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Exploring the Asian Leadership Styles

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Asia is home to some of the most populous countries in the world and is considered a growing economic leader on the global scale. This continent is often looked at as a model for business and leadership practices in other regions. It embodies distinct cultural values such as harmony and collectivism in many ways.

These values can be seen in many East Asian countries, including Japan, China, and Singapore. In contrast, these aspects are typically not as apparent in Southeast Asian nations like Malaysia because of their close ties to the West.

The leadership styles of each country reflect their respective cultural tendencies, as many organizational structures and processes are influenced by the values of the society in which they are grounded. There are several leadership styles popular in Asia, and here’s how they differ from one another:


Transformational leadership is a style that works to motivate employees by inspiring them with a vision. In this style, the leader may engage in various activities such as articulating a vision for their company or team and challenging others to be more accountable.

Transformational leaders are empowering, meaning they encourage employees to make decisions on their own instead of micromanaging them. They establish personal relationships with their subordinates and show an interest in what they have to say.

They are also adept at influencing others, so engaging employees in activities that allow them to participate is essential. This style contrasts the Asian leadership approach of consensus-orientation because it places more emphasis on personal relationships between the leader and their employees.

A good example of this is how Mr. Seah Moon Ming, the chairman of Singapore’s leading transport provider, SMRT Corp., is working with his people. He implements various activities to engage his employees, such as taking the train with them and using casual language instead of business jargon in their day-to-day conversations, which makes it easier to establish rapport.



Transactional leadership is defined by the exchange of rewards for good behavior, while transformational leadership focuses on mutual trust and respect. In this style, the leader sets specific goals for employees to reach and offers incentives in return.

It is a more distant approach that minimizes discussion about how employees feel they are being managed. Transactional leaders work according to the rules, rewarding good performance while punishing bad behavior.

This can be beneficial when employees need to be held accountable for their actions and lead to a culture of conformity. However, transactional leadership is similar to the Asian approach of consensual decision-making because it minimizes conflict and focuses on creating a harmonious working environment.


Laissez-faire leadership is a style that emphasizes little to no interference in the decisions and actions made by subordinates. This approach appeals to employees who prefer autonomy because it allows them freedom without much structure or guidance.

While laissez-faire leadership can be appealing to employees, it also lacks a sense of direction and purpose for an organization as a whole. This undermines trust, which is essential for building a team environment and leads to a culture of individualism.

Despite the drawbacks, this approach is compatible with an Asian leadership style because it works better with independent employees. But then again, it is also more difficult to establish a sense of teamwork in this environment, which can lead to a lack of accountability.


In autocratic leadership, the leader holds most or all authority within an organization with little input from others. This approach can be effective in a crisis when quick decisions need to be made, but it also undermines the involvement of employees and fails to support creativity.

Autocratic leadership tends to hurt an organization because it doesn’t allow for innovation or growth from subordinates. In addition, autocrats can often create animosity within their team members who feel their input is not valued.

That’s why this approach is not compatible with the Asian leadership style of consensual decision-making, which focuses on building consensus and involving everyone in key decisions.

The Impact of These Styles on Business and Economic Growth

Although these styles each have their pros and cons, they can be effective when combined into a comprehensive leadership approach. That’s why the best leaders are usually the ones who incorporate elements of each style into their leadership approach.

Transformational and transactional leadership styles are both essential in creating an environment that inspires employees to work towards the company’s goals while maintaining accountability. On the other hand, laissez-faire and autocratic leadership styles can harm an organization by undermining trust or stifling creativity.

When leaders in Asia combine these approaches, they can create a work environment that is productive and rewarding for their employees. However, it’s important to remember that team members may be more satisfied with one leadership style over another, depending on their culture and values.

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