Expatriate managers adjustment and its impact on subordinates reactions: a cross cultural leadership study of Kenya and Ethiopia

  • A.J. Ochumbo

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Research on culture, leadership and adjustment shows that societal culture influences leadership in such a way that it can impact on expatriate managers' effectiveness and adjustment in a new culture.
In previous research, cultural background, personality, motives or behaviour of expatriate managers and their followers' reactions to them have been investigated in Europe, America and Asia. However, little attention has been paid on research on expatriate managers in African cultures especially in Eastern Africa. The present study represents an attempt to address the gap by examining how societal culture, leadership and adjustment success are interrelated for expatriate managers in Kenya and Ethiopia.
Questionnaire data were obtained from a) local middle managers (N=160) for studying societal culture and leadership in Kenya and Ethiopia, b) expatriate managers in non-governmental organizations - NGOs (N=28) for studying expatriate managers' personality, motives and adjustment success and c)
their immediate subordinates (N=125) for studying the expatriate managers' behaviours and their subordinates' reactions to them. Additionally, expatriate managers were interviewed and responses were coded for implicit motives, experiences and adjustment. SPSS was used to analyse data from
questionnaires to obtain cultural and leadership dimensions, leader behaviour and subordinate reactions. The NVIVO computer based disclosure analysis package was used to analyse interview data.
Findings indicate that societal culture influences leadership behaviours and leadership perceptions while the expatriate managers' motives, behaviours, personality and the cross cultural training they received prior to their assignment impact on the expatriates' adjustment success and on subordinates' reactions to them. The cultural fit between expatriate managers' home country (19 countries) and the target country (Kenya or Ethiopia) had no significant association with adjustment success but was positively related to expatriate behaviour and negatively associated with subordinates reactions. However, some particular societal practices - obviously adopted by expatriates and transferred to their
target country - did predict subordinates' commitment, motivation and job satisfaction. Furthermore, expatriates' responsibility motivation was positively related to their adjustment success. Regarding leadership behaviours and effectiveness, expatriate' supportive behaviours predicted subordinates' job
satisfaction most strongly. Expatriate managers expressing their management philosophies and experience shed light on the various aspects of adjustment and management of NGOs. In addition, review of Kenyan and Ethiopian cultures and the NGO context in these countries offers valuable information for expatriate managers.
This study's general imphcation for Cross Cultural Management and lnternational Human Resources Management is that the combination of culture general and culture specific knowledge and reflections on Eastern Africa countries can inform senior management and international HR staff about the critical issue of what to include in training, coaching, and actual experience in a particular host country
in order to ensure effective leadership. Furthennore, this knowledge is expected to influence expatriate managers' behaviour modification to enhance positive subordinate reactions. Questions about how to prepare expatriate managers and subordinates to work more competently and sensitively across cultures are addressed. Further theoretical implications, limitations of the study and directions for future research are also addressed.
Date of AwardJul 2008
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorFelix Brodbeck (Supervisor)


  • International HRM
  • societal culture
  • leadership prototypes
  • subordinate reactions
  • Eastern Africa

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