追溯中國式管理——許倬雲專訪

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1992 / 10月

文‧滕淑芬採訪整理


談歷史是為鑑往知來,從分析中國歷代興盛衰亡,我們記取教訓,並展望未來。廿世紀中國曾經摔了一大跤,但現在是「從谷底爬升起來的時候了」。許倬雲認為,成敗關鍵,就在於今後我們能否擺脫威權心態。


問:您在書中開宗明義就提到,寫這書的目的是要打破領袖神話。為什麼我們中國人總會蒙著一層面紗看待所謂的政治領袖和企業領袖?

答:長期以來中國一直是所謂的威權社會,領袖扮演著亦君亦父亦師三重性格的角色。我們對領袖人物的期望非常高,不僅才能,還希望他們有德。但是等他們到達一定位置,又賦予他們亦君亦父的特殊身分,這樣雙重交互作用,於是就覺得他們很難親近。

德國學者韋伯(Max Weber)是第一個針對領袖型態提出理論結構的人。他提及有特殊恩慈、魅力的領袖,加上過人的能力、威望,常使人覺得高不可攀。這種領袖也通常出現在威權社會中,彼此十分「適應」。

沒有所謂天生英明

我提出要打破神話的意思,就是說人的領袖才能是可以培養、訓練的。但這並不否定有些人這方面的稟賦的確比別人高,只是這樣的人同樣也需要善加涵養修持,否則這份領袖稟賦很可能轉化成倨傲偏執、自負自戀,等到他覺得自己真是一位有魅力的領袖時,他的魅力特質其實已經喪失,因為他沒有辦法和別人作正常溝通。

問:在書中您比較中國歷史人物的用人和領導風格,譬如三國時曹操覺得人的才能和品格可以分開;不過看看西方歐美國家的例子,美國湯瑪斯大法官、民主黨總統候選人柯林頓一直被人批評在道德上有瑕疵,東方社會似乎較少挑剔領袖人物的道德層面,為什麼呢?

答:事實上,中國的「賢」字有才能和德行雙重意義。但我們為什麼不批評已經在位置上的領袖人物?一方面是因為在威權體制下對尊者不批評;另一方面則是有相當大的畏懼,怕受到懲罰。所以我們就假定到了一定位置者,才德俱聖,其實這個假定未必與事實相符。我們看到歷史翻案層出不窮,就發現某些領袖人物能力很好,但德行不足;或者德行很好但能力不足,曾經看錯事情、用錯人。

上下通情靠中層階級

問:您在書中分析了中國歷代衰亡的因果關係,在於上層和中層的斷裂,或是中層與下層的疏離,請問上下通情真是那麼難做到嗎?

答:其實並不困難。現在民主自由社會大多已取代了威權社會,上層是由中層出現,中層是由下層出現,每個人的位置不是永久佔領著,也沒有強烈的威權型態防礙交流、溝通,上下通達並不困難。

不是民主社會的話,上層結構必須有洞察、寬容能力。所以開國明君會有忠臣,因為他有寬容性。中國歷史上西漢的管道最暢通,每個朝代開始的兩代,管道都很暢通。到後來把持權力的慾望加深,使得上層者不願再容納新成員,也不願意再改變原有結構。這時最容易出現一群想攀龍附鳳的人,他們的諂媚,讓領袖自以為聖明、無所不知,下情上達的管道就這麼被切斷了。

確實有能力的人都會受高帽子之害,能力差者也會因為受諂媚而覺得自己了不起,這種情形在企業體、行政單位我們天天都看得見,旁人看來是沐猴而冠,自己看來是黃袍加身。

真正的領導人是時時刻刻對自己位置感到不勝任,覺得能力有欠缺,希望得到更多人幫忙、勸告。如果自己覺得比周遭人強,就很危險。有人說過這麼一句話,「坐高位者最大的危險,就是不再聽見真正的聲音。」毀了自己,也毀了一個單位,這個單位可以大到一國、小到一個組織。

文化要調適

問:您在書中提到中華民族能維繫長久,在十八世紀以前靠的是由知識份子、商人、中級官員、下級官員、地方領袖這一批具有社會、經濟性格的中產階級。到十九世紀清朝晚年才垮了下來,這是什麼原因造成的?

答:第一是因為別的國家都在進步,其次是我們失去了更新能力,手忙腳亂,到了廿世紀是幾種病同時出現。

文化演變有起伏,每個文化到一定時候,原來的精力會衰疲。首先是學術思想正統化,之後就變成教條,然後就沒有活力。近代的儒家思想,從理學到明代新興之學,一次又一次修正,明代以後逐漸變成僵化的正統教條,反映到其他領域,藝術、音樂也衰退。文化表現和文化本質不同,追求生活目標、尋找生活意義是文化本質;文化活動就是表現,變成瑣碎、俗豔、裝飾性的活動。

清朝廿萬滿人出現那麼多能幹的人,非常了不起,但是因為掌權的群體並沒有擴大,權力使他們腐蝕;滿清希望找的是奴才,而不是人才,當然還是有能者,但是大多數人是奴才心情。這個朝代衰退得很快,乾隆時就走下坡了。

加上西洋的衝擊力,不再是武裝侵略而已,包括強大的經濟力量,及後面和中華文化完全不一樣的新文化,夾雜兵艦和工業力量一起進來。我們是內有鬱疾、外感風寒,從鴉片戰爭起,我們不知摔了多少跤。

但中國並非一蹶不振。台灣的文化調適,已經爬出谷底,就看能不能順利走下去。四十年來的休生養息,外洋的經濟壓力已經解除,文化週期面臨新的中西文化交流,逐漸有新的定位。但是不是真正可以把過去的惡夢擺在後面,就看今後我們怎麼做?

