Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Leadership…that’s a tough one

Written by: on February 8, 2019

Recently I watched the new Christopher Robin movie and thought it cute and enjoyable for the whole family.  Did you know that movie was banned in China?  You may already know that there has been an ongoing fight between online meme creators and those that censor.  The Pooh character has become a lighthearted way for the people of China to have some fun with their president. I am guessing that the government doesn’t find this all that funny. It all began in 2013 when President Xi went to visit President Obama.  The view of Xi walking with a more lankier Obama soon turned into a comparison to Winnie-the-pooh and tigger.  There have been numerous  comparisons and repeated removal of any online discussion or photos, including the photo of Xi with prime minister from Japan being compared with Pooh and Eeyore.  These is seen as, “a serious effort to undermine the dignity of the presidential office and Xi himself”.

according to Global Risk Insights “Authoritarian regimes are often touchy, yet the backlash is confusing since the government is effectively squashing an potential positive, and organic, public image campaign for Xi,” the report said at the time. “Beijing’s reaction is doubly odd given the fact that Xi has made substantial efforts to create a cult of personality showing him as a benevolent ruler.”

Traditionally Chinese are drawn to a strong, powerful leader, charismatic or (as we like to say today) transformational leader.  One that inspires the people to move a particular direction.  I have heard Chinese friends say that “a strong leader is better than a perceived weak one; even if they are leading you in the wrong direction.”  Once again this is the Confucius Hierarchy meeting honor and shame.  At no point does this country want to be seen as weak in the eyes of the world.  So even though some may joke a little about President Xi, he is seen as one that can handle other world leaders and even push China into the status of a “Superpower”. 

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic said “Next time you find yourself admiring managers for their intense charm, confidence and ambition, remember you are probably looking at a future failure. … In any organization, industry and country, the higher you go in the managerial ladder or power hierarchy, the more mischievous, arrogant and psychopathic people are….Until then, the very traits that help employees advance their careers will often also contribute to an eventual downfall.” We have all seen examples of this in our history books, in our organizations, and unfortunately in our churches as well.  Traditionally, a transformational leader has been synonymous with a charismatic leader. After all, it’s that charisma that served as the see/touch/feel of a really good leader, right?  The truth is, many leaders dubbed as charismatic are not really transformational at all. I know Jay loves the word transformation and I do to.  There is something of value to see that something transformational takes place in a group or individuals because of whom we serve not necessarily because of the Charisma of the leader.  The Bailey group differentiates these two ideas (Charasmatic and Transformational) like this:

  1. “A charismatic leader is looking to create followers. A transformational leader wants to create more leaders.
  2. A charismatic leader paints the picture of an ideal future that serves him or her individually. A transformational leader speaks to the greater good of the organization and focuses on relevance for each person in the room.
  3. A charismatic leader doesn’t like being questioned. A transformational leader invites inquiry and welcomes input.
  4. A charismatic leader says, “Listen to me!” A transformational leader says, “I’m listening to you.”
  5. Charismatic leaders are so confident they have to tell you they’re awesome. Transformational leaders are confident but humble and those around them don’t need reminders of their greatness.”

As Tourish says, there is a seduction to being the group or the leader that helps transform people, companies, etc. I. appreciate that he doesn’t suggest an easy 10 step program to make it all right; rather it is a relationship that grows and changes.  He does suggest that the beginning of a solution is, “rooted in a profound appreciation of context, an understanding of the limitations inherent to leader agency and an acknowledgement of the agency of others.” He suggest an idea of vulnerability, of shared credit and failures, of a new type of leadership model that is founded on a type of openness that is messy and fluid in comparison to other leadership models.

“Taking on responsibilities means fulfilling one’s office diligently,” Xi said in a speech in 2015. ”Decisions and plans must be executed in full, and one must see things through from beginning to end, to ensure that no one simply goes through the motions or treats plans as a temporary measure, like a passing gust of wind.”  As you can see in this quote, President Xi feels it is his responsibility to make sure the country is moving forward and no one is slacking off.  For him, success is seen with Him at the helm of the ship.  Failure occurs when those not doing their part are lazy and a disappointment for the future of the country.

As I look at what kind of leader I strive to be, I recognize that my culture has also played a part in my understanding of what is acceptable and what is right.  I can read the quote from President Xi and have a particular reaction that might not be positive but others will read it and see someone that is in the right place at the right time.  “Leadership… is a key part of the problems we now face, rather than the solution. This is particularly true of transformational leadership in its various guises.” I  was challenged by my wife recently as we were talking about culture and leadership.  She ask me if I was making leaders as I preferred or as I thought was best within the culture we work? As I continue to wrestle with this question, I do desire to see leaders developed that make a difference in the culture they are rooted.


