26 April 2019
Steve Tappin, confidant and coach to some of the world's top CEOs, says Chinese company bosses should delegate more powers to trusted professionals. Photos:, BBC
Steve Tappin, confidant and coach to some of the world's top CEOs, says Chinese company bosses should delegate more powers to trusted professionals. Photos:, BBC

China CEOs should learn to ‘let go’: Steve Tappin

Chinese CEOs should learn to delegate more responsibility to utilize the talents of the professionals in their companies better, said Steve Tappin, a management expert who specializes in coaching the bosses of many large international companies.

Company chiefs in China tend to over-centralize their businesses and shoulder most of the decision-making, he said, attributing the excessive caution to a legacy of the Cultural Revolution which took the lives of the parents of many current corporate leaders. 

“The best CEOs should let go to a team they trust,” Tappin told EJ Insight in an interview.

Alibaba Group founder and chairman Jack Ma’s decision to give up his CEO position at the e-commerce giant is a very positive and wise move, as it will allow the company to evolve into a global enterprise while retaining its fighting spirit, Tappin said. 

Tencent Holdings (00700.HK) also has a lot of potential to go in the global market, he said. 

Chinese firms which plan to expand in the global market through mergers and acquisitions should always be ready to adapt to fast-changing market trends, the CEO confidant said.

“When a Chinese company decides to go global, it is a tipping point. It can either go to a next level, or it can destroy itself,” Tappin said. “Chinese CEOs should build radars to better understand the world trends.”

It is no longer merely a question of Chinese firms competing with Western firms, but who will adapt more to market challenges, he said.

In the past, Western companies tended to “think and then do” while Chinese companies opted to “do and then think”, he said. But now, all players “do everything and learn from it very quickly”.

Tappin, one of LinkedIn’s global top 200 influencers, a list which include Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, former General Electric chairman and CEO Jack Welch and US President Barack Obama, is the host of the television series “CEO Guru”, which is regularly broadcast internationally on BBC World News. 

Over the coming weekends, he will host a new program “CEO Guru: China’s Billionaires’ Club”, as part of a month-long season of programs focusing on China titled “Designed in China”

The series, which started on Oct. 6 and will end on Nov. 2, will explore how China is innovating across a range of sectors from medical research and science, through consumer technology to the creative world of film and art.

Since the economic reforms of 30 years ago, the transformation of China has been astonishing, said Tappin, adding that the construction of this giant economic powerhouse did not happen by magic.

Over the past few decades, much of the burden of expanding the economy was carried out by China’s vast array of state-owned enterprises, he said. “But there were private entrepreneurs too – and for many of them the going was tough.”

Chinese CEOs are usually more driven by their dream of helping the country when compared to their Western counterparts, who focus more on building their companies into market leaders, Tappin said.

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EJ Insight writer

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