Business schools wouldn’t acknowledge the Chinese management style. The popular classifications of various styles of management also don’t consider the Chinese management style because the focus is on universal styles of leadership or management. The Chinese management style is not universal. It is only applicable to Chinese businesses that treasure their cultural and societal values.
The Chinese management style emerges from the Confucian philosophy. According to the philosophy, relationships are supposed to be unequal and these inequalities are not to be questioned or rejected but respected. In traditional societies like China and India, longstanding customs and certain societal principles are to be upheld always.
Type of Leadership
The Chinese management style is not very different from what the west acknowledges as the patriarchal type of leadership. There is a decision maker who is generally the business owner or the senior most manager and everyone else is a subordinate. The entire company’s workforce is broken down into a structured hierarchy, which can be called bureaucracy. The decision maker has all the power and everyone must respect that. No one has the authority or autonomy to question the decision maker and everyone must fall in line with whatever has been decided at the very top.
Subordinates are supposed to respect their seniors, no matter what. They are not supposed to question or even doubt the decisions or standpoints taken by their seniors. The subordinates are supposed to blindly follow the orders of the seniors, even if they know the orders are wrong. The element of seniority determines everything in the Chinese management style. It doesn’t believe in equality, meritocracy or access to information for all. Only the select few or the topmost executives will have the knowledge and a view of the larger picture.
Authority is Important
Over the years, the Chinese management style has evolved but the element of seniority and the centralization of power still remains unmoved. Tenure or years of experience matters more than achievement. Seniority matters more than fairness. Authority matters more than freedom, autonomy or flexibility.
Largely patriarchal, mostly dictatorial and always directive, such are the quintessential attributes of the Chinese management style. While the elements of this management style may not make much sense to those who are believers of more open, free and frank work environments and participative leadership styles, the same applies to Chinese managers, leaders and business owners as well. They don’t find the western philosophies or principles to be worthwhile or worth endorsing.