Leadership and Leadership Development in China

  • Jessica Li
  • Yarong Wang
  • Feng Wu
Part of the Palgrave Studies of Internationalization in Emerging Markets book series (PSIEM)


China’s sprint to its position as the world’s second largest economy in part can be credited to the contribution of a productive workforce and effective leaders. The purpose of this chapter is to examine Chinese leadership styles from historical and cultural perspectives to provide an understanding of challenges faced in Chinese leadership development. We start with a review of Confucian-based Chinese cultural values that have influenced leadership values and behaviors. The section on cultural values is followed by discussions of the influence of the Communist Party and recent economic development on leadership and leader behaviors. Finally, leadership development in Chinese organizations is discussed on the basis of a literature review. Two examples are provided to illustrate how leadership development programs are implemented in Chinese business organizations.


Family Business Transformational Leadership Leadership Style Leadership Behavior Servant Leadership 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Assess-Systems (2015). Transforming succession planning, leadership development, and new-employee selection (White Paper). Retrieved from
  2. Aycan, Z., Kanungo, R. N., & Sinha, J. B. P. (1999). Organizational culture and human resource management practices: The model of culture fit. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 30(4), 501–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barbuto, J. E., & Wheeler, D. W. (2006). Scale development and construct clarification of servant leadership. Group & Organization Management, 31(3), 300–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barton, D. & Ye, M. (2013). Developing China’s business leaders: A conversation with Yingyi Qian. McKinsey Quarterly. Retrieved from
  5. Bernthal, P. R., Bondra, J., & Wang, W. (2006). Leadership in China: Keeping pace with a growing economy. Pittsburgh, PA: Developmental Dimensions International, Inc. (DDI).Google Scholar
  6. Boatman, J. & Wellins, R. S. (2011). Time for a leadership revolution: Global Leadership Forecast 2011. Retrieved from
  7. Branine, M. (2005). Cross-cultural training of managers: An evaluation of a management development program for Chinese managers. Journal of Management Development, 24(5), 459–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen, C. C., & Lee, Y. T. (2008). Leadership and management in China: Philosophies, theories and practices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chen, Y. F., & Tjosvold, D. (2006). Participative leadership by American and Chinese managers in China: The role of relationships. Journal of Management Studies, 43(8), 1728–1752.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chen, Y., & Zhang, L. (2010). Dilemmas of female leadership development and countermeasures. Female Leaders, 12, 44–46.Google Scholar
  11. Currie, G. (2007). Beyond our imagination: The voice of international students on the MBA. Management Learning, 38(5), 539–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ding, D. H., & Zhang, X. (2014). How entrepreneurial leadership affects technology company development. Northwestern Polytechnical University Journal, 12, 1–8.Google Scholar
  13. Erez, M., & Earley, P. (1993). Culture, self-identify, and work. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Farh, J. L., & Cheng, B. S. (2000). A cultural analysis of paternalistic leadership in Chinese organizations. In J. T. Li, A. S. Tsui, & E. Weldon (Eds.), Management and organizations in the Chinese context (pp. 84–127). London: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gao, H. (2014). Action learning models for corporate senior management team leadership integration enhancement. Shanghai Management Science, 6, 34–38.Google Scholar
  16. Gao, J., Arnulf, J. K., & Kristoffersen, H. (2011). Western leadership development and Chinese managers: Exploring the need for contextualization. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 27, 55–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Han, Y., Kakabadse, N. K., & Kakabadse, A. K. (2010). Servant leadership in the People’s Republic of China: A case study of the public sector. Journal of Management Development, 29(3), 265–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s consequences: International differences in work-related values. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  19. Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions and organizations across nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  20. Hofstede, G., & Peterson, M. F. (2000). Culture: National values and organizational practices. In N. M. Ashkanasy, C. P. M. Wilderom, & M. F. Peterson (Eds.), Handbook of organizational culture and climate (pp. 401–415). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  21. Hu, Z., & Khan, M. S. (1997). Economic issues 8: Why is China growing so fast? (IMF Staff Papers). Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund.Google Scholar
  22. Ip, P. K. (2011). Practical wisdom of Confucian ethical leadership: A critical inquiry. Journal of Management Development, 30(7), 685–696.Google Scholar
  23. Jiang, X., Chen, C. C., & Shi, K. (2011). Favor in exchange for trust? The role of subordinates’ attribution of supervisory favors. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 30, 513–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lang, L., Irby, B. J. & Brown, G. (2012). An emergent leadership model based Confucian virtues and East Asian leadership practices. International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 7(2), 1–14. Retrieved from
