Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
One can not examine leadership in isolate from the context in which it is occurring. National and international factors, as well as culture, are key in understanding leadership. Factors such as a history of political oppression impact how Americans are perceived, and considerations such as religious factors impact the workings of the team. An awareness of these factors is imperative to team leadership, as mistakes or insensitivity can be detrimental to team effectiveness and relations.
It seems that at this stage of the leadership evolution, there is really no international model which effectively accounts for the leadership within a cross-cultural team such as that of the Operation Smile team. Models such as the last two, which suggest cultural synergy and creativity, suggest the flexibility and awareness which seems to be at the heart of cross-cultural leadership. The array of leadership literature now available is consistently biased towards a Western paradigm of leadership, not only in recommended leadership behavior but also in the measurement of outcomes. A leadership style failing to consider culture specific components would have failed in the context of the Operation Smile team. With respect to the Operation Smile mission, the team leadership's emphasis on flexibility and awareness of culture provided a strong example of effective international leadership.
Within the Operation Smile team, the Americans were perceived as leaders. Because of the Filipino respect for perceived authority and the emphasis on hiya and harmonious relations, there was limited feedback, all positive, from the Fillipinos as to the effectiveness of the American leadership. The team leader's success stemmed from his adaptability, flexibility, and ability to understand the culture in which he was working, all of which seem to be key elements when working in a cross-cultural team of Operation Smile's nature.
It is also important to note that the team consisted of people who knew that they would be working together for a short time in the spirit of helping children. One team member noted that the team probably would have become dysfunctional had a month gone by; long term implications for the team are not predictable based on short-term outcomes.
Elizabeth, Harris F., "A cross cultural analysis of leadership : Operation Smile Philippines Medical Mission 1995" (1995). Honors Theses. 1237.