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The Too-Fast Track

China’s rapid economic expansion has revealed a paucity of leadership talent, prompting companies to elevate young managers who oftentimes lack the necessary tools but, regardless, are highly sought after by competitors and can change jobs almost at will.
By Ed Frauenheim
[pic]
s vice president of Hyatt International Hotels and Resorts for China and Taiwan, Edward Tai has promoted countless employees during his 34-year career with the upscale hotel chain. In fact, the affable 62-year-old China native says Hyatt often creates elaborate four-year plans to groom up-and-coming execs to head a department in China. But some of those rising stars—and many of Hyatt’s competitors—can’t endure a lengthy development pro¬cess. In leadership-starved China, raiding the competition in search of people who display a shred of managerial potential is all too common. And it’s penalizing executives like Tai, who wants to do things the right way. "By the second year, we do not think he is quite ready," Tai says. "But the other hotel chains, or other places, thinking he is from a Hyatt or a Grand Hyatt, say, ‘He’s ready,’ and give him double the pay and then bring him over." Patience doesn’t always seem to pay off in 21st century China, which for decades had a workforce that made few executive decisions while dining from the "iron rice bowl." The country has smashed that socialist system and is reaping many fruits from a much freer market. There is skyrocketing economic…...

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