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Status more important to Chinese than Western leaders

Research finds key differences in leadership styles on cross-cultural assignments 

22 January 2013

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Chinese managers are more collaborative in decision making and supportive of team efforts than Western managers, an international study has found.

But, it also found that Chinese managers are more concerned about how personal appearances and office space reflect on their status.

The findings are based on a survey of 992 Mainland Chinese managers, which were then compared to responses from managers in the US, Germany and Australia.

The research found the Chinese managerial style to be more collaborative in decision making and supportive of team efforts than the Western style, as well as more task oriented and process driven.

In addition, Chinese managers scored highly for altruism, indicating a greater concern for group welfare and a belief that their work is part of a larger enterprise or initiative.

But, when considering their motives, values and preferences, Chinese managers also scored highly for aesthetics, signifying a higher concern and vigilance about how personal appearances, physical surroundings and reputation reflect on their status.

During times of crisis – when making important decisions or in other stress-inducing situations – four traits were identified which distinguish Chinese managers from others: excitable, reserved, bold and dutiful.

“Although organisations tend to favour a one-size-fits-all approach to talent management, such a strategy fails to account for the numerous – and significant – differences that Chinese managers display in their leadership styles,” said Jarrett Shalhoop, senior consultant, global alliances at personality assessment provider Hogan Assessments and co-author of the research.

“When selecting leaders for cross-cultural assignments, it is integral to understand these differences to ensure that the right leader is placed into a position for which their management style will bring about positive results for their team and the organisation as a whole.”

The research by Shalhoop and Michael Sanger explored the nature of Chinese leadership through the lens of personality and values and explained how these differ from leadership styles of three countries with large trade interests in China: the US, Germany and Australia.

It suggests that, when selecting managers for cross-cultural assignments, firms should consider the different traits and behaviours inherent in Chinese and Western managers and how these play out with their direct reports and colleagues.

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