Bringing The Five Practices to Life December 2016

Bringing The Leadership Challenge to Shanghai

Bringing The Five Practices to Life

I first studied The Leadership Challenge in my MBA class in Oslo, Norway back in 2000. What impressed me most was how very simple, yet profound, The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® model was. Ever since, as a leader and coach working with clients and organizations throughout Asia and the U.S., The Five Practices and the research behind them have stuck with me. But it wasn’t until I experienced The Leadership Challenge® Workshop and Facilitator Training, and then attended my first Leadership Challenge Forum in 2015 that I realized I was ready to bring this excellent leadership program and all of its related training and coaching to my clients in Shanghai.

Once I decided to take on this new challenge, my first call was to Certified Master Tom Pearce. His five years of experience living and working throughout Asia made him the perfect choice to mentor me through the process and show me the ropes on how best to bring The Leadership Challenge to China. To-date it has been our honor to host two Open Enrollment programs and have the opportunity to share with approximately 20 aspiring leaders the power of The Leadership Challenge to transform organizations. Participants included professionals in HR, OD, and operations, consultants, and line managers from such multi-national companies as Alibaba, Bunge, American Axle Manufacture, Trina Solar, DDI, and AIA.

Participants in the 2nd Open enrollment Program, August 2016

Under Tom’s guidance, we adapted some of the case studies and examples so our Shanghai participants could easily link to their life and this workshop. Unlike learners in the West, Chinese learners are just now becoming familiar with experiential learning techniques. Our learning process, especially in elementary through high school, is much more pedantic and less self-directed than learning in the Western Hemisphere. However, once ignited, the Chinese corporate classroom becomes very active and engaged. Indeed, Tom noticed this when he told me, “The use of energizing activities after lunch and in the afternoon was really terrific. I’ll be taking that back to my clients in the US!”

To customize the programs’ content for our Shanghai participants, we adapted some of the case studies and created examples specific to their life and work experience. To illustrate the notion of the importance of making leadership everyone’s business, for example, Tom and I developed a module for teaching that used the metaphor of two very different types of trains, both of which run throughout China.

Our regular train, (what we call the "green-skin" train) has one engine in front that drags all the cars behind, making it very slow.

By contrast, each car of our sleek bullet train has its own engine, working collectively with every other car that is part of the train as a whole; the result is that the bullet train is very fast.

The parallel to organizational leadership, of course, is made clear: if there is only one leader moving a team or project forward, the work is harder and progress is slower. However, if that same leader enables and empowers others with the tools they need to start their own engines, everyone on the team will be more engaged in taking personal responsibility for the goal at hand, team morale will increase, and the company’s financial performance will improve.

Tom and I feel so rewarded by our experience and from the incredible feedback we’ve received. As one participant said, “The Leadership Challenge Workshop and the Facilitator Training have been such an awakening experience. These four days brought lots of “ah ha!” moments for me. I’ve been doing organization development in the corporate world for more than 25 years, and these are the best programs I have ever attended. I will definitely take the action needed to carry this work forward with my leadership team.”

We are both inspired to continue to work collaboratively to bring The Leadership Challenge to even more leaders throughout the region—to create a tipping point for change. We believe that if just 3% of the leaders in China accept the concept of The Leadership Challenge and practice the model in their work and life, it could trigger the tipping point for massive change to organizations not only here in Shanghai, but also in greater China and across Asia. And we are excited to be a part of it.

Qiu Hua (Connie) Stephens is a Certified Master-in-Training of The Leadership Challenge and founder of Shanghai-based HeadStart Consulting where she works with clients throughout Asia and the U.S., on leadership development, coaching and organization development. She is also an ICF Professional Certified Coach (PCC), with over 2000 coaching hours, and can be reached at



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