1https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/07/china-bans-winnie-the-pooh-film-to-stop-comparisons- to-president-xi accessed February 7, 2019

2 ibid

3https://www.fastcompany.com/3008811/dark-side-being-charismatic-boss accessed January 7, 2019 4https://thebaileygroup.com/transformational-leaders-beware-of-the-dark-side/ accessed January 7, 2019

5 Ibid

6 Tourish, Dennis. The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2013. 213

7 https://qz.com/1218961/what-xi-jinping-wants-to-do-with-his-unrivalled-power/ accessed February 7,2019

8.Tourish, Dennis. The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2013. 200

About the Author


Greg has a wife and 3 children. He has lived and work in Asia for over 12 years. He is currently the Asia Director of Imanna Laboratories, which tests and inspects marine products seeking US Coast Guard certification. His company Is also involved in teaching and leadership development.

13 responses to “Leadership…that’s a tough one”

  1. Chris Pritchett says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful and informative post, Greg. It seems we live in a world that is attracted to charisma but is in need of deep transformation. Like Jay and you, I also love this word. I think “transformation” is an important word. We all need transformation. I wonder if our public leaders think of how they want to make America “better” or “great” – these are words of “improvement” – without the cost that comes from “transformation.” In other words, we want more and better without the cost. We want Sunday without Friday, so to speak.

  2. M Webb says:

    Great cite on the ideas and differences from the Baily Group on Charismatic and Transformational Leaders. Too bad Tourish did not think of using this source in his assault on fundamental leadership. Instead of analyzing leadership models, it would have been more useful for him to study the phenomenon of pride, vanity, ego, and the characteristics that emulate power driven, “me driven” authoritarian leadership.

    You were very polite in your comments, consistent with your culture, searching for a way to help Tourish save face.

    Take courage, your life on life mentoring, discipling, and guiding is real leadership that is watched, remembered, and adapted into the lives around you.

    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Greg says:

      Thanks Mike. I am sure the we all have our time of weariness and frustration. I really did like the Bailey Groups thoughts on Charisma and transformation. It is always good to recognize the shortcoming of certain leadership models but I think you are right that many issues come from pride, ego and vanity.

  3. Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Greg!

    I did not know this movie was banned in China. Interesting!

    Thanks for your reference to The Bailey Group as far as the differences between charismatic and transformational leadership. Very helpful!

    Wow, your wife really laid it down (grin).


  4. Cultural differences do add a dimension worth mentioning to all of this! I love your wife’s question ! And the very fact that you heard it and are contemplating it shows strong leadership skills on your part! Bravo !

    • Greg says:

      I will admit that I was frustrated at the question but then began to ask why I was frustrated. 🙂 . I hope I am able to constantly ask this question where ever we are involved in ministry.

  5. Dan Kreiss says:


    I find it fascinating that Pooh is banned because of the insecurity of the leader, but I don’t find it all that surprising. The President of the US also gets ‘memed’ a great deal and although he does not have the power to ‘ban’ social media he does become quite caustic in his defenses.

    I am curious though how TL might be viewed in China. Tourish writes from a Western perspective and Asian cultures have different perspectives on leadership as you clearly point out in this blog. If you were to work through this book with a group of Chinese leaders what do you think would be the things that they could take away?

  6. Jean Ollis says:

    Hi Greg (and I’m bringing Dan into my response). Dan, I think your question is excellent. Is this book even relevant to a leader in Asia? BTW, I thought your story about the meme and movie fascinating! And sadly, not surprising. But people are watching the movie anyway? Aren’t there workarounds for just about everything banned? Greg, I always appreciate your humble but brilliant writing. Your perspective always makes me think and ponder. Thanks for that!

  7. Dave Watermulder says:

    Thank you, Greg!
    There was so much packed into this post! I hadn’t seen the Pooh/Xi story with Obama, but yea, I can see him getting touchy about it. It seems like in the US, part of our culture is to have really charismatic leaders be “open”, “transparent” and not to let anything get under their skin or break their postive outlook. I wonder if this response for Xi was culturally rooted as much as it was an expression of the kind of leader he is/wants to be. I think you explained this well about the honor/shame dynamic, as well as the national desire to be seen as strong and equal on the world stage. I have had a few situations recently where my jokes with people in my church were taken in a way that I didn’t intend. I think some of it is that certain cultures don’t expect the Pastor to be making jokes or goofing around, so it came off as mal-intended, or something serious. Maybe Xi is playing it safe, and maybe I should learn from him 🙂

  8. Shawn Hart says:

    Greg, great post! Winnie the Pooh rocks!

    So seriously now; I watched a documentary recently on the staggering patterns of youth that are leaving religions…not just Christianity, but rather, all religions. It seems that they are just not compelled to follow the strict platforms that may of us have actually been raised with. I was curious if you saw this as a potential pattern with the strict nature of Chinese politics? Is it possible that the influences of a younger, more vocal population could change the hard-core nature of Chinese politics? If so, could the next transformational leader completely change the image of China?

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