September 18, 2020, Professor Yang Zhuang of the National School of Development of Peking University was invited to give a talk on leadership at the Master Class of the Global Innovation Week. The Global Innovation Week is a part of the series events of the 8th Overseas Talent Entrepreneurship Conference, which was organized by the Beijing Chaoyang High-level Talents Service Center and the Beijing Chaoyang Overseas Talent Association. The EMBA Center of BiMBA Business School of the National School of Development is the academic partner of the Global Innovation Week.
In the Master Class, Prof. Yang Zhuang shared his understanding of leadership from his 20 years of teaching experience and his understanding of the current time of transformation.
· We are in the VUCA situation
Prof. Yang first mentioned that we are in the situation completely different from that of previous times, not only in the sense of the pandemic, but also in the aspects of global social, political, and economic issues, which has made it very difficult for us to continue what we have been doing according to the old mentality we used to have.
VUCA is the best word to describe the situation today, which is not only Volatile and Uncertain, but also Complex and Ambiguous.
During the past few months, Prof. Yang talked with many of his current and former students who are entrepreneurs or business leaders, and he found that many of them were very confused by the challenges. How to be able to cope with the challenges brought by VUCA has become a very critical issue for all of us to think about in depth.
· Effective leadership is needed under VUCA
In Prof. Yang’s understanding, the only way to cope with the VUCA situation is to improve your leadership skills. The business leaders who have been successful in the battle against the pandemic are all those who have demonstrated great leadership skills.
Business leadership is about if you are able to develop your company in such a way that the company’s practice is really compatible with the trend of the digital age. Prof. Yang suggested business leaders ask themselves: “Can what I am doing reflect the current and future trend? Am I doing things which will add a lot value to my organization and to the society?”
· Key of leadership
Prof. Yang emphasized that leadership must be something that people are inspired to follow you willingly and happily because of what you do, not because of your position.
Professor Merton from Columbia University defined leadership as “an interpersonal relation in which others comply because they want to, not because they have to.” To achieve this, leaders have to transform themselves and created goals which can be shared by everyone in the organization.
One of Prof. Yang’s students works in the hotel industry as the chairman of a five-star hotel. During the pandemic, his hotel fell into big trouble, but he quickly took actions and started to do online food and goods selling, as well as using other promotion methods. He mobilized the staff in the company and gave them the vision in such a way that the particular vision was shared by everybody. The hotel was able to have very satisfying revenue in spite of the pandemic, and became a very good model for others. In this case, the hotel chairman is the one who is able to make dramatic changes to his role as a leader. What he did also gave hope to his staff. Prof. Yang pointed out that if you are losing hope, you are losing your future, and there is no way that you expect others to follow you.
· Three questions by Prof. Peter Drucker
Prof. Perter Drucker raised three important questions: “What is our business? What will be our business? What should be our business?” These are very simple but important questions, especially when we are facing with the challenges from the pandemic along with complex international political and social problems.
According to Peter Drucker, leaders should raise one’s vision so that the person becomes visionary, raise one’s performance so that the person becomes outstanding individual, and raise one’s personal character so that the person is different from the crowd. Prof. Yang told the audience that Peter Drucker has great influence on his research，as the above mentioned three perspectives of vision, professionalism and personal character served the basis of his theory of 3P leadership model.
· "Level 5 Leadership"
Professor Jim Collins from Stanford University, the author of the book “Good to Great”, developed the theory of level 5 leadership, which means an outstanding leader should possess the fifth dimension of leadership — a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will — in addition to the four basic leadership qualities of individual capability, team skills, managerial competence, and the ability to stimulate others to high performance.
Prof. Yang totally agreed with Collins as he studied a lot of cases of both success and failure, and noticed the same thing that good leaders always have the two sides in them --- strong outside and humble inside.
· The 3P Leadership Model under VUCA
After years of research of leaders in many different fields, entrepreneurs in particular, Prof. Yang Zhuang developed the 3P Leadership Model describing leadership from 3 dimensions.
[Power of Ideas]
The first dimension of the model is the ‘Power of Ideas’, which includes dreams, mission, vision, passion, core values, clear purposes, insight/judgement, and strategic positioning.
“Core values” here means how you make choices, and how you rank your choices, which is closely related to your purposes and inside judgement. An example is Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, who, since the very beginning of founding the company, always had the vision and determination of changing the world, and then spent years to achieve the vision without being distracted by other matters.
About “insights”, Prof. Yang shared his communication with a senior human resources manager several months ago, who told him that she found it very difficult to recruit proper talents, although most of the applicants were from top universities. According to her, the reason was that very few of the applicants demonstrated personal insights, and were not able to come up with their own ideas and firmly hold them.
[Power of Competence]
The second dimension of ‘competence’ is about put your ideas into practice. This dimension includes professionalism, corporate governance, entrepreneurship, innovation/change, customer focus, talent development, inspirational leader, and team player/good partner.
Prof. Yang said he always encouraged his students to attend events like the Innovation Week where they could have the opportunity to discuss and engage with the professionals with real business experience, which is a very good way to improve their professional competence.
[Power of Character]
The third dimension ‘Power of Character’ includes honesty, integrity, decisiveness, resilience, courage/grit, humbleness, respect/broadminded, and emotional intelligence.
For many years, Prof. Yang took the students of BiMBA Business School to visit the West Point, where the junior officer training is mainly on personal character. He emphasized that good personal character is the most indispensable among all the leadership skills. The failures of some entrepreneurs who had very good ideas and strong competence were mostly because they performed poorly on the character dimension.
The dimension of ‘Power of Character’ performs as a bridge which links the other two dimensions together. Without this linkage, your leadership skills are incomplete. If you don’t have trust from others, you will not be able to fully utilize your capabilities and energy, and people in your organization will not do things willing and happily. This dimension is very difficult to be measured but is essential.
The three aspects of leadership skills as a whole are especially important under the current VUCA situation.
[Professor YANG Zhuang is a professor in management of National School of Development of Peking University.]
【About the OTEC Global Innovation Week】
Overseas Talent Entrepreneurship Conference (OTEC), organized by the Beijing Chaoyang High-level Talents Service Center and the Beijing Chaoyang Overseas Talent Association, makes full use of the government guiding role and allocates resources by market means, to create a "one-stop" service platform for overseas talents returning to China for innovation and startupby holding Global Entrepreneurship Competition, Innovation Summit, International Talent Entrepreneurship Gathering, overseas talent recruitment fair and other activities.
The Global Innovation Week (GIW) is a part of the OTEC and is a leading program and social event devoted to better serve and support international business and innovation community in Chaoyang district and beyond. The one-week program consists of three themed sub-programs including GIW Runway, GIW Master Class and GIW Spark.
GIW Master Class took place on Sep 18 and covered four topics including Cross-cultural leadership, IP Protection, Talent Management and Winning Chinese Customers in the Age of New Media.