Marketing Idea No. 290: Rise of the Asian Leader

There is an ongoing debate about why Asian American students outpace the other ethnic groups in academic performances. The most publicized attempt to answer that question — a few years ago, by Yale Law School professor Amy Chua — set off a controversy that rages to this day. While there are different school of thoughts, the most reliable one that is presented so far is the hard work and commitment that the Asian students and their parents are willing to provide to get the superior results. But for the world of management, this opens up a new dimension because whatever the reason may be, the Asians do bring to the table a different set of personality and leadership traits that can make them the perfect complement to Western style of management.

This is counter intuitive to the popularly held belief which states that Asian managers don’t have the perfect combination of killer instinct, charismatic leadership skills and strategic know-how to be the leader of tomorrow. That may be true, but what they DO have is something that is far more relevant in terms of the kind of future leaders the world will look into. And these key traits are built into the DNA of these Asian leaders by the very cultural fabric where they grew up with.

 

Attribute 1: Understanding “Long Term” view

The true understanding of “Good things come to those who waits” is something that Asian people are always taught vis a vis the “Seize the Day” and “Instant Gratification” mentality of western society. Asians are already some of the world’s biggest savers for a rainy day. The offshoot of such practice is the true long term view Asian people have, which makes them perfectly suitable for strategic roles such as CEO. While the entire world is suffering from an “Attention Deficit Disorder” and looking for the quick fixes everywhere to hold on to their attention, the true long term practitioner like Asians can be the voice of reason and the true visionary in the middle of the chaos and relentless pressure to deliver everything right now.

 

Attribute 2: The “Survivor” mentality

Asians have survived everything. They survived the colonial oppression, the natural disasters, the poverty, corruption and poor infrastructure, becoming rich quickly and the subsequent problems that come with it. They even survived themselves. So persistence is something an Asian leader can preach, because he has already practiced it. As the world lives on the edge, bouncing from one economic crisis to another political crisis, the dogged survivor mentality of Asian leaders can help the companies who are in trouble, to dig themselves out of the hole.

 

Attribute 3: The humble quotient

The role of the transformation leader sweeping his way in and singlehanded saving a company is over stated, misguided and extremely rare. The era of the dictator leader saying, my way or the high way, is over. In future, the leader has to be shrewd enough to stay two steps ahead yet know in his mind that he is no miracle worker. He would need the help of everyone in the organization to make his views come to life. So the future leader of the world needs to be humble and accepting of others points of view. In fact, the future leader has to cajole the buying in of everyone to make his strategies executed. And who better to adopt that servant leader role than the Asian, who are taught from the get go how to be grounded, humble, accepting of other points of view. Really valuing employee’s contribution as well as making the employees feel valued will be the critical differentiators which will tip the balance towards Asian leaders.

The sound of Asian leaders invading the organization is getting louder. If we take just one ethnicity, Indian, as an example; the following Fortune 500 companies – Pepsi, Microsoft, MasterCard, Deutsche Bank, Adobe Systems, Reckitt Benckiser, Diageo – all have Indian heads.

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