Different cultures can have radically different leadership and management styles, and if you want to do business cross-border, you better be fully cognizant of what it implies. While, American CEOs tend to adopt a more charismatic and innovative style and European leaders would opt for a participative and socially responsible approach, Chinese leaders, who have the reputation of a directive and didactic modus operandi, have evolved and become more people-centric and insightful.
Western Leadership : Influential and ethical
Western leadership principles have been focusing on elements such as profits, human relationships, and long term strategic planning. Whether in Europe or USA, employers emphasize the value of respecting employees, valuing their contribution and promoting their career development. Now what about the personality of those business leaders? Nowadays, U.S. executives are usually known to be charismatic and influential, whose fame and force of personality impress the global business landscape as well as the media! Charismatic leadership has come to be the ideal for American businesses: Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos incarnate those magnetic leaders!
The business culture in Europe may be a bit less star-focused but EU leaders believe in effective and ethical leadership incorporating a more participative governance model. Corporate Responsibility is not a fad, but an imperative for the European counterparts like Stanislas de Quercize (CEO of Cartier), Timotheus Höttges (Deutsche Telekom), Jean-Paul Agon (L’Oreal), and Gérard Mestrallet (Engie ex-GDF Suez), just to name a few, who value above all sustainable business growth.
Chinese Leadership : Ying and Yang
Profit was seen as contrary to the righteousness of mainstream Confucian teachings. Traditional Chinese leadership principles include considering ethical aspects above the achievement of profit but also comprise leading by example in terms of promoting equality, simple living and harmony. Today, Chinese workplaces have evolved and the concepts of leadership too. Long gone are the days when the social and cultural environment in China was extremely hostile to private enterprises. By integrating methods from Western management approaches, through education abroad and exposure to Western organisations present in China, Chinese leadership paradigms have changed but without losing sight of their rich cultural heritage.
There may still be major disparities like for example, political connections and family control tend to be more common in Asian businesses, unlike Westerners who groom their successors from talented employees in the workforce instead. Yet, Chinese business leaders including Jack Ma (Alibaba), Lei Jun (Xiaomi), Ma Huateng (Tencent) and Wang Jianlin (Wanda) have successfully reversed the prevailing cultural prejudice.
While the leadership style of Westerners haven’t evolved much in the last decade, the new generation of Chinese leaders have made a great leap forward by taking the best from traditional Chinese and Western leadership styles.
In fact, Global Business leaders can really make a difference in the way corporations affect the world. Clearly, no one leadership model is a universal remedy. But nowadays, CEOs are expected to adopt a more people-focused, ethical, innovative, long-term thinking and planning approach, and providing for the interests of a broad range of stakeholders, including the environment and future generations. Well, it is no easy job, as Globalization and major global concerns keep challenging leadership styles and practices as a whole!
What other qualities do you expect to see in Global Business Leaders? Share your thoughts!
Picture above: Courtesy of Brainsonic ©