The paper "Leadership Styles in China" is a worthy example of a management essay. Leadership refers to the steering body of any organization whether social, political or business related. Thus, studies on leadership have far-reaching importance in all fields of management, psychology, communication, etc. especially on a closer level in workplace situations (Pittinsky & Zhu, 2005). Here, this essay attempts to study the various perspectives of leadership in non-western cultures like Chinese. Special reference has been made to several studies and theoretical basis provided by Confucius and other leadership theories.
Study of Confucianism is very essential as it has articulately influenced and shaped various elements of Chinese cultural fabric (Bond & Hwang, 1986; Fairbank & Reischauer. 1973; Pye, 1988; Tu, 1985). Moreover, the important lessons provided by these leadership theories are of great importance to managers who run organizations (Lin, 2008). Confucianism promotes a paternalistic pattern of leadership and governance where the authority treats his subordinates with care and concern along with providing directives to perform the respective tasks. This practice of showing sympathy, trust, forgiveness towards its juniors makes them build synergistic relationships with their followers who prefer kind hearted and considerate leaders (Hsu, 1982; Redding, 1990).
There are several elements which define Confucianism style of leadership. However, broadly they can be discussed under the categories of moral obligations, a hierarchical span of authority and large power distance, direction setter, and decision-maker, and face-saving tactics. When referring to the moral obligation under Confucianism, it explains that for a leader to be accepted in a place of authority he needs to set up a status of morally superior personality as the first and foremost requirement.
A morally superior personality is one who is self-displined, courageous, wise, dependable, conforms to the norms and duties laid down by institutions and has contributed to the society on the whole (Lau, 1992). One leader has been accepted in the position of authority, he is expected to respect the leader-follower relationship and assert his authority (G. M. Chen & Chung, 1994). This attachment to dyad relationship where one is a leader and the other a follower has emerged out of a culture where the society is divided into various strata or levels and consequently has a large power distance (Chen, 1995) between the superior and the subordinates.
Firstly, this authority is exercised in the form of setting directives (Dorfman et al. , 1997) and assigning tasks to the followers which strengthen the dependability and reliability of a particular leader and hence generates trust and respect towards him. Secondly, the ability to make centralized decision futher reinforces the authority position of a leader as described under Confucianism (Javidan et al. , 2006). Moreover, the need and importance for a leader to maintain cordial ties with its subordinates lead to ‘ face saving tactics’ as described under Confucianism.
This makes a leader more inclined towards the workers’ or followers’ welfare and sometimes at the cost of accomplishment of a task (G. M. Chen & Chung, 1994, p. 101). A similar approach is followed by the subordinates towards their bosses too where they do not voice out their opinions against their leaders, provide compliments and often try to appease their leaders which is also a type of face saving of their superiors (Redding, 1990).
The above factors which define and constitute a Confucius leadership theory have similarly but uniquely illustrated by another great strategic leadership premise put forward by Sun Tzu. Quite analogous to Confucianism which emphasizes harmony and authority, this leadership theory also proposes a balance to be maintained between commanding the followers and taking care of their welfare and needs. This theory also emphasizes assortment to deception as a strategy, gathering extensive market information (Peters, 1987) and an attempt to avoid a head-on collision with a competitor. It promotes the need for flexibility in leadership strategies (Mintzberg, 1987) so as to mold itself into the diversity of various situations along with a strong sense of determination towards mission by the group which depends on the direction setting abilities of a leader.
Although the non-western leadership theories have to lead to the success of many large organizations, some aspects of it are opposed by western cultures. For instance, western culture prefers direct communication and objective reporting rather than face saving (Gamble & Gibson, 1999) and that it considers the use of deception as a leadership strategy to be unethical (Rarick, 1996).
The above discussion thus lays down certain essential insights for managers who lead and monitor their teams. This essay highlights the significance of ethical and moral responsibility of a leader (Shafer et al. , 2007) as is his relationship building accumen in an organizational context. Also, an important lesson is to avoid a direct confrontation strategy (e. g., Fu & Yukl, 2000) which can seem to be a bureaucratic style of leadership (Mao, 1938/1967). However, a balance needs to be maintained in cases where there indeed is a need for clear and transparent dialogue which should not be complicated using extreme face-saving manipulations.