@ulrika: while I do agree that addressing everyone on a "first name" respectively "du" basis slightly reduces the tendency to treat people differently because of their position in the hierarchy, I can't confirm that it eliminates the phenomenon of people kissing other peoples' feet (as you phrased it) or of people "brown-nosing"; or, looking the other way, the tendency of people hassling and oppressing others just because of their hierarchy position.
I have spent five years working in the U.S. and six months working in the U.K. and I have visited two large Swedish companies (in Göteborg, Trollhättan and Karlstad) almost 100 times over the last twenty-five years, and I definitely encountered several would-be "dictators" and numerous "brown-nosers" in companies in every single one of these three countries, where people commonly address their boss and their co-workers by their first name and by "du" (respectively by "you").
I personally think that adressing people by their first name and on "du/you" terms on the long run does lead to a somewhat more relaxed work atmosphere - but by no means does it turn a power-hungry idiot into a friendly and helpful person, and neither does it turn people that will do anything to get promoted into likeable co-workers.
And certainly it doesn't have anything to do with the level of respect for human beings.
The way I perceive it, Germans express closeness, friendship etc. by addressing somebody with "du" - and by a multitude of other things, such as body language, tone of voice, facial expression etc., while people from countries only using "du" resp. "you" (e.g. Sweden, USA, UK) express closeness, friendship etc. by a multitude of things, such as body language, tone of voice, facial expression etc. - it's just the "du" that isn't used as a "tool of distinction" between friends and people that are "not-so-close".
That said, I do agree that there is a cultural difference between the Swedish and the Germans - just like there's a cultural difference between Austrians and Germans, the U.S. and Canada, France and Britain, or virtually any pair of countries one might come up with.
The different ways of addressing others may well be an expression, a result of the cultural difference(s) - but they are not the reason for the cultural difference(s).