  25. Leung, K. (1997). Negotiation and reward allocations across cultures. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  26. Lin, L. H., & Ho, Y. L. (2009). Confucian dynamism, culture and ethical changes in Chinese societies: A comparative study of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 20(11), 2402–2417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Littrell, R. F. (2002). Desirable leadership behaviors of multi-cultural managers in China. Journal of Management development, 21(1), 5–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Liu, Y., & Zhao, S. M. (2010). China enterprise global leadership development. China Human Resource Development Journal, 237, 9–11.Google Scholar
  29. Ma, L., & Tsui, A. S. (2015). Traditional Chinese philosophies and contemporary leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 26, 13–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Marcus, M. (2004, October 25). Preparing high-potential staff for the step up to leadership. Canadian HR Reporter. Retrieved from percent 20high-potential percent 20staff percent 20for percent 20the percent 20step percent 20up percent 20to percent 20leadership
  31. McDonald, P. (2012). Confucian foundations to leadership: A study of Chinese business leaders across Greater China and South-East Asia. Asia Pacific Business Review, 18(4), 465–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pellegrini, E. K., & Scandura, T. A. (2008). Paternalistic leadership: A review and agenda for future research. Journal of Management, 34(3), 566–593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Qiao, J. X., Vicere, A. A. & Rothwell, W. J. (2008). Leadership development programs: Lessons learned from four case studies (Refereed Paper). Retrieved from
  34. Scarborough, J. (1998). The origins of cultural differences and their impact on management. Westport, CT: Quorum Books.Google Scholar
  35. Schmidt, C., Mansson, S., & Dolles, H. (2013). Managing talents for global leadership positions in MNCs: Responding to the challenges in China. Asian Business & Management, 12(4), 477–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Spreitzer, G., Perttula, K., & Xin, K. (2005). A cross-cultural analysis of the effectiveness of transformation leadership. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26(3), 205–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sun, H. F., & Huang, Y. M. (2012). The process mechanisms of leadership development for family business successors. Business Economics and Management, 7, 49–56.Google Scholar
  38. Tsui, A. S., & Farh, J. L. (1997). Where guanxi matters: Regional demography and guanxi in the Chinese context. Work and Occupations, 24(1), 56–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tu, W. M. (1993). Way, learning, and politics: Essays on the confucian intellectual. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  40. Wang, L. N., & Ma, Y. F. (2006). EQ and new leadership competencies. Science and Technology Management Research, 3, 115–117.Google Scholar
  41. Warner, M. (2008). Reassessing human resource management ‘with Chinese characteristics’: An overview. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 19(5), 771–801.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wen, M. W. (2009). Basic principle and general procedure of designing and implementing of leadership development programs. Economic Management Journal, 459, 60–65.Google Scholar
  43. Westwood, R. I. (1997). Harmony and patriarchy: The cultural basis for “paternalistic headship” among the overseas Chinese. Organization Studies, 18(3), 445–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Whalley, J. & Zhao, X. (2010). The contribution of human capital to China’s economic growth (NBER Working Paper No. 16592). Cambridge, MA. Retrieved from
  45. Winston, B., & Ryan, B. (2008). Servant leadership as a humane orientation: Using the GLOBE study construct of humane orientation to show that servant leadership is more global than Western. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 3(2), 212–222.Google Scholar
  46. Xue, Y. (2014). Talent management practices of selected human resource professionals in middle to large-sized manufacturing multinational companies in China. Doctoral dissertation. Retrieved from
  47. Yao, Y. H., & Yi, Z. J. (2006). Leadership competencies: A case study. Market Modernization, 480, 289–291.Google Scholar
  48. Yue, K. (2008). Cross-cultural management—A multinational perspective. Science and the Public, 2, 128–129.Google Scholar
  49. Zhang, Y., Chandrasekar, N. A. & Wei, R. R. (2009). Developing Chinese leaders in the 21st century. Singapore: Center for Creative Leadership. Retrieve from
  50. Zhang, H., Everett, A. M., Elkin, G., & Cone, M. H. (2012a). Authentic leadership theory development: Theorizing on Chinese philosophy. Asia Pacific Business Review, 18(4), 587–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zhang, X., Fu, P., Xi, Y., Li, L., Xu, L., Cao, C., et al. (2012b). Understanding indigenous leadership research: Explication and Chinese examples. The Leadership Quarterly, 23, 1063–1079.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zheng, Y. L., Chen, S. Y., & Lu, N. G. (2010). From training leaders to developing leadership: The transformation of theoretical perspectives for school principal training. Educational Science, 26(6), 1–7.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica Li
    • 1
  • Yarong Wang
    • 2
  • Feng Wu
    • 3
  1. 1.University of IllinoisChampaignUSA
  2. 2.Inner Mongolia University of Science and TechnologyBaotouChina
  3. 3.Peking UniversityBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations