Power Distance 

Lesson 2: Topic 9 of 19

Researchers have covered this critical cultural topic of authority in culture, well before it had this name. Basically, the meaning of Power Distance is this: the measurement of distance between those with authority in a national culture and the masses who support the structure. Those without most of the power must undergird the system; otherwise, it would not work. In other words, the majority of the people accept the much greater authority of those in charge. New Zealand, the United States, and Denmark are all low Power Distance cultures, while China, Brazil, and India, with vast cultural differences, nonetheless are all defined as high Power Distance cultures. 

“Power distance is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.” — Geert Hofstede

August de Richelieu on Pexels lpc lmft nha nfa lcp do md lpc lmft lnha lnfa ceu culture lpc

What does low Power Distance look like? Consider an American politician. If a state representative is holding a “town hall” meeting, it is expressly for constituents to ask questions and hear about his policy positions and plans to advance pieces of legislation. Voters generally have the freedom to address him directly, without feeling that he is somehow better than them or in a class that is set apart. Someone might actually be openly angry and insist that the politician answer questions. She could use angry words and tone when making a statement. There is a sense that the representative should be accountable to his constituents. This is especially true at the local level. National political leaders in the U.S. may be quite different, as many follow an “elite path,” with strategically chosen education and networking to position their careers. Some utilize family networks or wealth that was not created by them, and that money may even be outside of their personal control. But at the local level, an elected civil servant is often seen by citizens as “our” politician – almost a direct employee.