The saga of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner trying to outsmart each other has turned out to be useful in my research into cultural variation in management styles between Anglophone and Latino leaders. The cartoons are effective at gauging cultural responses because they are globally accessible cultural icons. Because they're silent, they're mostly free from language constraints, and they've been distributed by Warner Brothers to TV screens across the Americas — and all over the world.
I asked MBA alumni around the world to state which of these two characters they most consistently supported and to explain why. Most Anglophones sided with the Coyote, and most Iberians and their descendants preferred the Road Runner.
Why would this be?
The survey indicated that those who identify with the Coyote respond mainly to the character's perceived "courage. " Though the Coyote routinely loses, he perseveres. Latins, on the other hand, identify more with the joy and freedom they perceive in the provocative Road Runner. These differences hold implications for leaders at today's global organizations: those who sided with one character stated that they would not like to be led by someone who sided with the other. Their discomfort at the prospect of being managed by "the other side" is well illustrated by their view of what organizational role the other side might best perform: Coyotes considered the Road Runner best suited to leading an organization's Human Resources department, while Road Runners saw the Coyote as best suited to being an organization's financial controller.
Of course, the survey did throw up some exceptions. Indian and Australian MBAs, while Anglophones, turned out to be staunch Road Runners. Also, U.S. MBAs fell into two categories: those who self-identified as Caucasian-Americans, sided with the Coyote, while those who self-identified as Hispanic-, Asian-, Jewish-, or African-Americans, or Americans studying at the London Business School, tended to side with the Road Runner, even more consistently than did Brazilian MBAs.