Leadership practices have been extensively researched in Western countries but rarely in China, especially during its economic transformation. This thesis investigates the Chinese construction industry to determine if previously identified leadership practices are suitable for leaders in the Chinese culture.
A literature review identifies seven key leadership practices: (1) modeling the way, (2) moral character, (3) inspiring a shared vision, (4) challenging the process, (5) enabling others to act, (6) encouraging heart, and (7) individual considerations. This thesis uses the LPI (Leadership Practice Inventory) to survey 104 leaders and the TLQ (Transformational Leadership Questionnaire) to survey 105 staff members of eight Chinese construction companies. Both scales can be validated in China, with reliability (Cronbach’s alpha) values far greater than the recommended .60 threshold (.903–.943).
Both leaders and followers consider model the way together with moral character the most important leadership practices; the Chinese concept of moral character thus supplements the Western ideal of modeling the way. The reject the notion of inspiring a shared vision, even though the central government of China encourages the reinforcement of vision during social changes. In addition, challenges to the process are not significant leadership behaviors in the Chinese cultural context, perhaps because leaders avoid challenging the government but instead follow government recommendations for change. This finding might suggest the need to reform China’s education system to increase innovation in the country. Finally, individual consideration is regarded an asset in China, but the data indicate that it does not represent a Chinese leadership practice. Interviews with senior leaders of construction enterprises reveal their widespread beliefs that individual consideration can motivate staff to work effectively away from the home office, which is critical because construction is mobile by nature.
In conclusion, seven leadership practices emerge as appropriate for the Chinese cultural environment, and they can support the reforms to previously state-owned enterprises in Chinese construction industry.