Page 2 - VOICEJanuary2015

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“An army of a thousand is easy to find, but, ah,
how difficult to find a general.” (Chinese Proverb)
In 2013, Deloitte reported that many multi-nationals are
making China their “second headquarters.” This growth
of China’s influence in the world economy, including its
expanding outbound programme, means that, for China
and the West, finding ways of working effectively togeth-
er in a global business environment is critical to sustaina-
ble success. This has long been recognised in areas like
product innovation, knowledge sharing and supply chain
management where working practices are, in many cases,
well developed. However, less attention has been paid to
the development of Chinese leaders so that they can lead
and work effectively in a global business environment.
In a recent Global Leadership Study; HR Executives were
asked about the most challenging elements of preparing
Chinese leaders to work effectively in the global business
economy. They highlighted a need for the following:
• An understanding of foreign cultures and how to be-
have and interact with people from these cultures
• Enabling leaders to shift from a technical to a behav-
ioural leadership style and provide more inspirational
leadership
• Encouraging leaders to use coaching skills to encour-
age more independent thinking among their people and
create faster decision making through empowerment,
transparency and communication
• Supporting leaders in global setting to build and foster
more personal relationships and thereby generate more
depth in their relationships
• Preparing leaders to think more strategically, have a
broader picture and lead according to a more engaging
business vision.
So, the need to develop a pipeline of Chinese leaders is
more pressing than ever. The ability of both the West and
China to satisfy this need however faces a number of is-
sues.
The first issue is developing a succession planning strate-
gy in China. The model of appointing ex-pats to senior
leadership positions continues to be the option for many
organisations. In many cases this works very well and
provides a rich mix of cross-cultural talent. However, it’s
worth considering whether or not the ex-pat model is
sending a signal to local Chinese leaders that there is a
glass ceiling
for them in the organisation or even, perhaps
worse, that they are not trusted in these positions. The
requirement, therefore, is for a model that can match the
advantages of ex-pat presence, while at the same time
encouraging and nurturing the development of talented
Chinese leaders. This is not always an easy balance to
strike but is more likely to happen when this strategy is
supported by the organisation’s senior leaders based in
both in China and the West.
Another issue is the common perception that competition
for talented resource is driven by the offer of higher sala-
ries. However, “salary driven churn” is ultimately unsus-
tainable and is already slowing down in some areas. It is
also true that organisations can ultimately have little con-
trol over a demand led market when it comes to salary
levels. So focusing on what you do have control over,
such as the development of local talent, is a more attrac-
tive option. The organisations that recognise this will
have a better chance of attracting and – importantly -
retaining the leaders that they need for the success of
their organisation in China.
In addition, the demands of effective business leadership
and management in China are changing as its market
opens up further. For Chinese leaders to operate effec-
tively in a global business environment they need to de-
velop different skills to the ones that have overseen Chi-
na’s impressive growth over the last three decades,
which often emphasise direction and control rather than
inspiration and delegation. The initial approach to devel-
oping the leadership and management skills and compe-
tencies in many cases in China has been to follow a route
well known in the West, such as Business School develop-
ment programmes and in particular MBAs. In 2010 China
Daily reported that 36,000 students were enrolled in
MBA programmes across the country and in 2012 the
figure was 30% higher – a trend that is continuing in the
growing number of Chinese business schools and pro-
grammes offered by Western educational institutions.
The business school approach to equipping Chinese man-
agers with a variety of leadership and management tools
is important; however, while the intellectual rigour of the
programmes fits well with the traditional Chinese ap-
proach to education, on its own it does not guarantee
effective management practices.
There is a difference between amassing learning, and
translating that learning into actual behavioural change
and effective leadership, a fact recognised by Yingyi Qian,
Dean of Tsinguha University’s School of Economics and
So focusing on what you do have
control over, such as the development
of local talent, is a more attractive
option.”
The Development of Chinese
Leaders in Global Organisations
The organisations that recognise
this will have a better chance of
attracting and – importantly -
retaining the leaders that they need
for the success of their organisation
in China.”