Bridging the Leadership Divide Between China and the West

Leadership StrategiesLeadershipFinancial ServicesTeam Effectiveness
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March 30, 2022
5 min read
Leadership StrategiesLeadershipFinancial ServicesTeam Effectiveness
Executive summary
To win in China, global financial institutions will need to hire local talent and bridge differences in leadership expectations.


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Spanning Differences – Bridging the Leadership Divide between China and the West

Despite ongoing geopolitical tensions, many global financial services firms still have their eyes set on China. 2020 has seen a tsunami of foreign financial services firms expanding and deepening their presence in China, with many more joining the race to expand their footprint in the $45 trillion financial industry.

Now more than ever, global firms will need to tap into and hire from the broader local talent pool to win in China. However, our data suggests that this presents significant leadership challenges. Leveraging Russell Reynolds Associates’ proprietary database, we looked into over 600 profiles of Western and Chinese financial services leaders, and found that these two groups cannot be more different – Western and Chinese leaders foster distinctive leadership styles and have vastly different expectations on how to lead and operate. Consequently, standard global leadership models will create tensions with leaders on the ground and lead to misalignment of expectations. Challenging existing assumptions and finding a third-way forward will be critical to facilitate the success of foreign firms in China.