European Leadership Case Study


This essay aims to assess the comparative leadership style of Miss Merkel, chancellor of Germany, and Mister Sarkozy, chancellor of France, both within their own country and across Europe. The literature review for this essay should highlight that team members in international teams hold different leadership expectations and preferences based on their culture (Zander & Butler 2010). Therefore this essay will address the question ‘Are there attributes, skills and behaviours a leader of multi-cultural teams should ideally possess?’ in the second section. In the third section, two case studies are introduced which present the biggest chancellorships in Europe right now. The first one is about the global financial crisis and aims to assess the leaders’ performance across Europe. The second one is about the use of nuclear power plants which aims to assess them in their own country. The fourth section explains the skills, attributes and behaviours adopted by the two leaders for the subjects of the case studies. The last section concludes with an explanation of effectiveness of both leaders in the case studies.

What would a leader in Europe ideally possess?

To assess the effectiveness of a leader in a cross-cultural team it is necessary to explain what a leader should ideally possess first. A large literature aims to answer this question (Adler & Batholomew 1992, Earley & Erez 1997, Harris 1993, Schnieder & Barsoux 1997, Simons, Vazquez &, Thiederman 1991, Williams 2008, Zander & Butler 2010). This essay came to the conclusion that there are no ideal skills, attributes or behaviours. The reason for this is simple. Based on their culture some team members will prefer a directive style while others prefer a participative style (Zander & Butler 2010). In addition some will have differing attitudes towards hierarchy and authority and alternative thoughts about decision-making (Zander & Butler 2010). But because there are no ideal skills etc. doesn’t mean there are no skills which help a leader of a cross-cultural team/organisation/country. It means it is necessary to look at a higher abstract level and the leader acting cross-culturally should focus on the goal he/she wants to achieve with the group (to find the appropriate skills etc.). Especially for this essay we look for skills etc. for Europe. Therefore this essay uses the following model (see figure 1).

Figure 1 – Approach for multiculturalism and leadership (source: own figure with material from Crawford 1995, Grant 1988, Phillips 1995, Rosener 1990, Williams 2008, Zander & Butler 2010)

This model shows how to get to the ideal skills, attributes and behaviours for leaders acting cross-culturally. It starts with the home country of every team member which influences his education, values and beliefs. The home country is the basis and influences the properties and beliefs about the other gender and diversity. These beliefs again influence what is necessary for a leader to possess. When you look at the definition of the words ‘attribute’, ‘skill’ and ‘behaviour’ the logical consequence is that skills and attributes influence the behaviour (Oxford Dictionaries 2012). Appendix A shows a list with skills and attributes found in all the literature reviewed for this essay. The list is quite long which is no surprise as the researchers agree that there are no ideal skills and attributes. But taking this long list it was possible to create a shorter more abstract list which concentrates on the essentials most often mentioned by researchers (see table 1).

Table 1 – Skills and attributes for cross-cultural leaders in Europe (without order of importance, source: Brett, Behfar & Kern 2006, Chevrier 2003, Earley & Erez 1997, Hall 1976, Kearney & Gebert 2009, Kitchin 2010, Miller et al 2000, Milliken & Martins 1996, Morris 1992Williams 2008, Zander & Butler 2010, Zander, Mockaitis & Butler 2012)

skill attribute
communication global mindset
cross-cultural awareness biculturalism
understand team member personalities cultural intelligence
boundary spanning self-control

The conclusion of this list is that it could be expanded easily. But the more attributes and skills, the more complex it gets to actually lead a group. The advantage of this small list is that with it the ideal behaviours for leaders drawn from Hofstede can be explained. Hofstede says that a leader should ideally have the following behaviours: autonomous, self-protective, charismatic/value based, team-oriented, humane-oriented and participative (2011). What he also says is that these behaviours differ in importance in different countries. Using the model from figure 1 this can be explained easily. The behaviour is influenced by skills and attributes which again are influenced by beliefs of gender and diversity which again are influenced on the values of the home country. This is the most important fact for leaders as it underlines that there are no ideal skills, attributes and behaviours for cross-cultural teams.

Therefore this essay comes to the conclusion that it depends on the leadership style (and behaviour). Zander, Mockaitis & Butler supported that with transformational leadership the full potential can be released by tapping the variance and benefits provided by diversity (2012). The reason for this is simple. Transformational Leadership concentrates on the organisation/group and therefore every individual is respected how he/she is and less special skills etc. are required to let the group flourish. This means for leading a cross-cultural group a leader should aim for the transformational style.

