Battle Hymn of the Tiger Boss

Posted 01.31.2011

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?