老百姓有活力

令人欣喜的是,我們看到現在台灣社會上有大大小小的基金會,作了許多社會關懷、服務人群的事,很多都是小人物,他們願意為社會做點事,類似愚公移山、精衛填海的傻勁和精神令人佩服。

也有很多人擔心所謂的「金權政治」,其實金權政治沒什麼了不起,資本主義社會都如此,錢是種資源。但是用資源的方法就不同了,見得了人的方法是可以的,見不得人的是不可以的;拿公權買私利是不可以的,拿私利買私權可以;拿公權建立起公利是可以,拿公權換私利則是偷竊。我們現在是一張支票可以兌換一種名位,名位則獲得可以創造私利的機會。用特權創造新的財富,損失的是小民百姓。

這種情況最壞的就是菲律賓和田中角榮以後的日本。不過日本還有傳統的政治紀律,以及一套健全的司法制度,所以糟歸糟,還有人批評,不會一敗塗地。菲律賓就很麻煩了。

問:近年來所謂中國式管理在企業界廣為流傳,您怎麼看這股潮流或趨勢?

答:所謂中國式管理並沒有一套肯定的形式、精神,我們仍在尋找。由於中國家族企業的範圍、運作有自己一套方式;中國的人際關係和其他社會也不盡相同,用哈佛企管或日本松下的辦法,好像都行不通,如何發揮中國式管理的長處、預防短處,就有值得討論的地方。

此外,以美國為代表的大西洋傳統,在最近二、三十年,面臨很大難局,在多種文化的衝擊下,使得基督新教和資本主義陣營發生自己無法調適的困難,必須向外尋找靈感;世界經濟的整體性也使得他們不得不看看其他世界。

事實上,我認為不管是中國式管理、西方式或日本式管理,不一定是相互衝突,而是可以互補、融合的。

〔圖片說明〕

P.109

(黃麗梨攝)

相關文章

近期文章

EN

Chinese-Style Management Traced Back: An Interview with Hsu Cho-yun

Teng Sue-feng /tr. by Peter Eberly

If history is aimed at helping us understand the present by examining the past, then an analysis of China's rise and fall through the ages can teach us valuable lessons for the future and give us a picture of what may come. China has suffered great setbacks this century, but "now it's time for us to climb back up again!" Hsu Cho-yun believes that the key to success Lies in breaking away from the authoritarian mind set of the past.


Q: You make it clear right at the outset of your book that you want to shatter the myth of leadership. Why have we Chinese always viewed our political and business leaders through a veil of mystery?

A: For a long, long time China has been an authoritarian society, where leaders have played a triple role as ruler, father and teacher. We hold extremely high expectations of our leaders and think they should be virtuous as well as able and talented, and once they reach a certain position, we imbue them with the special status of ruler and father. The result is we feel they are very hard to approach. The German sociologist Max Weber was the first social scientist to formulate a theoretical construct of the leader type, a person set off from others by a special aura of prestige, ability and charisma. It's a kind of leader who often appears in authoritarian societies. They're suited for each other.

Leaders are made not born

By breaking the myth I mean to say that leadership can be nurtured and trained. That doesn't deny that some people aren't more gifted in that area than others. It just means that even people with leadership talents need to cultivate and train themselves or else they will become proud and complacent. By the time they come to think they really must be charismatic leaders, their charisma has already faded because they haven't been able to communicate normally with others.

Q: One of the figures from Chinese history whose style of leadership and management you examined in your book was Tsao Tsao, of the Three Kingdoms period, who felt that a person's character and ability can be separated. But leaders in the West are often criticized for their moral defects--just look at U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas or the Democratic presidential candidate, Bill Clinton. Societies in the East don't seem to be so scrupulous about their leaders' moral peccadilloes. Why is that?

A: Actually, the word hsien (virtuous, worthy, able) describes a person with both ability and virtue. The question is, why don't we criticize established leaders? One reason is that under an authoritarian system superiors are supposed to be above criticism. Another is there's a considerable amount of fear, fear of punishment. So we simply assume that leaders who have achieved a certain position are both able and virtuous, a supposition that may not necessarily be true. We're constantly seeing cases of leaders being rejudged in the light of history, finding they may have been strong in ability but were weak in morals, or vice versa.

Inter-level communication

Q: In your book you analyzed the main cause for the decline of China through the ages and concluded that it lay in the rift between the upper and middle levels and between the middle and lower ones. Is cross-level interaction and communication really that difficult?

