Are you a ‘Tiger Worker’?

TIME MagAdvance Stereotype Alert!

A mom I recently met on a play date asked me if I was a “Tiger Mom” for she (rather apologetically) believed that most Asians were. She was of course referring to Amy Chu’s famous portraits of Asian parenting style in her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I had read the book and so was able to give her an honest answer – I was somewhere in the middle – maybe a Horse Mom – stubborn and flexible at the same time, but yes definitely leaning towards “efforts” in the “efforts vs innate ability” argument.

I bring this topic up today as I believe that Asian parenting style (the stereotypical portrait that Amy draws) has similarities in their working styles (stretching the stereotype here) too. And so if you’re looking for inspiration from other work cultures today, this summary of Amy’s might give you some interesting cues:

“Unlike your typical Western over-scheduling soccer mom, the Chinese mother believes that:

(1) schoolwork always comes first;

(2) an A-minus is a bad grade;

(3) your children must be two years ahead of their classmates in math; (4) you must never compliment your children 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 children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal; and

(7) that medal must be gold.

Final take away – “Chinese parents–like many other Asian parents–are more likely to emphasize effort over innate talent. Experiments show that people learn more when they believe that effort, not innate intelligence, is the key to achievement. And other research suggests that Westerners are more likely to assume that a child fails because he lacks innate ability”.

So much for clichés!



A Zen master believed that this one skill is most important to be a ruler

I talked about the timeless leadership wisdom of Aesop’s Fables in a post last week. Today let’s look eastwards to another great spiritual philosophy or rather civilization – the Zen and Confucian era of Chinese history. This story of a Zen Master’s view on the skill most needed to be a successful ruler is relevant to all leaders of large teams today:

Back in the third century A.D., The king Ts’ao sent his son, Prince T’ai, to the temple to study under the great master Pan Ku. Because prince T’ai was to succeed his father as king, Pan Ku was to teach the boy the basics of being a good ruler. When the prince arrived at the temple, the master sent him alone to the Ming-Li Forest. After one year, the prince was to return to the temple to describe the sound of the forest. When Prince T’ai returned, Pan Ku asked the boy to describe all that he could hear. “Master”, replied the prince, “I could hear the cuckoos sing, the leaves rustle, the hummingbirds hum, the crickets chirp, the grass blow, the bees buzz, and the wind whisper and holler.” When the prince had finished, the master told him to go back to the forest to listen to what more he could hear. The prince was puzzled by the master’s request. Had he not discerned every sound already? For days and nights on end, the young prince sat alone in the forest listening. But he heard no sounds other than those he had already heard. Then one morning, as the prince sat silently beneath the trees, he started to discern faint sounds unlike those he had ever heard before. The more acutely he listened, the clearer the sounds became. A feeling of enlightenment enveloped the boy. “These must be the sounds the master wished me to discern,” he reflected.

When prince T’ai returned to the temple, the master asked him what more he had heard. “Master,” responded the prince reverently,” when I listened most closely, I could hear the unheard – the sound of flowers opening, the sound of the sun warming the earth, and the sound of the grass drinking the morning dew.”

The master nodded approvingly. “To hear the unheard,” remarked Pan Ku, “is a necessary discipline to be a good ruler. For only when a ruler has learned to listen closely to the people’s hearts, hearing their feelings uncommunicated, pains unexpressed, and complaints not spoken of, can he hope to inspire confidence in his people, understand when something is wrong, and meet the true needs of his citizens. The demise of states comes when leaders listen only to superficial words and not penetrate deeply into the souls of the people to hear their true opinions, feelings and desires.”

My favorite leadership story about Pope Francis

Pope embraces young woman during encounter with youth in Cagliari, SardiniaI’m a big fan of Pope Francis. His servant leadership style is such a breath of fresh air. Despite holding the highest office of the largest religion in the world, he is just so humane, so simple and so accessible. There are hundreds and thousands of endearing stories giong around about his humility, but it is a very simple moment between a devotee and Pope Francis that is my favorite.

This was mentioned in the Vanity Fair magazine’s profile on him.

A young girl had signed up to volunteer at the Church’s World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro where Pope Francis attended and gave a rising speech. When it was over, Francis made his way to the helicopter base— desperate to meet him, she begged an airport official to let her meet the Holy Father. Miraculously he lets her slip in.

“I walk out onto the tarmac, where the helicopter is. There in a line are all the generals. There in another line are all the cardinals. And there in the middle is the Pope. The rotors are chopping. I have to shout. I shout to Francis, ‘I want to hug you.’ Francis shouts back, “Come and get it.” They hug. She tells him she is struggling in her personal life. He tells her to pray on it. They hold hands. He blesses her. The entire entourage is waiting. The helicopter is buzzing but Pope Francis gives her his full attention and makes a moment that lasts a lifetime for the girl. 

As a servant leader, you’re a “servant first” – you focus on the needs of others, especially your followers, before anyone else and Pope Francis is every bit one. #Salutes