The Key Leadership Concept That Many Chinese Professionals
Need To Understand Better
Over the years, I’ve seen the agenda for many leadership training courses and workshops that are brought here to China from more mature overseas markets. The training emphasis is often on effective leadership styles, techniques, and characteristics. They focus on key leaderships areas, such as how to build a team culture, motivate team members, or define and communicate your main objectives as a leader.
But for most Chinese professionals, the first thing they need to learn and understand to become effective leaders is the most basic concept for successfully leading others. And that concept is, Your Team’s Success Is Your Success. For many, like me, who were raised abroad and played a lot of team sports while growing up, the concept of team is engrained at an early age. We participate in many team situations and group activities. Those who come up through the education system here, however, achieve their success strictly and entirely through individual effort. As a result, the concept and dynamics of a team are not nurtured or as familiar.
This emphasis on individual achievement continues during the first few years of their career as individual contributors, as accountants, engineers, developers, sales, etc. When they reach a stage in their career to take on management and leadership responsibilities, the shift they must make from an individual to a team orientation is significant and dramatic.
The Right Mindset And Approach For Leading Others
In sharing his own story of achieving his success as a leader, one executive told me that his career didn’t exactly begin on a fast track. He wasn’t part of an international company environment, and didn’t have someone to help guide his career early on. Instead, he earned his opportunities and success the old fashion way, through hard work and by taking on and meeting challenges.
His first job was with a steel manufacturing state-owned enterprise (SOE), where he spent several years in roles that included electricity control in a plant, importing parts and equipment, and installing a production line. Later, he joined a small European company where he sold electrical control systems and initially faced difficulties communicating with his overseas colleagues. But from that experience, he improved his communication and project management skills.
His career took off a few years later when he joined an equipment distribution company as a regional manager looking after the sales and operations of the parts business. The new position allowed him to show his leadership sense and capabilities. Within six months, his division surpassed the performance of all others in the company.
“Actually, I don’t feel I was smarter or better than the other supervisors at my level,” he confesses. “The difference was in my approach to my role as a manager. For instance, there was another supervisor who kept information and his expertise to himself. He had the mentality of many mainland professionals who believe they’re creating competition for themselves if they help those under them to improve and become successful.
“I knew my objective, however, wasn’t to be a number one sales person, but to be an excellent sales manager. To do this, teamwork was essential to achieving our targets. So I focused on the training and development of my staff and letting them know I was 100% committed to their success.
Give Away What You Know To Create Bigger Opportunities For Yourself
“Because of how they achieve success early on, many Chinese professionals believe possessing information and knowledge is power. However, when you’re being given targets that only a team can achieve, you can’t do everything yourself. To build a successful team or organization, your objective has to be to develop your people as fast as you can. As a result, whatever I have I give away. I tell my subordinates that for their own career success they’ll be given more chances to do bigger jobs if they give chances to others and invest in training up others.”
For most people who go from an individual contributor to a team leader role, the natural tendency is to continue to rely on yourself to achieve results and control situations. But both the bigger objectives and fundamental model for success for someone who leads others shifts dramatically, where you can no longer handle everything on your own. Instead, you have to rely on the performance of those you’re supervising. As a result, it’s your development of their capabilities and investment in their success that’s the key to creating your own success.