Leadership in Diverse Sociocultural Contexts


Understanding leadership in diverse sociocultural contexts requires a critical observation of the key activities and processes within and outside the school. Teaching and learning occur within the school setting, while socialization, parenting, and home-school relationships happen outside the school. The reforms in the education sector provide a pertinent part of the leadership context in schools. Indeed, societal culture is mostly concerned with diversity, while the reforms in global policy are characterized by convergence. Policy reforms shape the role of the leaders in schools and enhance the involvement of parents and teachers in decision-making. In addition, the teachers, the principal, and all the stakeholders who are involved in the implementation will shape the global policies. The parenting strategies, teachers, and their interaction with peers or involvement with a particular group influence the child’s performance. However, there are differences in views regarding the abilities and achievements of a child in America and Asian countries. In Asia, a child must work hard to excel, while in America, success is attributed to innate ability. Finally, parenting influences a child’s learning outcome through continued support, good relationship, and socialization.

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Conceptualizing, Contextualizing, and Connecting Leadership

Leadership, for many years, has been portrayed as a contextual activity rather than a discreet undertaking. Leadership occurs within a given environment and situation when the leaders integrate with their followers. The earlier contingency and situational theories acknowledged leadership as the interrelationship between the followers, leaders, and the work situation. However, those theories never explored the dimensions of those relationships, rather, they just suggested a set of relationships and avoided the holistic context of leadership.

In order to observe the key activities and the processes that take place within the school and the environment, it is important to gain a complete understanding of leadership. Those activities include teaching and learning within the school setting, while outside the school, they involve socialization, parenting, and home-school relationship.

Leadership is exercised inside the school in relation to activities and people through teaching and learning as well as through socialization and parenting in the external environment. All the activities involved in the leadership process are culturally dependent, culturally sensitive, and varying according to the diversity of the societal cultures.

Leadership Educational Reforms, Globalization, and Societal Culture

Societal culture influences leadership in the current world. The current reforms in the education sector also provide a pertinent part of the leadership context in schools, especially in that part where the nature and form of leadership are changing. In fact, cultural differences are not openly highlighted in the education policy reforms, but global ubiquity and similarity are given prominence. Indeed, societal culture is mostly concerned with diversity, while the reforms in global policy are characterized by convergence. The policies in the schools include school development planning, budgeting and human resource management, development planning, school-based curriculum development, parent and teacher involvement in decision-making, empowerment of school councils, planning of centralized curriculum through learning outcome, regular testing of students, the accountability of schools, enhanced competition among the students and schools, and increased choice of schools for the parents. However, not all restructured schools have been able to adopt all the stated requirements.

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In essence, such reforms influence the performance of the schools and task the school leaders to put more effort into their leadership positions. The role of leaders in school amid those multiple changes undergoes substantial deepening, broadening, and externalizing in diverse and societal cultures. Therefore, the emergence of policy reforms places similar demands on the role of the leaders in a school setting in diverse cultural contexts. Eventually, their roles are shaped in a divergent way; for instance, in Hong Kong, the USA, and Australia, school leaders are supposed to involve parents and teachers in the decision-making. On the other hand, global policies are shaped and adapted to the societal cultures and the setting of the indigenous culture. Alternatively, the teachers, principal, and all the stakeholders who are involved in the implementation may also shape the global policies at the school level, whether formally or informally.

Parenting, Family, and the School

Parenting influences children’s learning achievements through support, good relationship, and socialization. However, how parenting influences student learning in various societies is not yet known. It is argued that cross-cultural differences vary according to the socialization strategies of the children and parenting tactics. Therefore, such differences may explain the diversity of achievement levels among East Asian countries (Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan) and the USA.

Home and School. Asian countries demonstrate more harmony of values between school and home than it is in the USA. Asian children will spend most of their time at school compared to American children. In America, children spend less than six hours, while in Asian countries, they spend more than eight hours in school. Therefore, children in Asia schools have more time to be molded by their teachers and receive guidance, which impacts their performance. In addition, Asian children spend extra four hours on Saturday mornings, and their school terms are spread across the year with small holidays as compared to the USA, where holidays are long and school terms are short. In essence, the extra hours added to the school day in Asian schools guarantee good performance and allow the students to participate in other extra-curricular activities, thereby contributing to the social development of the children. During holidays, Asian children still have contact with their teachers and their classmates’ friends.

In the American setting, parents are less involved in their children’s homework than in Asian countries. Mothers in Asian countries assume the role of assisting their children with their homework because their fathers work for long hours. Teachers in Asian countries assign more assignments, while children spend more hours doing their homework than their American counterparts. In fact, the communication between Asian children and their parents is enhanced by using notebooks which help monitor the student’s progress. However, the Asian education setting calls for rote learning because of the competitive examination system and excessive homework.

Parenting, Socialization, Effort, and Achievement

Parenting. Parents in Asia and America believe that early childhood experience and parenthood are important for future achievement. However, Asian and American parents have different views concerning socialization and child-rearing practices. In Asia, particularly in Japan and China, parents clearly distinguish between the child’s early ages and later childhood. Before the age of six, there is relatively low pressure concerning academic performance in Asian children. During the first grade of learning, the children’s rearing practices change, and the parents focus on getting a better education for their children. On the contrary, American parents do not alter their parenting strategies with time, although a crucial shift occurs. In the early ages of their children’s lives, they stimulate their children and expect the same from their kindergarten teachers. When children are at the kindergarten stage, Asian parents insist on the health and educational interests of their kids while in America the parents emphasize stimulation and learning.

Socialization. The culture dictates the techniques used in socializing the child, such as modeling desirable behavior. In Asian countries, children are socialized in a way that supports and endorses school success. In Asia, the most respected individuals are those who have achieved exemplary educational results while still pursuing high academic achievement. They are the role models representing virtuous and selfless individuals who have contributed to the state or a highly extolled group.

On the other hand, those individuals who have succeeded in sports and entertainment often motivate American children. In Asia, children socialize with peers and groups because the culture emphasizes the collectivism and group orientation while American culture underscores individualism. It is worth noting that identification with a group provides a common bond and impetus to achieving goals. The role of kindergarten in Asian countries is to strengthen the identification of groups and establish social interactive skills. Finally, socializing is achieved through teaching school and classroom routines, which help the children adjust, learn, and contribute to the smooth running and organization of the classroom.

Effort, Ability, and Achievement. There are differences between Asian countries and America regarding effort, ability, and a child’s achievement. In America, academic success is attributed to innate ability, while in Asia society, hard work and effort can compensate the innate ability. The social philosophies in Asia can be traced back to the teachings of Confucius. Indeed, they have ramifications for behavior at home, parental expectations, and teaching at school. Students in Asia, therefore, are motivated to work hard for long hours because it is only through effort that success can be achieved. Americans believe in the ability and their preoccupation with measuring intelligence tests to indicate how a child will perform. In fact, no amount of hard work can compensate for the absence of the ability. On the contrary, Asian parents use stringent evaluations in their assessment and also apply higher standards than their America counterparts when gauging the academic performance of their children.


It is evident that the role of school leaders varies according to the cultural context. In those societies where the parents exert more pressure on the children’s discipline, behavior management is less important for teachers and school leaders. In those situations where the parents expect their children to dedicate much time to their studies, the role of the teachers and school leaders is less demanding and fatigue-free. Comparing school leadership requires considering wider cultural and contextual conditions within the place where leadership occurs. In addition, the relationship between the student and the teachers in the school setting is related to the values required for upbringing and socialization.

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