Richard Lewis’ Proposed Trends of 21st Century


In an attempt to deviate from the traditional cultureactive to intercultureactive edge, Richard Lewis endeavored to establish, theoretically, a framework within which to ground his novel intercultureactive trends. Having done a plethora of cross-cultural studies, Lewis noted that the globalization phenomenon required a new approach to cultural interactions. The traditional cross-cultural interaction needed radical transformation to allow for mutual coexistence in the international business milieu. In the global arena, moreover, cross-professional interaction emerged as a strong force that attracts business people together more than did cross-cultural interaction. He observed that irrespective of culture, linear-active modes of communication characterize business people, and multi-active modes characterize non-business people. This paper discusses the proposals that Lewis has made regarding leadership styles that suit global business arena in the 21st century.

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Linear-active, Multi-active, and Reactive (LMR) Framework

Richard Lewis, a guru in cultural studies, was intrigued to invent a new cultural approach to international business management by requests from multinational clients. At that time, in the 1980s, cross-cultural system was on high demand and many scholars proposed various models to counteract the shortage. The central issue revolved around simplifying or summarizing national characteristics. Geert Hosfede, for example, settled on five dimensions, namely: collectivism versus individualism, power distance, masculinity versus femininity, short-term versus long-term orientation, and avoidance of uncertainty (Sloma, 2010). People like Edward Hall made group classification as high or low context, monochromic and polychromic, and past or future oriented. The GLOBE research documented dissimilarities among a variety of cultural approaches, such as gender differences, power distance, assertiveness, future orientation, uncertainty avoidance, performance orientation, institutional collectivism, human orientation, and in-group collectivism (Jackson & Schuler, 2006).

Lewis was critical of these models because he felt that they had fallen short of the required practical criteria. In his assessment, therefore, he considered Hall’s model as lucid and logical but missing in focus on solution. Similarly, Hosfede’s model that judged people based on uncertainty avoidance and reaction to power distance, was commendable, albeit was partially character-descriptive; and the idea of femininity and masculinity could not be deciphered by many people. Following these shortcomings, Lewis wondered whether employees who were ascriptive, neutral, diffuse, particularistic, or affective existed; and if they did how they should be managed. He, therefore, proposed that the classification of culture should be made comprehensively according to three categories: linear-actives, multi-actives, and reactives (White, n.d.)

Linear-Active Cultures

According to Lewis, this category of people is inclined towards task performance; people are highly organized planers who prefer completing their actions by doing one thing at a time. They easily adopt linear program. Usually, such people involve in direct discussion hinged on facts derived from credible printed sources. They use speech for information exchange where the interlocutors talk and listen in turns. For linear-actives, diplomacy cannot be a tradeoff for truth since they hardly fear confrontation, and remain logical. People under this category often believe that superior products make their own path and they may fail to notice that sales are based on a number of relationships in many parts of the globe. These people normally prefer using official channels to pursue their goals and abhor the use of connections, shortcuts, or unscrupulous deals. Most of linear-actives use rules and regulations to monitor their behaviors. Therefore, they respect written contracts and seldom unduly delay payments for goods and services that they have received. They are sensitive to punctual performance, reliable delivery dates, and quality when in business. Linear-actives gain status through hard work and achievement. Their minds are preoccupied by rationalism and science rather than religion (Lewis, 2005).

Multi-Active Culture

This set of people has a culture where emotions reign. As a result, they are loquacious and impulsive, attaching great value to family, feelings, as well as relationships. They are a repository for human warmth and compassion. Usually, multitasking is not an issue hence they always find it difficult to follow agenda. Their conversation is ad hoc with conversationalists trying to speak and listen concurrently. Given their loquacious nature, these people find silence uncomfortable and try to avoid it (Rana, 2002).

When doing business, multi-actives consider connections as more important than goods and services. In fact, for them the relationship influences the sale of products. They believe that relationships are better managed on face-to-face basis but not with telephone calls and/or correspondence. Multi-actives thrive in rumor and lust for gossip and have little, if any, regard for rules and regulations. Their limited respect to authority, however, does not influence the acceptability of their position in their own company hierarchy. These people do not see anything wrong with late delivery dates and even making payments with received products or services. Not surprisingly, postponement is common with them and punctuality equally rare. This mindset is a product of their nonlinear concept of time and the inability to fathom the importance of timetables (Lewis, 2003).

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Lewis noted that people in this category are outgoing and inquisitive but they attach importance to value rather than to company. When involved in business, multi-actives use rhetoric, charisma, and negotiated truth to make their way. Diplomacy and tact define their leadership styles and often they avoid laws to take shortcuts. They do not have a problem with giving out presents or secretive payments to get contracts and deals (Lewis, 2003).

