Culture and leadership in Iran: The land of individual achievers, strong family ties, and powerful elite

Mansour Javidan, Ali Dastmalchian

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


Over the past twenty-five years, Iran, a country of over 60 million people, has endured a bewildering rate of societal and economic change. Little is currently known about the country besides its extremist and confrontational policies both inside and outside the country. In this article, we report on a study of 300 Iranian middle managers from the banking, telecommunications, and food-processing industries as part of the GLOBE Project. Our findings show that despite much visible economic and societal change, the country's deeper cultural traits seem rather intact. The first important finding is that Iran, while a Middle Eastern country, is not part of the Arab culture. Instead, it is part of the South Asian cultural cluster consisting of such countries as India, Thailand, and Malaysia. The country's culture is distinguished by its seemingly paradoxical mix of strong family ties and connections and a high degree of individualism. Societal or institutional collectivism is not a strong suit of Iranians. The country's culture also bestows excessive privilege and status on those in positions of power and authority and does not tolerate much debate or disagreement. Perhaps as a result, rules and regulations are not taken very seriously and do not enjoy much popular support. At the same time, the culture has strong orientations toward achievement and performance, although mostly at the individual level. The article provides detailed ideas on the managerial implications of our findings for Western executives and corporations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-142
Number of pages16
JournalAcademy of Management Executive
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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