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Workplace Culture: Achievement vs. Nurturing Leadership

Discover more about Geert Hofstede's research on achievement-oriented leadership and nurturing-oriented leadership.

Discover more about Geert Hofstede's research on achievement-oriented leadership and nurturing-oriented leadership.

Geert Hofstede's Research: Achievement Orientation and Nurturing Orientation

The idea of achievement- versus nurture-oriented leadership follows closely with Hofstede's third cultural dimension of masculinity-femininity. In Hofstede's model, masculine value systems focus on success, while nurturing is the focus of feminine value systems.

  • Masculine cultures exhibit a preference for achievement, heroism, assertiveness, and material rewards, increasing competitiveness within the community.
  • Femininity prefers cooperation, modesty, and quality of life, creating a consensus-oriented society.

Achievement Orientation

Achievement orientation relates to an individual's values and behaviors regarding accomplishment, success, and ability to overcome difficulties. Much like the comparison of risk-averse personalities versus risk-taker tendencies, achievement versus nurturing orientations align with either an overall individualistic (masculine) culture or a collective (nurturing) culture.

The degree to which a community adopts assertiveness, acquisition of money and material possessions correlate with masculine/individualistic theories. Cultures emphasizing feminine (collective/nurturing) orientations value quality of life, welfare, emotional expression, and compassion (Musambira & Matusitz, 2015).

Just as with risk-aversion and uncertainty, achievement-oriented personalities will seek to connect with organizations sharing similar values. Achievement-orientated employees will actively pursue performance evaluation and assessments and are intrinsically motivated to perform at high levels of excellence.

Benefits and Shortcomings of the Achievement Orientation

There are pros and cons when leadership encourages personal achievement and individual success.

  • Pros: Clearly communicated goals, consistent deadlines, guaranteed rewards, and tangible results are examples of what goes right.
  • Cons: Employee burnout, poor work-life balance, low employee feedback, and high turnover are what goes wrong.

The advantages and disadvantages of leadership styles focused on achievement is beneficial when the organization is striving to present consistent results. Everyone involved is reaching for individual triumph and personal goals. Unfortunately, without proper employee feedback, leaders become insulated and lose touch with their followers, causing costly turnovers and lack of innovation.



Nurturing Orientation

Employees who are not concerned with achievement and success will avoid performance feedback and find competency evaluations uncomfortable. In achievement-oriented environments, these employees become increasingly anxious in regards to their performance and experience excess stress and negative psychological well-being as a response to an increasingly insecure job situation (Yi & Wang, 2015).

Men and women who do not seek satisfaction through personal achievements may find comfort in an organization supportive of a more nurturing collective culture. A nurturing culture provides a sense of security to employees. Individual efforts are not the central focus of performance evaluations as values rest in concern for others, quality of life, and building relationships. In these organizations, there is less need for assertiveness; collaboration amongst peers is encouraged, resulting in less job-related stress.

Benefits and Shortcomings of the Nurture Orientation

  • Pros: Nurture-oriented leadership styles strive to strengthen relationships between the employee and the organization. It differs from achievement-oriented methods by focusing on work-life balance, self-sacrifice, and consensus.
  • Cons: Unfortunately, it is not without its downfalls. Blending personal wants and goals with the organization creates hive minds ill-equipped and reluctant to speak out against the status quo. Additionally, competitiveness is reduced as change is difficult and slow.

What's Important

Individualistic organizations have a lower tolerance for power distance, are achievement-oriented and are less risk-averse. Collectivist organizations accept greater power distances, are nurture-oriented and are highly risk-averse. These articles seemingly present these cultural constructs as pipelines, definitive cause, and effects from which no organization escapes. In reality, many organizations exist as a blend of every topic/concept discussed and is a direct reflection of the society in which the company operates.

Culture is a combination of many complicated factors. Common themes will emerge as dominant, influencing citizens and shaping beliefs and behaviors to favor the individual or the group. Modern western leadership attempts to include the best of both worlds. Value and respect extend to both the individual and the group simultaneously. Increased dedication to emotional intelligence opens the door for diversity and tolerance, nurturing each employee to align existing beliefs in a way that furthers the organization

Textbook Recommendation

I basically studied the book Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind for the better part of an academic year while in graduate school, and it has taught me many things about culture and sociology in the workplace. This text provides in-depth examples and analogies of how culture is represented in the workplace and through leadership in the real world.

More About Cultural Differences in the Workplace

Individualism vs. Collectivism

Power Distance, Uncertainty, and Risk Avoidance


Hofstede's Insights:

Mind tools content team, (n.d.) Retrieved from

Musambira, G., & Matusitz, J. (2015). Communication technology and culture: Analysing selected cultural dimensions and human development indicators. International Journal of Technology Management & Sustainable Development Volume 14 Number 1 DOI: 10.1386/tmsd.14.1.17_1

The Future of Working

Yi, X., & Wang, S. (2015). Revisiting the Curvilinear Relation Between Job Insecurity and Work Withdrawal: The Moderating Role of Achievement Orientation and Risk Aversion. Human Resource Management, 54(3), 499-515. DOI:10.1002/hrm.21638

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Lani Morris