Confucian values still underpin Korean management

Collective leadership, in which a manager feels a sense of emotional attachment and obligation to the 'community' in the organisation, is the most appropriate management model for Korean firms.

by Asia Pacific Journal of Management
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

The authoritarian management style is underpinned by the Confucian ideal of hierarchical order, but it is not usually despotic. This is because there is also a strong commitment to harmony (known as inhwa) between people from different ranks, which derives from the Confucian ideal of loyalty to parents, elders and authority figures.

Managers are obliged to look after employees in their professional and personal lives, and employees are expected to defer to their seniors, very often based on the society's respect for age and experience.

People are bound together by emotional ties known as jeong, by which individuals are expected to share and support others during both good and bad times. One Korean saying provides an example of the concept: 'You laugh when she laughs and you cry when she cries.'

Further, individuals, bound together by jeong, also become committed to a greater collective known as woori (best translated as 'we-ness'). In corporations, new employees receive emotional and professional support from their seniors. Workers spend a lot of time together outside work and are expected to attend co-workers' family events, such as weddings, funerals and children's birthdays.

Jeong exchange and collective leadership in Korean organisations
Inju Yang
Asia Pacific Journal of Management, Vol 23 No 3, September 2006

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