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Maoism versus Confucianism: ideological influences on Chinese business leaders

Paul McDonald (Victoria Management School, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 19 July 2011




This paper seeks to propose that practical wisdom originating within the Chinese classical traditions has been instrumental in China's ascendance to the world stage. Its purpose is to analyze biographical data across 200 Chinese business leaders in order to gauge the relative influence of two competing ideologies – Maoism and Confucianism.


This paper is based on a two‐step design process. First, modern day leadership archetypes characterizing Maoist and Confucian ideology were developed from the literature. Second, these archetypes were applied in the content analysis of biographical data on Chinese business leaders.


There was evidence of both Maoism and Confucianism in the practices of Chinese business leaders. An unintended, third cohort of leaders emerged, representative of the younger end of the biographical distribution, who appear to embrace paradox in their ideological orientation.

Practical implications

There were three practical implications for management and leadership development: the importance of integrating the concept of paradox into management and leadership development curricula; the provision of illustrative alternatives to western world leadership exemplars; and increased emphasis on global leadership as an emergent phenomenon with particular attention to the burgeoning internationalization of Chinese enterprise and its associated ideologies.


The current leadership literature is dominated by western world exemplars. This paper offers an alternative view; one rich with the wisdom and classical traditions of the Chinese culture.



McDonald, P. (2011), "Maoism versus Confucianism: ideological influences on Chinese business leaders", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 30 No. 7/8, pp. 632-646.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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