Chinese Leadership Development Strategies

Branine (2005) presented four training strategies worthy of consideration when conducting management development training in China. First is to adapt a learner-centered approach. Chinese leaders might be accustomed to a trainer-centered approach because they might want to focus on learning the content. To translate learned knowledge to daily leadership practices on the job requires the learner to complete the adaption and interpretation process. A learner-centered approach requires trainers to use a variety of training methods, including Chinese case studies and real-life projects.

Some researchers have found that for senior-level leaders, it might be necessary for organization to have a shared common set of competencies and personal traits regardless of national culture. In other words, cultural adaptation and localization of leadership development for senior leaders might not be necessary. Cultural adaptation only needs to be made at entry-level leadership development programs (Qiao, Rothwell, & Vicere, 2008; Schmidt et al., 2013). It should be pointed out that MNCs participating in the above two studies were mostly headquartered in Western societies; hence, the belief was that the Western leadership style would transcend national boundaries at the global leadership level. Moreover, MNCs tend to attract and recruit Chinese individuals who have adapted to the Western concept of leadership and who fit well with Western mindsets.

At this time when more and more Chinese MNCs are starting to operate in the global market how they adopt the Chinese culture to other societies is not yet well studied. To develop leaders who can lead Chinese MNCs to compete in the global market, cross-cultural work can be both rewarding and challenging. Doing business in another country and avoiding crosscultural conflict is an important skill. To resolve or avoid cultural-related conflict, Yue (2008) suggested to develop the following skills through cross-cultural training: ability to recognize cultural differences, interest in studying other cultures, and ability to develop an organizational culture that can integrate different national cultures.

As mentioned earlier, 360-degree evaluation might cause concern of potentially losing face. However, Wen (2009) recommended using it anyway. His argument is that without accurate assessment, it is difficult to develop effective individualized development plans. He believes that effective leadership development models must combine assessment, challenging assignments, and support. Assessment is the linchpin to determine what kind of challenge assignment and support are needed. Support is defined as establishing a guanxi network with other leaders for both short- and long-term support.

A joint research by the Center for Creative Leadership and China Europe International Business School (Zhang, Chandrasekar, & Wei, 2009) summarized three priority areas of leadership development in China: leading self, leading others, and leading the organization. Leading self includes developing management values, new knowledge, self-consciousness, perseverance, self-enhancement, sense of responsibility, and confidence; l eading others includes communication, motivating employees, team building, humanistic management, and confidence; leading an organization includes constructing systems and regulations, adapting to and changing management methods, customer orientation, planning, strategic decision, and skills for implementation and operation. They also reported that four clusters of techniques that can be effective in leadership development activities in China are: challenging assignments, developmental relationships, adverse situations, and personal events.

Moreover, as the Chinese companies continued to expand their operation in the global markets, interest in developing more female leaders has been growing. In study on female leadership development, Chen and Zhang (2010) argued that the development of female leaders in China should consider three aspects: working environment, female psychological characteristics, and social cultural environment. From the perspective of working environment, female leaders are often left out of key informal networking opportunities. It is because of Chinese traditional culture of gender inequality and lack of other female managers to make introduction. In a relationship-oriented social culture, missing out on these opportunities to build guanxi network, female managers may miss out on opportunities for promotion, interesting assignments, and so on. From the perspective of female psychological characteristics, women in the Chinese society are expected to be modest. That will cause the majority of female leaders not to aggressively or assertively seek job promotions and development opportunities. From the aspect of social cultural environment, gender discrimination in the labor market still exists and can strongly impact the number or proportion of female leaders in Chinese organizations. The development of female leaders in China requires active improvement and optimization of the organization environment that is conducive to female leadership development.

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