Home Business & Finance Distance Leadership in International Corporations: Why Organizations Struggle when Distances Grow
Descriptive demographic characteristics of leaders
For the purpose of present research, frequencies were computed as descriptive statistics. Rather than explaining data or allowing for interferences, descriptive data defines underlying basic conditions of the sample such as age, gender or nationality (Creswell, 2013).
Organizational leaders were asked to respond to questions on socio-demographic information. Gender, age, nationality, leadership experience, and educational background were assessed. Information for description of the work environment included “Which industry does your company operate in?” and “How many employees are currently working in your company worldwide?”. Participants were further asked to specify the business unit they are working in. Respondents were required to explain their function and hierarchy level in the organization. One item questioned for the location (country and city) of their permanent office. This was of utmost importance as calculations of geographical distance between leaders’ and followers’ permanent offices constituted the physical distance measurement.
In total, respondents of 19 different business units participated in the study. All 122 participants indicated working in international corporations within the technology industry. All worked in companies with more than 10,000 employees in total.
Gender was distributed with the majority of respondents (n = 101) being male (82.79%) and 21 participants being female (17.21%).
The youngest respondent was 20 years old; the oldest, 61. The average age of the sample was calculated to be 40 years (39.77). The median for age was 40.50 years and the mode was 42.00 years. Standard deviation for age was computed to be 7.92 years.
Participants were further asked to indicate how many years of leadership experience they have had throughout their career. Answers varied between 1 and 22 years. The mean general leadership experience was indicated at 7.65 years with a standard deviation of 5.76 years and a mode of 2.00 years.
Educational background was assessed using the question whether the individuals possessed technical, business administration, both, technical and business administration, or other backgrounds. The largest proportion of organizational leaders indicated to have technical/engineering background (31.97%). Another large share of respondents (26.23%) reported a background in business administration. Both, technical and business administration education was testified by 25.41%. The remaining share of respondents (16.39%) indicated to have “other” educational background.
The sample consisted of 12 (9.84%) top managers, 48 (39.34%) middle management leaders, and 62 (50.82%) lower management with team lead function. Team leaders were further asked to specify the functional area they are currently working in. Sixty-five leaders (53.28%) indicated to work in manufacturing, logistics, or supply chain, while the other 57 supervisors (46.72%) belonged to indirect and administrative areas .
Essential for the underlying work is to determine the extent of physical distance between leaders and followers. Hence, leaders were asked to indicate country and city of their permanent office. More than two-thirds of the sample had their permanent office located in Switzerland (36.89%) and Liechtenstein (31.97%). Nine respondents (7.38%) had a permanent office in Italy, seven (5.74%) in Portugal, five individuals worked permanently in India (4.10%), four individuals (3.28%) each mainly in Austria, China, and Thailand. Three participants (2.46%) had their permanent offices in the Philippines and two (1.64%) in Germany.
The majority of respondents were Austrian (18.03%) and German (18.03%) followed by participants from Switzerland (17.21%) and Liechtenstein (11.48%). Other nationalities included Italian (7.38%), Portuguese (5.74%), Indian (4.92%), Thai and Chinese (3.28% each). There was one citizen (0.82%) each of Croatian, Filipino, Brazilian, and American nationality. Seven respondents did not report their nationality (5.74%).
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