Chinese leadership and how it differs
from leadership in North America.
First, building strong bonds based on
collaboration, teamwork, dignity, and
trust is a key element of both Chinese
and North American leadership.
Second, like North American leaders,
leaders in China believe that one of
their main roles is to improve the
company; North American leaders,
however, place more value on experi-
mentation and taking risks. Finally,
although Chinese leaders believe it is
important to help others succeed, they
also believe that this is of secondary
importance. This finding departs from
Kouzes and Posner’s model and from
the beliefs of many North American
business leaders, who say that today’s
leaders must be coaches, facilitators,
and helpmates to enable others to
In another survey I looked at atti-
tudes toward leadership development
in Chinese firms. I pursued this issue
with a questionnaire to 172 senior
executives and top functional man-
agers working in SOEs, foreign-
invested enterprises, and private
Chinese firms.
Weldon, the H. Smith Richardson Jr.
Visiting Fellow at CCL in 2004, is a
professor in the School of Business at
the Hong Kong University of Science
and Technology. She holds a Ph.D.
degree from The Ohio State
Western companies continue to invest
in China, with many companies inte-
grating their Chinese operations into
their global strategies. These organiza-
tions, along with Chinese companies—
whether private or state-owned—all
need more-effective leaders.
The manager of a state-owned
enterprise (SOE) in China recently
approached me hoping to find a com-
petency model designed specifically
for China to guide leadership devel-
opment in his company. A compe-
tency model defines the skills, char-
acteristics, and behavior of an
effective leader.
Inspired by this and by the debate
about the differences between Western
and Chinese leadership, I did some
preliminary research using a North
American model of leadership devel-
oped by James Kouzes and Barry
Posner, coauthors of the best-selling
book The Leadership Challenge (now
in its third edition; Jossey-Bass, 2002).
From their descriptions of exemplary
leadership, I generated a list of lead-
ership behaviors and asked 103
midlevel and senior Chinese man-
agers to indicate how important each
behavior is to effective leadership in
their companies.
The results of this survey allow
three preliminary conclusions about
Overall, 51 percent strongly
agreed that developing people was
one of their company’s top three
objectives. However, only 15 percent
felt strongly that the managers in
their company knew how to do this
efficiently and effectively.
This illuminates three important
points. First, although managers
believe that developing the people
they lead is important, most of them
don’t know how to do it. Second, all
managers must learn how to develop
their people. And third, once man-
agers have the skills needed to
develop their people, they should be
held accountable for accomplishing
this task.
In a third short survey I found that
senior Chinese managers would like
to participate in the same types of
developmental experiences used in the
West, such as 360-degree feedback
and coaching. These Chinese man-
agers also want to be challenged and
believe they can learn from challenge.
This last point was borne out by
another survey I did of young, high-
potential Chinese managers. Overall,
the results showed that managers who
are allowed to take on new responsi-
bilities and tackle new tasks in their
daily work are more satisfied with
their opportunities to develop than
are those who are not given such
responsibilities and tasks.
It would appear therefore that
Western practices such as CCLs
approach to development (assess-
ment, challenge, and support) are
good models for China. Working with
local experts should help us tailor the
models to the Chinese context.
Building strong bonds is
a key element of both
Chinese and North
American leadership.

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