Many leaders get caught in the trap of seeking face whether they are Chinese or not. Older leaders who have developed this wrong ability in leadership for more than ten years are very hard to turn back. We usually recommend finding a new person who will be the right person.
Cover ups are the worst way. I meet fearful American GM’s here in China. They fear that someone back in the home office might find out what is really happening in their China factory. They seek to avoid transparency as they do not want anyone to discover the truth. Often they do not know the truth themselves. They hate to have anyone question and trust their own thinking, and thus need to cover up the truth. The cost of these behaviors is staggering.
For younger leaders, helping them realize there are good and bad ways to protect their face is important. That can get them on the right road. Trying to be the know it all is a failed method that many invest in. Trying to be faultless is yet another.
The leaders with the best image and best team are brave enough to come clean especially with their subordinates. They can say: “Sorry.” They can say that a subordinate is better than them in some area.
They can review a finished project openly admitting their mistakes and responsibility.
Some leaders do not do project overviews as they are too busy fire fighting. (This is a sign they need big help building the right team.) Others do not do it as they want to cover their mistakes. I have had leaders threaten me when I have sought to do a review of a finished project for lessons learned.
If you have leaders under you like this, you need to fire them no matter how perfect their technology or sales ability is. They are the cancer that prevents you from having good continuous improvement in your organization.
If you have never led in a real way without fear of facts or even of the opinions, then the start on this road will be awkward for you or that subordinate. However, it is worth investing here. Your success will grow and the success will be real. When you or others start to let down your guard, then people under you will start to follow your lead and more information will come to the surface. If you are always covering up, then people under you will do the same whether you want them to or not. Your modeling will be more powerful than any words you say.
So you can have a very good image, but it means you must admit your weakness and not hide it.
What do you think?