A framework for understanding Chinese leadership: A cultural approach

Peng LIU

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Chinese culture is widely regarded as being dominated by Confucian thought, which is characterized as focusing on morality, relationalism and collectivism. Also, Chinese culture has been deemed to be very hierarchical and lacking a sufficient sense of autonomy. However, there has been a lack of attention paid to other diverse elements in Chinese culture and their relationships with Chinese leadership. This gap leads to the two research questions in this paper: What are the core elements of Chinese culture? What are the relationships between these core elements and Chinese leadership? Based on comprehensive review of Chinese leadership research and analysis on theoretical and empirical studies on Chinese culture and its relationship with Chinese leadership, this article concludes that Chinese culture is a mix of a significant amount of Confucius thought with other cultural elements including Daoism, Sun Zi thoughts, legalism, Paternalist thought, Buddhism, Western cultural values, socialist values, and free market values. The evolving perspective helps to understand Chinese culture and leadership in depth. This paper also suggests that culture has a significant influence on leadership practices through its influence on the values of the leaders. Therefore, the diverse elements in Chinese culture cause leaders to enact different leadership practice patterns. This article provides a holistic picture of Chinese culture and its relationship with Chinese leadership. It paves the way for future Chinese leadership studies and also implies a future research direction for Chinese leadership, which is to explore the exact degree and process of the influence of Chinese cultural elements on Chinese leadership practices. Copyright © 2014 authors.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


Liu, P. (2014, November). A framework for understanding Chinese leadership: A cultural approach. Paper presented at Exploring Leadership and Learning Theories in Asia 3rd International Conference on Leadership & Learning in the Asian Century, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia.


  • Chinese leadership
  • Chinese culture
  • Cultural approch


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