China in Transition in Management Leadership Style
Frank Gallo, the retired Greater China Managing Consultant of Watson Wyatt Worldwide, recently published an interesting book ``Business Leadership in China.''
The 220-page book sheds light on the uniqueness of China's business leadership, the clash of old and new generation leaders and its transition to hybrid management leadership practices. Michael Barbalas, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said, ``Frank Gallo
He listed many cases that Western CEOs may encounter in doing business unless they fully study the delicacy of China's management practices.
The following are some features of China's unique business leadership that foreigners should learn before doing business in the world's fastest-growing economy. The features come from the executive summary made in each chapter of the book.
(1) It is naive to think that the best Western leadership practices can just be described and applied in China. China's cultural differences with the West make some practices very difficult to work with in China.
(2) Westerners usually have their eyes on the ends while Chinese leaders focus more on the means.
(3) One reason that China has special leadership needs is demographic. An entire generation of potential business leaders languished during the Cultural Revolution. Only a small percentage of that generation became business leaders. The result was a relatively young work population compared to that in the West. Another reason for China's inability to quickly develop leaders is cultural. Many of today's senior managers in China got their positions through personal struggle. They see this as the best way to get ahead and are not keen on developing special programs to develop new leaders.
(4) The Chinese sometimes see Western independence as ``showiness.'' Some Chinese have referred to the typical Westerner as a peacock ― flashy and beautiful to look at but without much strength or substance. Standing alone is an anathema to Chinese thinking.
(5) Chinese culture is deeply founded in Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. They were all suppressed during the Cultural Revolution but none were eradicated.
(6) Chinese leaders are expected to be nationalistic. While their bosses require allegiance to the firm, Chinese society also expects allegiance to the country.
(7) Leaders in China are expected to express themselves much less directly than those in the West. Indirectness implies thoughtfulness and also allows room for renegotiation after the fact.
(8) Face-saving has a deeper meaning in China than in the West. Many Chinese will go to great lengths either to save face or to save someone else's face.
(9) Leaders in China need to find the right balance between truth and courtesy and encourage employees to use both in a harmonious way.
(10) Both external experts and local business leaders define China as a low trust society. Chinese people are slow to trust their leaders.
(11) The Western concept of empowerment has been introduced to China without properly recognizing the inherent conflict with Confucian hierarchy. In order to make empowerment successful in China, a leader needs to learn to integrate these disparate concepts.
(12) Since China is historically both a family-run and a rural country, the theme of collectivism is strong. Unlike Western culture, which breeds individualists, Chinese culture breeds collectivists.
(13) Western legal systems are based on the rule of law. The Chinese system is primarily a rule of man.
(14) The Chinese are often accused of not being risk-takers or innovators due to the ``fear factor'' evident during the Cultural Revolution.
(15) Westerners believe in the value of making quick decisions and then taking action. Chinese want to be sure that all angles of an issue are reviewed first and all matters are thought through before coming to a conclusion. This process often involves going back to the beginning and starting the thinking and the discussion again. These two different approaches are sources of frustration for both parties.
(16) In China's short business history, using military discipline and punishment for mistakes, thus instilling a fear of humiliation, has been a typical approach to keep people motivated. The rewarding style of Western management is a bit alien to the Chinese way of thinking in business.
(17) Chinese teams are very strong. Team members are loyal to the team and committed to its success. There is a clear analogy with the Chinese family, the foundation of Chinese society.