THE CHANGE OF POWER DISTANCE AND ITS EFFECTS ON
AUTHORITATIVE LEADERSHIP IN BUSINESS
AND MILITARY ORGANIZATIONS IN TAIWAN
Department of Psychology, Kaohsiung Medical University
Department of Psychology, National Taiwan University
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The term “power distance” (PD) was first originated by Mulder (1977), meaning” the degree
of inequality in power between a less power Individual (I) and a more powerful Other (O), in
which I and O belong to the same social system (P.90)”. Hofstede (1980) defined power
distance as the extent to which a unit accepts the fact that the power is distributed unequally.
Interest in the impact of culture about hierarchical relationship on various organizational
behaviors has been increasing. Hofstede (1980) published his seminal work on cultural
dimensions of work values. Initially, the cultural concept of power distance was applied at the
national or societal levels and drew many researchers’ attentions to conduct cross cultural and
comparative studies. Recently, the individual-level cultural values of power distance have
been increasingly played as moderator between leadership/attitudes/perception and
subordinate outcomes in organizational behavior research. For example, Cheng, Chou and
Farh (2006) found that there is positive association between authoritarian leadership and
subordinates’ loyalty and organizational commitment for high power-distance employee but
negative association for low power-distance employee.
However, though it was depicted by most cross cultural studies that high power distance lay
in Chinese society (including Taiwan and Mainland China), the values regarding submission
to authority have been gradually altered as the social modernization and industrial and
commercial development proceed (Begley, Lee, Fang, & Li, 2002). Therefore, there are two
issues on power distance needing to be explored in the context of Chinese organization.
Firstly, what kinds of factors will influence the individual to support or reject power
difference between leader and subordinate? The organizational characteristic such as degree
of globalization? The organizational hierarchical position (leader or not) that an individual
possesses? Or the individual personal characteristics such as sex, age, and education level ?
Secondly, Hunt, Boal and Sorenson (1990) suggested that cultural values have an important
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influence on the leadership style. With the dyadic level, will the display of authoritarian
leadership be affected by leader’s power distance, subordinate’s power distance, or the match
of both? Thus, the purpose of this paper is to understand the influencing factors that will
affect the difference of employee’s power distance and to realize the effect of different power
distance values upon authoritarian leadership style in kind of organizations under.
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