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Title: Cross-cultural leadership development in China
Author: Petersen, Daniel Martin Agerbech
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 9783
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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This dissertation focuses on Western cross-cultural leadership development initiatives in China. The aim of the study is to understand and improve the practice of Western enterprises conducting business in the Chinese market. The research approach adopted included a qualitative exploratory interview investigation with 5 companies in the following industries: oil and gas; shipping and logistics; retail; fast-moving consumer goods; and banking. In total, 24 Chinese high-potential employees and 7 representatives for the companies' global leadership development strategy were interviewed. The dissertation sets the stage with a historical overview of 6 prevailing leadership paradigms in modern management. This is followed by the central philosophies of Chinese leadership. Finally, relevant literature on leadership development in China and the West is reviewed. Throughout the literature review, gaps in the research are identified and discussed which inform the methodological framework of the study. Through a phenomenographic analysis, the data of this study are grouped into categories of descriptions containing different views on effective leadership and leadership development. The findings from this research provide evidence that the conceptualisations of leadership and leadership development amongst the interviewees are multifaceted and the interviewees occasionally step in and out of different views, and thus they adhere to multiple conceptions. The main conclusions related to leadership conceptions drawn by this study are as follows: (i) Chinese managers in Western companies conceptualise leadership with reference to 'Western' and 'Chinese' leadership styles; (ii) Chinese managers tending to agree with all 6 paradigms connect to the principles of Daoism; (iii) Chinese managers' holistic manner of conceptualising leadership is considered unfocused and vague by Western headquarters; (iv) the lack of alignment in conceptualisations of leadership causes Western headquarters to hesitate in promoting Chinese managers to senior management positions; and (v) Chinese managers report the importance of 'care' and 'guanxi' in Chinese companies. The Chinese managers described Chinese leaders as caring, warm, and paternal; by contrast, care in Western companies was associated purely with professional support. The main conclusions related to leadership development drawn by this study are as follows: (i) Chinese managers and headquarters perceive leadership development as both formal classroom teaching as well as social interaction in daily work; (ii) whilst some companies practice a globally centralised approach to leadership development, others modify their programmes to a Chinese context; (iii) Chinese managers perceive pedagogical approaches to leadership development tailored to a Chinese culture as successful; in particular, initiatives such as rotation schemes, exposure to senior management, rigorous individual development plans, mentoring, and group work structures outbalancing power differences are perceived positively; and (iv) among the unsuccessful approaches mentioned is a lack of investment in tailoring pedagogical initiatives to a Chinese context. Such approaches created a lack of purpose and unclear criteria. This study concludes that enhancing alignment is particularly crucial, as is the mutual understanding of leadership and leadership development conceptions when developing leaders cross-culturally in China.
Supervisor: Vermunt, Jan ; Goodall, Keith Sponsor: Laurits Andersens Foundation ; Augustinus Foundation ; Queens' College ; Knud Højgaards Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Leadership ; Leadership development ; Culture ; Cross-cultural management ; Management ; China ; Cross-cultural leadership ; Organisation ; Chinese philosophy ; Fortune 500 ; Chinese culture ; Organisational behaviour ; Education ; Chinese Education ; Training & Developement ; Leadership development programmes ; Strategy ; Organisational strategy