Leadership in Asian countries such as e.g. China is oftentimes described as paternalistic leadership. Paternalistic Leadership is a native Chinese leadership style, which is deeply rooted in China's patriarchal tradition and in Confucianism. According to theory, paternalistic leadership is composed of three main elements: autocratic leadership
, benevolent leadership
and moral leadership
The historic and philosophical background for autocratic leadership may be explained by the influence of Confucianism in China. This philosophy entails that leaders have a legitimate right to exercise authority over subordinates, and that each subordinate has a moral duty to obey the superiors. It is therefore expected that leaders are willing to take final decisions, and that leaders carry out a close monitoring of workers.
Benevolent leadership may also refer to Confucianism. In Confucianism the supervisor's legitimate right to lead is matched by loving care and respect for the individual employee. The essence is to create harmony in relations between leaders and the followers, and to create a balance between subordination and care.
Moral leadership is related to the leader's moral character and ability to act as a role model for the employees. Moral leaders treat people fairly, respect agreements, exhibit kindness and are not abusing their authority.
Although many western people and managers understand the importance of authoritative leadership in countries like China, an excessive use of autocratic measures will potentially backfire, and leave Chinese and Asian employees unhappy and frustrated. Various studies show that excessive authoritative leadership is likely to lead to undesirable consequences for the relationship between leaders and followers. This may be due to the modernization of China, where younger generations are adopting western values, and expect more democratic ways of leadership.
The essence of paternalistic leadership is therefore that leaders should try fostering a reciprocal balance between subjugation and care. A paternalistic manager type may therefore be seen as a soft theory x manager, who balances autocratic leadership with care and benevolence.