Case Studies

The following section introduces the two case studies used for the next section to explain the skills, attributes and behaviours used by Merkel and Sarkozy. First the global financial crisis is explained after the currently on-going discussion about the use of nuclear power plants. These two case studies are used because they are the biggest chancellorships in Europe right now. For the global financial crisis Merkel and Sarkozy have similar opinions and for the debate about nuclear power plants differing ones.

The global financial crisis started at the end of October in 2008 and is considered the worst financial crisis since the 1930s (Baily & Elliott 2009, Grauwe 2008, Guillén 2009). It resulted in the collapse of financial institutes worldwide, decline of consumer wealth and economic activity (Grauwe 2008). Especially the consequences for Europe are extreme. Political leaders coordinated their efforts but the crisis developed into a currency crisis for the Euro. This led many countries to seek aid from the IMF (Baily & Elliott 2009, Grauwe 2008, Guillén 2009). Three countries were especially affected: Greece, Ireland and Portugal. The Eurozone reacted and created two emergency measures, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM) (Guillén 2009). Right now the political leaders in Europe discuss a tax on financial transactions to decrease the market of speculations which led to the global financial crisis (Guillén 2009).

In the following the second case study is introduced. Last year started a debate about the security of nuclear power plants. The reasons for this have been the events in Fukushima in March 2011. Following an earthquake and tsunami on 11 March the nuclear power plant Fukushima I had a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns and releases of radioactive materials (Strickland 2011). After that the opinions about the use of nuclear power plants changed worldwide with the majority now disapproving new plants (Cooper & Sussman 2011). Especially in Europe (including Italy, Germany and Spain) the anti-nuclear sentiment increased.

Style and approaches of Merkel and Sarkozy

Using the former introduced case studies, the skills and attributes from table 1 and the behaviours developed by Hofstede the style and approaches of Merkel and Sarkozy are explained.

Figure 2 shows the use of the skills (blue) and attributes (green) in the form of a Venn diagram. Figure 3 and 4 show the behaviour of Merkel and Sarkozy. As a basis for the behaviour the Germanic Europe behaviour has been used for Merkel and the Latin Europe behaviour for Sarkozy. If one of the leaders did not behave according to the findings of Hofstede the bar became smaller and vice versa.

Figure 2 – Skills and attributes used by Merkel and Sarkozy


Figure 3 – Leadership behaviour of Merkel (based on Hofstede 2001)

Figure 4 – Leadership behaviour of Sarkozy (based on Hofstede 2001)

In the following the findings will be explained using statements and actions of the two leaders from the press. Merkel has very strong self-control. This becomes visible in many situations but especially in the financial crisis. She is known for her calm handling and although many countries pressure her to do more she sticks to her line and opinion (Crossland 2012 a, Böll et al. 2012). She has a certain sense of cultural intelligence but only in some situations (Crossland 2012 a). Especially in Davos she showed her skill of understanding team member personalities (Böcking 2012). Merkel and Sarkozy are often called ‘Merkozy’ which shows the uniformity in their politics for the financial crisis and therefore both get the skill ‘boundary spanning’. Both show the attribute ‘global mindset’ because Merkel thinks Germany could set an example for other countries in their change of course for nuclear power plants (BBC 2011). Sarkozy tries to establish a relationship with America like the one Britain has (Schmitz 2010). This also gives him the skill ‘cross-cultural awareness’ and the attribute ‘biculturalism’ as he tries to have a good relationship with many other European countries (Hewitt 2012).

Based on the findings of this essay Merkel has the exact same behaviour Hofstede found for Germanic Europe. Sarkozy in return showed differences for ‘charismatic/value based’, ‘team-oriented’ and ‘humane-oriented’. This is the result of his often changing opinion in many things and his change in allies with countries (Schmitz 2010, Hewitt 2012, Crossland 2012 a).


In conclusion, examining the effectiveness of both leaders for this essay showed that Merkel can be seen as effective. The reason for this is that she acts in a transformational leadership style and achieves many of the things she starts. She made it possible that Germany is in a good position during both crises and actually becomes a leader for the whole of Europe which, based on the history of Germany, is difficult to achieve. Despite setbacks and criticism she sticks to her line. In contrast Sarkozy seems to be less effective, especially nowadays. The reason for this is his often changing opinion about topics, change in allies and internal problems. Now he seems to be more focused on his re-election which makes him less effective in dealing with the two big chancellorships.


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