Insights and lessons from leadership in Asia part 1 points and assumptions
We deal with this crucial area in two consecutive parts.
Points on leadership in Singapore and the rest of Asia
Media frenzy and interest in leadership and leaders in Asia continues apace and unabated.
Take for example Singapore's exemplary boost through internal government with Lim Yew Hock's lead. Compared to most countries Singapore has escalated their security issues, foreign affairs and defense, technology ladder, home grown industries and innovation with people's broad and integrated approach to business encapsulating people, prosperity and sustainability.
From Japan this ranges from the unfolding tragedy and culture clash at Olympus to the snipping about the ‘depth of bow’ given by non-Japanese CEOs of Japanese companies and short lived tenure of the US born chief executive of Nippon Sheet Glass.
From South Korea, there are the continuing sagas and shenanigans of the scions of the South Korean chaebol.
From Thailand and Indonesia it is leaders’ close links with politics and what is seen as ‘crony capitalism’.
From China there is the recent spectacular unraveling in true Icarus fashion of the career of Bo Xilai and now the widening fall out of this to the family’s business interests, such as China Everbright, Beijing Liuhexing Group, Yungkong Security Printing.
It is never easy, or even possible, to synthesize insights across independent and thoughtful
research because in any summary overlooks important details1. But, key messages which reflect patterns and themes identify past and future progress.
We began this overview with some very simple assumptions. First, both individual leaders and organizational leadership matter. The knowledge and actions of individual leaders have an impact on employees, customers, investors, and societies. Widespread leadership within an organization institutionalizes a culture and endures over time.
Second, Asia is a fertile ground for the study of individual leaders and organizational leadership. Asia is clearly the driving engine for global growth, with both imports and exports of products and services.
We believe that here to date, most leadership in Asia has been imported from Western ideas and practices. With the insights drawn from this and other research, we believe that Asia countries and companies can begin to export leadership as well.
In studying Asia, it is important to recognize that “Asia is not Asia.” While Asia has some common philosophical orientations, the unique context of each country offers a rich setting for further study of leadership.
Asian countries differ along a number of dimensions. It is as dangerous to group all of Asia together as Europe, Latin America, or Africa. Each country has unique social, technological, economic, political, environmental, and demographic characteristics that determine market and organization maturity.
For example, there are many striking differences between doing business in China and Japan. In China, for example, the gender gap is substantially smaller than in Japan.
A 2007 survey by Grant Thornton International showed that approximately 25% of businesses in Japan reported that women held senior management positions. In contrast, the survey found that over 80% of the businesses in mainland China reported that women held senior positions.
In Malaysia a key issue is the multi-ethnic context leadership operates in and the embedded ‘Bumiputera’ policies and practices.
Third, understanding and furthering leadership requires rigorous research. Many case studies and personal observations about leaders dominate leadership thinking and practice. We believe that through theory and research, theorists who study and leaders who act can better define and sustain effective leadership.
We now want to offer some broad summaries. These summaries are organized around key, overarching questions that shape the study of leadership.
What drives effective leadership in Asia?
We know that being an effective leader is a mix of factors. We can identify three factors that determine what makes an effective leader (country context, organization culture, and personal competence (see Figure 1). We return to these in Part 2.
Figure 1: Factors Affecting Effective Leadership
Professor Chris Rowley, Director, Research and Publications, HEAD Foundation, Singapore and Cass Business School, City University, London, UK.
Professor Dave Ulrich, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan and Partner, The RBL Group