Harmony and patriarchy: the cultural basis for 'paternalistic headship' among the overseas Chinese

Document Type


Publication details

Westwood, RI 1997, 'Harmony and patriarchy: the cultural basis for 'paternalistic headship' among the overseas Chinese', Organization Studies, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 445-480.

Published version available from:


Peer Reviewed



This paper outlines a model of leadership attuned to the cultural specificities of the Overseas Chinese (OSC) context. The model is developed in a contrast ive mode to U.S. approaches to leadership which are depicted as being cultur ally bounded and non-transferable to the OSC situation. The model is extrapol ated from the persisting cultural values and traditions still prevalent in OSC organizations and management style. The concept of headship is heuristically adopted to demarcate the underlying orientation towards legitimized influen cing of followers by leaders and the structuring of relationships among the OSC. Chinese organizational 'heads' are seen to function on the basis of meet ing the mutually reinforcing dual requirements for legitimized order and com pliance achievement and the maintenance of social harmony. The cultural basis for meeting these requirements is examined in detail. The resulting 'leadership' orientation is depicted as 'paternalistic headship', the behavioural and attitu dinal elements of which are explored. The arguments are situated in the context of a burgeoning interest in, and recognition of a distinctive OSC management and business orientation.

Find in your library