Wednesday, 19 September 2012

People Strategies for Asia


   So my mate Dave will be out in Singapore by now for the Human Capital Summit taking place there today and tomorrow.

I attended the Summit last year but couldn’t make it this time around.  I will be trying to follow virtually but I don’t expect it to be that easy if the level of blogging and tweeting is anything like it was last year (ie very low).

If I do manage to follow along, there’ll be two particular topics I’ll be particularly interested in.  The first of these is ‘developing a culture of innovation in Asia’ which includes an input from the CIPD’s Peter Cheese (the good news is there’s no sign of Bridge (spit!) on the agenda).  It’ll be interesting if there is more evidence of radical Asian innovation than there was last year.

Secondly, I’ll be interested in the broader agenda of uniquely Asian leadership styles – which also got addressed last year but I thought could have been developed more deeply.  I agree leadership does need to look different there than here (and every other place as well).  But then there are a lot of different factors which influence leadership style and geography is only one of these.  So for example I still believe, as I explained last year, that my own management style probably fits with an Asian perspective better than it does an Anglo Saxon one.

Take this analysis by Dave, taken from a recent article on HRM Asia:

Table 1

Differences of Western and Eastern Business Approaches






Leading to allocation of resources today (short-term)

Leading to positioning the firm for the future (long-term)

Decision making

Fast to decide; longer to sell and implement

Slow to decide; but quick to implement


Personalised, and focused on “I”

Shared, and focused on “we”


High pay gap between senior executives and lower employees; Pay often based on performance

Smaller pay gap between senior executives and lower employees; Pay often based on tenure and position

Leadership philosophy

Hands on, walking ahead of people: “Leadership is done from in front. Never ask others to do what you, if challenged, would not be willing to do yourself.” – Xenophon, Athenian general, 350 BC

Hands off, walking behind people: “In order to guide people, the leader must put himself behind them. Thus when he is ahead they feel no hurt.” – Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher, 400 BC

Source: Adapted from Asian Leadership: What Works, edited by Dave Ulrich & Robert Sutton


All the things on the right resonate for me more strongly than those things on the left (you’ll even find posts on quite a lot of them).  Stereotypes can be useful but we shouldn’t forget that they are only that.


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