American management style can be described as individualistic in approach in so far as managers are accountable for the decisions made within their areas of responsibility.
Although important decisions might be discussed in open forum the ultimate responsibility for the consequences of the decision lies with the boss – support or seeming consensus will evaporate when things go wrong. The up side of this accountability is, of course, the American dream that outstanding success will inevitably bring outstanding rewards.
Therefore, American managers are more likely to disregard the opinions of subordinates than managers in other, more consensus or compromise- oriented cultures. This can obviously lead to frustrations, which can sometimes seem to boil over in meeting situations.
Titles can be very confusing within American organisations with a bewildering array of enormously important-sounding job descriptors on offer (Executive Vice-President etc.). Titles, in any case, tend to be a poor reflection of the relative importance of an individual within a company. Importance is linked to power, which could be determined by a number of factors such as head-count responsibility, profitability of sector or strategic importance to the organisation at that point in time.
A distinction is often made between management style (around organisation and process) and leadership style (more strategic and inspirational.) Great leadership is expected at the top of an organisation rather than competent management but it can be difficult to define what great leadership actually is – and a US definition may not mean much in other parts of the world.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in the USA. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.
With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in the USA and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.
Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics: