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  • Simon Rickman

7 Habits of Highly Effective Chinese Leaders

What a fantastic morning! I spent three exhilarating hours with 33 MBA students from China visiting Oxford University. I had the privilege to speak to them about one of the most defining Western business books in the 20th century – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. My objectives were threefold:

1. Find out what they already knew about the 7 Habits, so that I could assess the gap in their knowledge (amazingly, about 20% had either read the book, or were familiar with some of Covey’s principles)

2. Build a bridge between our two worlds, so that we could understand each other’s cultures, and how to adopt and adapt the 7 Habits

3. Focus on actions and outcomes, so that they could take back to their team and organisation a range of suggestions, thoughts and ideas

The students were such fun to work with. They clapped and cheered when I told them that they are China’s future! They laughed with me (even got my sense of humour… not everyone in the UK does that!). They listened with anticipation. They asked interesting questions and, most importantly, they worked together to think about how they could apply this back home. As Laozi said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".

What amazed us all was that our philosophies aren’t as far apart as you may think. We cross-referenced each Habit with a well-known Chinese proverb, and soon concluded that we have more that draws us together than pushes us apart. For example, “Teach a man to fish…” is much like “Being proactive”; “Dig the well before you are thirsty”, is more or less the same as ‘Begin with the end in mind”; and “Learn to walk before you run”, is essentially “Put first things first”. And that's just the first three!

By the end of the session, I was being called, ‘The Professor’, and I felt like quite the celebrity as they queued to take a photograph with me! Seriously though, they generated real energy, capturing in writing what has been the most ‘effective’ business book I have ever read. 

Thank you Mr Covey; thank you @janinaduda at the Oxford Prospects and Global Development Institute; and above all, xiè xie to the 33 MBA students from Shanghai University. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Chinese Leaders has started its first chapter.

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