The Role of Asian Leaders in Managing a Multicultural Workplace

Asia’s gradual rise since 2000 is one of the remarkable economic phenomenons of the 21st century. China, India, Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian nations have achieved higher positions than other global economies.

Experts associate the rapid economic growth in Asia with its leaders, who are known to be culturally sensitive and great communicators. One example is SMRT Chairman Seah Moon Ming, who has made notable contributions to SMRT Corporation, the leading public transport operator in Singapore.

Given the increasing role of Asian leaders in driving the success of their business and the local economy, we’ll talk about the different approaches to Asian leadership and some insights that help them perform better in the global market.

Asian leaders have different levels of competency

In the business world, people have widespread generalizations about the Asian economy and its leadership. These include the belief that nationalities differ significantly, economies develop rapidly, and long geographic distances between partner companies exist. The truth is that many organizations around the world are also facing identical or similar challenges not only in Asia but also in other nations. This applies to banks, government agencies, insurance companies, financial institutions, and the hospitality industry.

In Hong Kong, many large corporations have a remarkably advanced way of thinking regarding leadership development. This often lies in their competency models and the leadership styles they portray. Often, Asian leaders are marked by their impressive cultural awareness and agility in handling their subordinates.

In Asian countries, leadership styles vary tremendously by culture. Although core leadership qualities are almost the same in every country, employees agree that character and leadership style matter. This requires Asian leaders to possess cultural agility, where they have to adapt to the immediate needs of their employees and the local culture of the workplace. Asian senior leaders believe that the young generation of leaders is more culturally agile. As more millennials and Gen Zs assume leadership ranks, cultural differences in leadership become lesser.

One of the primary goals of Asian companies is to create more expatriate leaders whose leadership style is to look beyond their own culture to improve their ideas. The role of expatriate leaders is to help their companies expand operations in other countries, transfer expertise to other business partners, and even enter a global market. Since producing expatriate leaders isn’t easy, companies build young leaders locally and accelerate leadership development in local regions.

Communication style and cultural behavior matter

As most travelers are aware, many Asian countries are known for their unique communications styles. For example, Hong Kong, being a well-developed county home to more than 300,000 expatriates, Asian cultural values blend with western.

In a homogeneous country like Japan, citizens are known to be very quiet, harmonious, and respectful in their social interactions. In fact, you’ll have a hard time squeezing out information from executives unless you invite them out for a night of entertainment and drinks. If you want to establish common ground, you can encourage open discussion about high-performance culture, work stress, and sales-driven management.

Although Japanese leaders can be very vocal about business matters, they are respectful, quiet, and somewhat hesitant when speaking in large groups. While these attitudes represent the culture of respect and harmony in Japan, it doesn’t diminish employees’ energy, intensity, and dedication.

Asian leaders highly value retention

Just like in the U.S., Asian leaders are also expressing their frustration about the rising rates of job-hopping among young workers every year.

When it comes to employee retention strategies, HR leaders in Asia are more likely to focus on compensation packages, regular salary increases, and opportunities for job progression to urge top talent to stay in the company. The job market for corporate professionals in Asia can be very competitive that companies are increasing the salary percentage every year to keep up with the competition and increase their chances of hiring top performers.

Asian leaders prioritize technological innovations

Japan, China, Singapore, and Hong Kong are known for their rapid economic growth and increased focus on technology solutions. Asian companies are frequent users of communication tools, but the nature of productivity platforms can be a little different from western countries. Despite this fact, employees are very proficient and highly interested in office technology.

When it comes to analytics, many companies are hesitant to adapt rapidly because of the little fear they have with technology.

Effective leadership is critical, especially during these uncertain times. While different factors have unique meanings in the Asian context, they serve as essential leadership aspects in corporate environments. As the pandemic has challenged every leadership approach that is critical in Asia, it’s about time leaders should take a long-term perspective in this time of crisis while empowering people at every level.

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