Themed around “Innovation & Leadership,” the HYSTA annual conference, a signature event of the Silicon Valley premier Chinese entrepreneurial association, drew over 1,000 people at Hyatt Regency Hotel in Santa Clara on Saturday.
The conference brought together some impressive speakers and panelists, including the visionary venture capitalist John Doerr, to discuss the topic of leadership. Despite my hectic schedule, I managed to attend part of the conference. It turned out to be well worth the time. It’s very interesting to hear people talk about the growing pain of developing business leaders as China moves toward the global economy.
One of the challenges is that, although Chinese are very entrepreneurial, many of them focus on short-term gain and lack long term vision and perseverance. There is a real dearth of leaders who can lead organizations systematically to scale. One panelist pointed out, traditionally, Chinese culture rewards mediocre players rather than outstanding souls.
On the other hand, some people tried to transport the leadership skills learned in the United States to China. That doesn’t necessarily work either, because the leadership skills required in this environment are very different from the leadership skills required there. While there is no easy fix to these challenges, here are some take-aways from the panel that can shed some light:
- Although some leadership traits are born, leadership ability can be trained;
- Great leaders are the ones who want to make others successful;
- In order to become a leader, one needs to have self-knowledge;
- In today’s world, it’s important to know what’s happening around the world and be well-informed;
- It’s not what you say or do, but how you make other people feel that matters
The evening keynote by Mark Thompson, who is a friend of mine, was very inspiring. Mark interviewed over 200 the most successful people in the nation for his book Success Build to Last. He defines success for leaders as making meaningful impact that really matters.
While Chinese are working on their leadership challenges, Americans are wondering when China will take over the United States to become a global leader – that was the exact question from the audience. No one can answer this question easily. But I believe strongly that Americans and Chinese have different strengths that can be learned from both sides. They don’t have to be in competition; they can complement and balance each other to achieve a better world.