A: Actually, it's not. In the free democratic societies that have mostly replaced authoritarian societies, the upper level is formed from the middle level and the middle level from the lower level. No one's position is permanently occupied, and there are no strong authoritarian forces blocking interaction and communication. Mutual understanding isn't difficult.

In nondemocratic societies, the upper-level elite must possess vision and tolerance. The reason that dynastic founders could maintain loyal ministers was because they were tolerant. The channels for interaction and communication stayed open during the first couple of generations of a dynasty, especially during the Western Han (206 B.C. to A.D. 24), but as its desire to hold on to power increased, the upper level became unwilling to take in new members or to change its existing structure. That's when flatterers and sycophants would appear, deluding the rulers into thinking they were clever and all-knowing, and the channels would become cut off again.

In fact, even able and talented leaders are liable to flattery and thinking too much of themselves, not to mention those of lesser ability. We see it happen in government and business every day. They think they're the cat's pajamas, but to others they're just a monkey in a suit.

True leaders constantly feel they're inadequate to the task, that their abilities have shortcomings, and they hope to obtain the help and advice of others. If they think they're sharper than the people around them, it's very dangerous. Someone once said that "the greatest danger for people in high positions is no longer hearing the truth." If they wreck themselves, they wreck the group they're in charge of, which may be as small as an office or as large as a nation.

Cultural adjustments required

Q: In your book you stated that the Chinese people relied on a social and economic middle class of intellectuals, merchants, local leaders and mid- and lower-level officials to maintain itself for such a long time before it broke down in the 19th century during the later years of the Ching Dynasty. What caused that?

A: First, because other countries were progressing, and next because we had lost the ability for renewal. We became frantic, and by the 20th century a number of diseases appeared simultaneously.

Cultural evolution has its ups and downs, and every culture loses its original energy after a time. Academic thinking becomes increasingly orthodox and dogmatic and finally lacks all vitality. There were repeated reforms in Confucian thought in early modern times, but after the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) it gradually ossified into orthodoxy and dogmatism, which was reflected in other areas, in a falling off in music and the arts. There's a difference between cultural expression and cultural essence. Pursuing goals and seeking for meaning in life are the essence of culture. Cultural activities are its expression, and they became trivial, gaudy and decorative.

It was quite extraordinary that so many of the 200,000 Manchus of the Ching Dynasty were talented individuals, but since they never expanded their ruling group, they were corrupted by power. What the Manchus were looking for were slaves and not talented administrators. Se of them were able, of course, but the majority had a servile mentality. The dynasty declined very rapidly. It started to go downhill during the Chien Lung era (1736 to 1796).

In addition, the blows from the West were no longer confined to military encroachments but included powerful economic forces and a new, completely different culture, the assault of a mixture of military and industrial might. Sick inside and threatened from without, we stumbled and fell countless times after the Opium War.

But China hasn't been knocked flat. Taiwan has managed to make cultural adjustments and pull itself up. The only question is whether or not it can keep on going. During our recuperation over the last 40 years, the foreign economic pressure has been lifted, and the cultural cycle is facing a new East-West interchange and assuming a new orientation. But whether or not we can truly put the nightmare of the past behind us depends on what we do from now On.

The vitality of the common people

It's gratifying to see so many private foundations in Taiwan these days, large and small, getting involved and doing so much to serve the public. Most of their members are just ordinary people who want to do their bit for the community. I really admire their persistence and stick-to-itiveness. It's like the fable of the "old man who moved the mountain."

A lot of people are worried about "money politics" these days. Actually, money politics is nothing new. It's like that in every capitalist society. Money is a resource. The difference lies in how resources are used. Honest and aboveboard methods are permissible, but not underhanded ones. Using public power to pursue private interests is wrong, but buying private power with private interests is all right. Using public power to build up public interests is all right, but trading on public power for private interests is theft. Money can be exchanged for position and position creates the opportunity for wealth. When special interests are used to create wealth, the ones who lose out are the common people.

It's worst in the Philippines, and in Japan since Nakasone. In Japan there's still political discipline and a healthy legal system so, bad as it is, there are still people who criticize it. It's not a total disaster. But the Philippines are a different story.

Q: The term Chinese-style management has become widespread in the business world in recent years. How do you view this trend?

A: So-called Chinese-style management doesn't consist of any set form or principle. We're still searching. Chinese family-style businesses have their own set of management methods because of their scope and operation, and Chinese interpersonal relationships aren't quite the same as those in other societies. The methods of the Harvard Business School or of Matsushita of Japan don't seem to work. How to bring out the strong points of Chinese-style management and overcome its shortcomings is an area worth exploring.

The great Western tradition of management represented by the United States has encountered grave difficulties over the past 20 or 30 years. Under multicultural attack, the Protestant, capitalist camp has met with difficulties that it has been unable to adjust to and has had to search outside for inspiration, and the organic integration of the world economy has forced them to take a look at the rest of the world.

In fact, I don't think Chinese-style, Western-style and Japanese-style management necessarily conflict. I think they supplement each other and can be fused together.

[Picture Caption]

(photo by Huang Lili)

 

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