Still Time for the Tao of China
It is impressive enough to unite the collective reasoning power and expertise of Peter Cappelli, Harbir Singh and Michael Useem. It’s another thing to do it twice.
“The Tao of China” is an ongoing project aimed at understanding the distinctive leadership skills of individuals running China’s S&P 500-sized, private business enterprises.
The three Wharton researchers, along with Neng Liang of the China Europe International Business School, are only about halfway done—as of this writing, they have completed 45 interviews out of the 100+ goal—but they already gained preliminary insights and are willing to share. Some takeaways include:
- China’s business pioneers learned to lead by doing. “In building businesses in China, in a sense, you don’t have role models,” says Useem, Wharton’s William and Jacalyn Egan Professor of Management and director of its Center for Leadership and Change Management.
- “Emphasis on human talent cannot be overstressed. Some of the interviewed business leaders stressed how talent is more important to them than shareholders or customers,” reports Cappelli, the George W. Taylor Professor of Management and director of the Center for Human Resources. “Get the personnel right, and everything else falls into line.” Asia Kartik Hosanagar, an associate professor specializing in Internet commerce, taught a Wharton Lifelong Learning master class in Mumbai on Jan. 6, 2014, about tech entrepreneurship and venture capital in India. It complemented a day-long intensive course earlier the same day, “Idea to IPO.”
- Strategy, culture to drive it, then the government. Useem has found relationships with government officials to be important to Chinese business leaders, but not as significant as assumed.
- Managing “death-defying” growth. Big Chinese firms are growing at rates unseen in the U.S. except in the very high tech sector. They’re hiring and opening operations aggressively. Says Singh, Mack Professor of Management, Mack Institute co-director and vice dean of Global Initiatives, “That’s put a premium on leading and managing through very rapid growth.”
The project emerged in part out of Executive Education courses that Singh, Useem and Neng Liang have taught for several years. They have had many Chinese board members and executives as pupils. They’ve listened to their students’ experiences and issues.
“So through direct contact,” Useem says, “curiosity got the best of us.”
The “Tao of China” also builds off a prior project about another country’s business leadership principles—“The India Way”—the first time this research trio teamed up.
For “Tao of China,” Useem expects that they will wrap up interviews before year’s end, after which they’ll publish their findings in articles and ultimately a book.
Link to us: Learn more about the “Tao of China” and “The India Way.”
Doing Double-Duty in Mumbai
Kartik Hosanagar, an associate professor specializing in Internet commerce, taught a Wharton Lifelong Learning master class in Mumbai on Jan. 6, 2014, about tech entrepreneurship and venture capital in India. It complemented a day-long intensive course earlier the same day, “Idea to IPO.”