible approach to the concept of truth, easily combines personal and professional life.

Reactive: introvert, listens more often than talks, does not interrupt, does not disturb, composed, silent, patient, good listener, limited body language, indirect, hides feelings, does not like to oppose, a good name is a matter of honor, introduces small changes, calm, punctual, people-oriented, values ​​diplomacy more than truthfulness, takes own goals very seriously.

On this basis, Lewis created a comprehensive model in which he placed all the major nationalities of the world on a single scale.

Knowing this "key" you can analyze situations that seem surprising and incomprehensible to you. And if you find no other reasons, there is a high probability that the misunderstandings are due to cultural differences.

For example, for a Pole, you can find here very valuable tips for collaboration:

  • with an Englishman

  • or with a Japanese.

As a starting point, Poles have a barrier to overcome.

If you expect a Japanese to respond to your Slavic spontaneity and openness with directness and honesty - you will be very disappointed. If, in the role of a supervisor, you will expect the so-called "constructive feedback" - you will also be very disappointed. In Japanese culture, criticizing a boss is not acceptable. The boss can never "lose his face".

If, while working with the British, you will interpret their statements literally, you can get into quite a lot of trouble. This is best illustrated by the table below.

What the British say is not what the British mean

I am not a specialist in the field of multiculturalism. But my experience of working in a multinational corporation has taught me a few undoubted things. Such cooperation requires:

  • patience

  • tolerance,

  • willingness to learn and understand,

  • readiness to ask for help/advice from others,

  • allowing yourself to make mistakes and quickly draw conclusions from them,

And paradoxically (in the goal-oriented business world), the goal goes into the background. Because the more we try to achieve it (in our understanding in the best possible way), the more resistance we will encounter.

So HOW matters more than WHAT, WHO, and WHEN.

See also:

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How to deal with a difficult boss?

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