By Charlie Peng– Principal at Oxford International College of Chengdu (Whartonn), Chengdu.
Oxford International College of Chengdu is a place where we work with all our students to give them the knowledge and skills to be successful leaders in the future world. But what is a successful leader, because it is seen as different in China compared to western countries?
So, to think about leadership, we must also consider the culture we are operating within. In China the leader makes all the major decisions. In western companies, the leadership tends to be based on teams and collaboration. We could say “the task of the leader is to get people in the organisation from where they are now to where they need to be in the future!”
What do successful leaders do?
Successful leaders surround themselves with people who have the skills they don’t have, and then listen to their advice. Further key skills are those of building great relationships, agility and adaptability, innovation and creativity, employee motivation and decision making. You can see that none of these key skills are based on passing examinations, rather they are personality or character skills. This is why at Whartonn school we not only teach intelligence skills called IQ, but also social and emotional skills called EQ. It is these so-called soft skills which are harder to develop, simply because many of our students have not been exposed to them in their lives.
Successful innovation begins with ideation — the phase where outstanding ideas are developed and become the foundation of innovation success. Consider some of the industry leaders, what did it take for Apple to become a leader in the technology industry? They made innovations to products with their customers in mind. Steve Jobs, and perhaps even more so Tim Cook, led the innovation and creativity for Apple Inc. by continuously forging ahead of the competition, and this probably made them some of the most innovative leaders within the tech industry.
How we develop leadership?
So how does Oxford International College of Chengdu develop its students towards being future leaders? The answer lies in how we teach our students. We place a significant emphasis on teamwork and character. Public speaking is another area where we encourage students to take part in assemblies and competitions. The Duke of Edinburgh scheme is great for character development, as to be successful, students must take responsibility for themselves and others. The expeditions develop a student’s ability to work with others, their personal resilience and strength, and elements of courage (required to complete their challenges). A further example is that of the student council with the Head Boy/Girl systems. These are all designed to get our students involved in their school and allow them to stand out from others.
In reality, your decisions as a leader will determine your – and potentially your organisation’s – success. Making decisions, however big or small, are a fundamental part of leadership. As a leader you need to develop strong decision-making skills and have the conviction to stand by your decisions, whilst also recognising the need to adapt when those decisions do not lead to the desired outcome. It is a unique balancing act.
Effective decisions may not always be popular
Remember, some decisions may not always be favorable. Making an unpopular but necessary decision is probably one of the most difficult tasks as a leader, but it is vital that as a leader you are able to recognise your responsibilities and make clear decisions for your team or organisation. However, when a difficult decision has to be made, clear and effective communication with others is really important. Carefully considering how and when you will communicate with others is another skill that needs to be developed. This is known as reflective thinking and is an important aspect of a leader’s life and work.
Integrity strengthens your decision-making process
Integrity in all that people say and do is important, but what is integrity? Integrity is often seen as being honest or truthful. However, having and standing by a strong set of values is also very important. At Oxford International College, Chengdu we display our values outside the school, these are: Honesty, Kindness, Respect and Support. By demonstrating these values, this allows the school leadership to make decisions that are professional, responsible, honest and reliable.
Finally, for every one of our students, as we prepare them for the next and exiting part of their lives at university, it is important to us that they act as ambassadors for China and never forget their local roots, to become successful leaders and people, in whatever aspect of life they choose to operate in.
By: PENG CHANGGUI (Charlie)
Principal – Oxford International College of Chengdu (Whartonn) – Chengdu