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Symmetric and asymmetric leadership cultures: A comparative study of leadership and organizational culture at Hyundai and Toyota


  • Shim, Won Shul
  • Steers, Richard M.


This study compares national cultures, leadership strategies, and work environments in two successful global automobile companies, Hyundai Motor Group and Toyota Motor Corporation. Despite competing head-on in the same market, it was found that these companies use very different leadership strategies as a basis for both global competition and local operations. Based on the results of a comparative case study, structured interviews, and related media and empirical data, it was found that Toyota competes both strategically and managerially by emphasizing planning and work systems to mitigate the impact of any turbulence in the external environment (stability is key), while Hyundai competes by accepting environmental uncertainty and risk as a part of normal daily operations (flexibility is key). We refer to these approaches as symmetric and asymmetric leadership and organizational cultures. As a result of these differences, Hyundai is able to change course more quickly than its larger competitor as new opportunities and technologies emerge. While national cultures played a role in differentiating between the two firms, leadership differences had a more pronounced effect on organizational behaviors and subsequent performance. Results are consistent with previous research and reinforce the conclusion that top management leaders’ behavior can have a significant influence on emergent organizational cultures and performance.

Suggested Citation

  • Shim, Won Shul & Steers, Richard M., 2012. "Symmetric and asymmetric leadership cultures: A comparative study of leadership and organizational culture at Hyundai and Toyota," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 581-591.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:worbus:v:47:y:2012:i:4:p:581-591
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jwb.2012.01.011

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    Cited by:

    1. Schmid, Stefan & Grosche, Philipp & Mayrhofer, Ulrike, 2016. "Configuration and coordination of international marketing activities," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 535-547.
    2. Barron, Andrew & Pereda, Asier & Stacey, Stephen, 2017. "Exploring the performance of government affairs subsidiaries: A study of organisation design and the social capital of European government affairs managers at Toyota Motor Europe and Hyundai Motor Com," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 184-196.
    3. Schneider, Markus & Engelen, Andreas, 2015. "Enemy or friend? The cultural impact of cross-functional behavior on the EO–performance link," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 439-453.
    4. Bird, Allan & Mendenhall, Mark E., 2016. "From cross-cultural management to global leadership: Evolution and adaptation," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 115-126.


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