Reactive Culture

Reactives, according to Lewis, are people who hardly initiate a discussion or action; instead, they listen first and to another’s opinion before formulating their opinions. Reactives are good listeners who concentrate on what is said and hardly interrupt in a conversation. After one has completed his/her talk, reactives pause for a moment, while internalizing the content of the talk, before giving their feedback. When giving their reply, they start by asking questions on what has been said for purposes of clarification. For instance, the Japanese repeat each point to ensure that there is no misunderstanding (Lewis, 2003).

The people in this category are introverted and are “distrustful of surfeit of words and consequently are adept at nonverbal communication, which is achieved by subtle body language” (Lewis, 2003, p.73). The mode of communication typical of this group is monologue-pause-reflection-monologue. Reactives are therefore, accustomed to silence and consider it very meaningful element of discourse. The reason being, reaction to the other’s opinion require well-thought out arguments whose prerequisite is protracted silence. These people often use names economically thus accentuating the impersonal vague nature of their communication. Lewis stressed that it is imperative to understand that the actual content of reply of a reactive is only a small fraction representing the significance of the event. Reactives are also inclined towards self-disparagement tactics that help them eliminate chances of offending others (Lewis, 2003).

Power and Culture in the LMR Framework

Lewis formulated this framework with a view of tackling leadership in the international business market that brings together the three categories of culture. In order to ensure successful and mutual global business transactions, the three cultures must interact and accommodate one another. In these interactions, cultural differences emerge more strongly than commonalities; in fact, commonalities underlie the three cultural categories, yet fewest similarities exist between multi-actives and linear-actives. However, reactives are better positioned with the two categories simply because they react (Ahmadzai, 2008). Given this state of affairs, it suffices to say that culture will be a predictor to where power will flow in the global business arena. Currently, the linear-active culture, such as the US, UK, Germany has the power because of its logic, task-orientedness, and adherence to rules and regulations. The group’s lack of emotional human relationships is a major drawback to its dominance in the international milieu where warm relationships are valued.

The multi-actives, on the other hand, have tapped some global power on their relationships acumen. Nevertheless, they cannot move to the summit of global power due to their haphazard communication styles, high impulsiveness, and illogical multi-tasking bent. Brazil, for instance, will hardly wield more power than France or Germany in the international market. Representatives of reactive culture are singled out as the viable heir-apparent of the 21st century given the aspects of their culture that resonate well with both linear-active and multi-active cultures. Reactive culture endows its members with a reactive disposition that gives them a good ground to listen to other’s positions and react without injuring the relationship. For example, the Japanese can comfortably operate in a logical atmosphere of the Americans, and at the same time trade well with emotional Latins given their shared orientation toward people, power distance, as well as diplomatic communication (Harris et al., 2004). It is therefore, not surprising that Asian Tigers are in full throttle to topple the US and UK from the apex of global trade.

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Richard Lewis’ LMR framework took into account the impact of culture in shaping the behavior of individuals of different nationalities in the global business scene. He focused his studies on communication, which is often the barrier among cultures, and interestingly, a key aspect in global interactions. The links existing among individual characteristics, styles of communication, and work behavior are critical considerations in the formation of global business leaders. The LMR construct provides a comprehensive framework within which the hitches of intercultural relations can be understood. Culture, according to this framework, emerges as a predictor of the flow of power in the global business arena. Reactives who are capable of accommodating the multi-actives and linear-actives are eventually billed as the next power holders in the global business milieu.


Ahmadzai, H. (2008). Afghanistan in the Lewis Model

Harris, P.R., Moran, R.T. & Moran, S.V. (2004). Managing cultural differences: Global leader leadership strategies for the 21st century. New York, NY: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Jackson, S.E. & Schuler, R.S. (2006). Managing Human Resources through Strategic Partnerships. Australia: Thomson/South-Western.

Lewis, R.D. (2003). The cultural imperative: global trends in the 21st century. New York, NY: Intercultural Press.

Lewis, R.D. (2005). When cultures collide: leading across cultures. Boston, MAS: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Rana, S.K. (2002). Bilateral diplomacy. New York, NY: Diplo Foundation.

Sloma, N. (2010). Leading Intercultural Teams: Potentials and Risks of Intercultural Teams. New York, NY: GRIN Verlag.

White, M.S. (n.d.). Academic Globalization: Cultureactive to Ice-the Cross-Cultural, Cross Disciplinary and Cross-Epistemological Transformation. Atlanta, Georgia: Department of Managerial Sciences, Georgia State University.

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