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Being a leader in the Chinese culture carries a different meaning than in the Western world, says Karsten Schmidt, Managing Director at KommS Consulting and China veteran. 

If you come to China to lead teams and people, it’s important to know the different cultural aspects of leadership. 

1. Be Hands On

"As a Westerner, if you for example tell a German, an American, or a British, to do something a specific way, they might not like you as a boss. It feels like micro-managing. They think you don’t trust them," says Karsten.  

In China the role of a boss is different. He or she is more like a father figure and the employees, especially more traditional Chinese, expect the boss to tell them exactly what to do. 

It’s also important to follow up on the process. If you give someone a task, keep a close eye and check in often to ask how far they are, what have they done so far. A Chinese employee will not take it the wrong way; they actually appreciate that as a caring gesture. 

If not, you might give someone a task and then four weeks later check in thinking it’s more or less finished, when in fact nothing is done. A Chinese employee may not even come to you and ask what to do because it’s losing face and taking this kind of initiative is not very normal in China. 


2. Show You Care On A Personal Level

The same goes for a lot of Western bosses who come to China and aren't culturally sensitive about the need to be a 'fatherly figure', making their employees unhappy. 

We did a survey among Chinese managers about the reasons they leave a company and many were unhappy with Western bosses, figuring they don't care about them on a more personal level. 

"I interviewed one Chinese manager," said Karsten, "who said 'this American boss doesn’t care about us, she just sits in the office working, she never comes out to talk to us, never asks about our family.' If that Chinese person knew that for a Western person such behavior is rather normal, it would be ok. But the employee expects more of a fatherly figure, and the risk is the employee may leave your company because they don’t feel appreciated." 

"If you’re in China, you have to know your leadership role, how to really take care of your employees, otherwise you may not be successful."

See more about Karsten's story

Watch Karsten comment on the skills international managers pick up in China and bring back to their home countries

Keywords: china, boss, father figure, care, manager

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