The power distance refers to the closeness, or lack thereof, between a person of authority and his or her subordinates. Those that hold the power of authority, that is those people who can bring about a change of some type, are also, many times, those who present with some type of symbol of their authority when attending a meeting, or otherwise on display. For example, in an Arabic country, a person in authority might wear a richly decorated robe and head covering while those in subordinate roles might be dressed in a less elaborate robe and plain head covering or a suit.
The language one uses also denotes their position of authority. For example, a person in authority in a more democratic and informal society would usually address a subordinate by his or her given first name instead of using a salutation such as Mr or Ms along with the person’s last name as would be the case in a more formal, less democratic culture. In addition, there is ample body language displayed both by the person in authority and by those whose are not in authority.
A person of authority will usually command a presence in a room by presenting oneself in the front and center of a group of people. Subordinates to the person in power will flank that person by standing back away and behind the person in authority. Indeed, depending on the culture of the person in authority, that person will either talk to their subordinates in an aloof way that can seem to be almost rude to someone that is unused to it.
The countries that demand this sort of communication include those located in the Arab speaking areas of the world, as well as Russia and China. In other cultures, such as those found in Australia, Canada, and Japan, there is more of an egalitarian mood to the interactions between a person with the power of authority and their subordinates. This is characterized by mutual respect between both parties that is not found in those more conservative countries.