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Leadership in Asia
Challenges, Opportunities, and Strategies from Top Global Leaders
By DAVE ULRICH
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2010Ministry of Manpower (Singapore) and Dave Ulrich
All rights reserved.
Introduction Leadership in Asia
The Asian region has grown exponentially in the last decade. It has been described as a juggernaut because what happens in Asia affects the world. As Asian countries, industries and organizations undergo economic, social, technological and demographic changes, the quality of leadership will be a key to responding to those challenges. In numerous surveys of CEOs and political leaders about the primary challenges in securing their future, the importance of building future leaders is cited. Countries and companies with high-quality leaders will make choices to enable them to anticipate and respond more rapidly to change.
There are many ways to figure out what it means to have high-quality leaders who respond to unique Asian challenges. Some collect large data sets to offer empirical evidence about what Asian leaders need to learn and accomplish. Others have relied more on in-depth case studies to spotlight excellent Asian leaders and to generalize principles from these exemplars. Others have crafted thoughtful theories that define quality of leadership in the Asian context. Each of these approaches begins with an understanding of what is unique about Asia. While general leadership principles may apply across time, geographies and industries, it is important to adapt these principles to the unique context of Asian commercial, private and government organizations.
To articulate future leadership requirements for Asian organizations, the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) sponsored an Executive Roundtable. Attendees were a mix of industry CEOs throughout Asia with extensive expertise, academics who had done theory building and research on leadership in the Asian context and consultants who had translated ideas into practice throughout Asia. The question that these thought leaders addressed was: "How do we build leadership and human capital in Asia to help companies succeed?" The intent of this Roundtable was to generate ideas that would capture emerging trends and themes in Asian leadership.
Participants in this Roundtable were essentially an Asian leadership focus group. Each participant brought unique expertise to the challenge of building leadership in Asia that helps companies to succeed. Each of the CEOs presented some of his or her business challenges, then talked about what these challenges suggested for leadership to be able to respond. Each of the thought leaders (academics and consultants) shared their theory, research and experience in helping Asian firms build leadership and human capital for business success. Collectively, the shared insight of industry and government executives (with deep knowledge about their company and industry) and of academics and consultants (with theory and research across firms) offer a unified perspective on what effective leadership means in the Asian context.
This volume is a compilation of the ideas shared by these thought leaders. Each individual contributor has been asked to capture from his or her experience – either inside a company as a business leader or across companies as a consultant or academic – the key insight that determines effective Asian leadership for the future.
To frame the scope of effective leadership in Asia, we need to clarify a few terms. Leadership is not just the individual or executive team at the top of the organization. Leadership is a capability shared throughout the organization and individuals who work as business, country or function managers may operate as leaders. Anyone who is charged with getting work done by guiding the behaviors of others would be considered a leader. This definition obviously includes senior executives whose decisions may affect hundreds or thousands of employees throughout an organization. It also would include a leader of a new product who is charged to bring together individuals to design and deliver a product or service. It might include the head of finance, IT or HR staff area responsible for accomplishing work through combining the skills of others. It might include a country manager who shapes a strategy for doing business in an emerging or a mature market. Leadership is by definition a team sport, which requires coordinating the action of individuals towards a common goal.
It is also important to realize that "Asia" is an amalgamation of countries, companies, cultures and contexts. India, Japan, Malaysia, China, South Korea, Singapore and the Philippines are enormously different. These countries differ by cultural heritage, political systems, population demographics, social structures and levels of economic maturity. It is difficult, if not impossible, to create a uniform "Asian" view of leadership that applies equally in each country.
Nevertheless, there are some common principles that apply to the Asian context more than North America, Europe, the Middle East or Latin America. Understanding the unique setting of Asia business offers a perspective on the leadership insight shared in this volume. One of the temptations is to compare and contrast "Asian" leadership with "European, North American or another region's" leadership and suggest that one is better (or worse) than the other. What we believe is that global learning on leadership will help leaders to respond to paradoxes. For example, it is not just that organizations might move from entrepreneurial (more innovative and creative) to managerial (disciplined and process driven) leadership, but to learn how to do both. As we review eight unique characteristics of the Asian context, we want to highlight the paradoxes that this setting may pose for future Asian leaders. These eight Asian Leadership Paradoxes are the issues that the thought leaders address in their chapters for this book. These are the ideas around which Asian leaders of the future will develop capacity and insight. These paradoxes will become the criteria for how Asian leaders anticipate and respond to changing business conditions (see Table 1.1).
1. Organization type: Asian organizations represent multiple organization types
Traditionally, large Asian organizations were either State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) or Privately Owned Enterprises (POEs). SOEs not only operated in the public sector, but also had influence in energy, media, communications, financial service and other domains of the more traditional private sector. Many of the stereotypical images of the traditional Asian organization would be pegged to these SOEs: large, bureaucratic, hierarchical and slow moving. In addition to these large SOEs, many Asian organizations were small family businesses (POEs) serving a local community clientele.
In recent years, organization types have evolved in the Asian business landscape. Privately Owned Enterprises (POEs) have shifted from small family businesses with individual entrepreneurs and expanded to become larger national, regional and at times global POEs. These POEs often start out (and continue) as family-based businesses, with a strong-willed, dynamic and risk-taking entrepreneur who establishes and grows a business. These businesses move quickly into new markets and pass from generation to generation through family connections. Traditionally, they have been small shops, restaurants, or other consumer or service enterprises. Today, POEs have grown up in almost every industry and many are large, global and multigenerational. Different countries experience different versions of POEs. In Singapore, most of the privately owned enterprises are family owned. However, in China, quite a number of privately owned enterprises are nonfamily owned but founded by a group of cofounders (due to limited funding and expertise of entrepreneurs in that period of China).
Excerpted from Leadership in Asia by DAVE ULRICH. Copyright © 2010 by Ministry of Manpower (Singapore) and Dave Ulrich. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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