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Battle Hymn of the Tiger Boss

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in The Next Level

TigerbossBy now, you’ve no doubt heard the buzz about Amy Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother . It’s her memoir about raising her two daughters in the strict and demanding way that her Chinese immigrant parents raised her. The buzz machine on Chua’s book went into overdrive when the Wall Street Journal ran a column of excerpts from it under the headline of Why Chinese Mothers Are SuperiorThe Irish Times does a pretty nice job of summing up Chua’s parenting approach with the following list of seven rules:

1.    “Schoolwork always comes first.
2.    An A-minus is a bad grade.
3.    Your child must be two years ahead of their classmates in Maths.
4.    You must never compliment your child in public.
5.    If your child ever disagrees with a teacher or coach, you must always take the side of the teacher or coach.
6.    The only activities your child should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal.
7.    That medal must be gold.”

All of the talk about Chua’s book has gotten me to thinking about opportunities for brand extension.  How about Battle Hymn of the Tiger Boss?  My concern is that such a book would encourage the kind of management behaviors that my readers and I documented in a post last year called Seven Simple Rules to Create a Fear Based Culture.

When it comes to deciding what kind of leader you want to be, I encourage you to take a “both/and” rather than an “either/or”  approach. Ironically, Chua makes a good case for the both/and approach at the end of her WSJ column:

“Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”

If you substitute the words managers for parents and employees for children in Chua’s quote, you set up a pretty interesting debate on motivational theory and developing people and cultures. Why does it have to be an either/or proposition? Can’t it be both/and? Shouldn’t leaders (and parents) be striving to incorporate all of those attributes in their approach?

What do you think? Is it possible as a leader (or a parent) to, in Chua’s words, be both Western and Chinese in your approach? If it is, how do you do it?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan February 8, 2011 at 10:26 am

Re the phrase “Creativity and collaboration go out the door…” reminds me of the many interesting (often surprising) findings presented in the book DRIVE by Daniel Pink about what _really_ motivates people. Pink’s assertions are based on actual research–rather than one Tiger Mother’s provocative thesis and the techniques she used with her 2 female (!) children!… Figuring out what drives people to work hard is so complicated and differs for individual personalities, genders, tasks, incentives (monetary and otherwise), industries, right brain/left brain types, etc etc etc… But Pink makes a compelling case as to how corporate America has gotten so much wrong in our systems of incentives (among many recent cases in point: Enron, Wall St. financial meltdown, etc.) … he also pulls fascinating examples of how monetary incentives can actually yield REDUCED results (as in blood drives). I think DRIVE comes out in paperback soon…hope it gets the same buzz/attn Tiger Mother has gotten…it offers a far better message for businesses.


LowMan on T February 7, 2011 at 7:19 pm

I agree with some of the above points but have found that employees raised in this environment excel when rules and boundries can easily be set and understood, (how to win the game) but any ambiguity creates paralysis and frustration. Great approach for indivdual play but negates the benefits of group think. Creativity and collaboration go out the door as well as learning to influence people around you. It’s a cold approach that doesn’t warm others to do their best…


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