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Ingeniare. Revista chilena de ingeniería

versión On-line ISSN 0718-3305

Ingeniare. Rev. chil. ing. vol.27 no.1 Arica mar. 2019 


Leadership, culture and educational challenges

Jaime Riquelme-Castañeda1 

Liliana Pedraja-Rejas2 

1 Universidad Finis Terrae. Leadership Center Santiago, Chile. E-mail:

2 Universidad de Tarapacá. Industrial engineer. Arica, Chile. E-mail:

Organizations face a constantly changing and complex environment these days. The problems that they have been more difficult to understand and solve. Although they may have more resources, new technologies, and facilities than before, it is harder to find a direct relationship between different variables and to predict their organizational behavior. In this context, organizations need to adapt to this complexity permanently. As a result, employees now have an uncertain environment in which perform their work.

Decision making is a critical process in uncertain environments as to organizational survival. Successful decisions depend less on bright managerial minds than the interaction of people from different fields of knowledge. In this decision-making process, leadership plays a role. It is defined as the art of solving relevant problems, and it is a critical factor in organizational effectiveness as its correct application may ensure corporate strategy to develop a higher quality strategy. Therefore, the decision-making process requires effective leadership styles deployment.

Organizations need to pay attention to the managerial team composition to have the right leadership style. They require diversity regarding cognitive abilities and more homogeneity concerning values as to the decision-making process. In this context, culture acquires an essential role regarding leadership effectiveness which should be understood as the set of practices, values and shared beliefs of organization members. How people interact with others, what are the priorities and interpretations of reality may vary in interdisciplinary groups, especially if they are multicultural.

Trust is essential for a managerial team to make good decisions. When team members trust each other, they dare to dissent and think critically. Conflict may arise and, if effectively managed, may result in a higher compromise between managerial team so that stronger agreements, higher accountability and better results can be yielded. If trust is low, team members tend to agree in almost everything avoiding conflict, choosing less different alternatives and reducing levels of compromise, accountability and less effective problem-solving.

Societies with high uncertainty avoidance, high power distance, and low individualism tend to take less innovative decisions, highly influenced by the authority and the group. Uncertainty avoidance can be understood as everything a society do to control what is uncontrollable. Power distance is the resignation that people has toward power differences existing between groups. Collectivism is the relevance that groups has over the individual in their decisions8.

OECD countries such as Norway, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Holland, Sweden, Canada, Belgium, Luxemburg, and France show in average 58% of uncertainty avoidance, 40% of power distance and 28% of collectivism which are considered low. These are countries that rank between 25 top countries for global competitiveness9, human development10, and equity OCDE11. These countries are horizontal and individualistic.

Chile, also a member of the OECD since 2010, ranks high in competitiveness (35) and human development (38) but also has one of the highest inequalities in the world. Chilean society points high in uncertainty avoidance (86%), power distance (63%) and collectivism (77%) and thus, it can be described as vertical and collectivist.

Chilean society is culturally different from the OECD mentioned above countries. Although it is similar to France and Belgium, that also shows high scores in uncertainty avoidance (Belgium 84% and France 86%) and in power distance (Belgium 65% and France 65%). However, there is a high gap in the collectivism score (Belgium 25%, France 29%, and Chile 77%). Belgium and France are as individualistic as most of the OECD countries. It is likely that the high inequality showed in the Chilean society may be explained by its high score in collectivism12.

Collectivism could be a cultural dimension that inhibits autonomous behavior and the free will of people within groups and the society, reflecting a wrong concept of loyalty and commitment. Collectivism emphasizes intimate relationships, conformity, and instill similar thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Managerial team members may be compelled not to contradict the group thinking or the authority. Critical thinking and goal orientation may help people to work in a group within missing personal goals, autonomy, and privacy.

The education in Chile and Latin America tends to focus on technical skills and concepts rather than leadership or other social skills. It may be relevant for the education process focus also in developing autonomy, respect for individuality, and collaboration with groups. The autonomy, respect, and collaboration should be fundamental values of Chilean people during their educational process.

Autonomous, respectful, and collaborative leadership within a team rather than only technical and conceptual skills may help people and organizations to get better results when facing relevant problems. In addition to that, they may also contribute to advance toward reducing inequity and reach a more just, prosperous and developed society. The educational process needs to take this leadership challenge and transform our society.

* Autor por correspondencia:

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