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.
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This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in The USA only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.