There appears to be a shortage of business leaders in China – or at least of people who can work effectively with multinationals in the global arena. The current talent squeeze and Sino-foreign corporate culture clashes came under the microscope at “Leading Through Change,” an event organized by CHINA ECONOMIC REVIEW in Shanghai in late March.
Making the keynote address, Dr Patrick Moreton, assistant dean and managing director of the Washington University-Fudan University EMBA Program, said the demand for international-standard leaders in China is only going to rise.
“One of the effects of a downturn in developed countries is that companies will come to China and turn the dial up,” Moreton said. “China is a core market now and is expected to deliver results.”
However, there are not enough local people to meet the demand. A much-quoted 2005 study by McKinsey, a consultancy, concluded that there were only 3,000-5,000 international-standard senior managers in China. While some critics have scorned this conclusion, Moreton endorsed it. He noted that many China-based EMBA programs have excess capacity because they turn away so many local candidates who don’t have the requisite “language skills or international exposure.”
The long-term solution is localization and engagement. This was a point of agreement for all speakers at the event, which featured representatives from recruitment consultancy Caliper and U21 Global, an online graduate school.
Success is dependent on creating an environment in which local staff can flourish and develop top-level leadership skills.
“Too many Western managers come here and don’t interact with normal Chinese people,” said Mark Lawrence, managing director of Caliper China. “The key is to have open communication and have all team members engaged.”