Kim noted in the previous blog that how we conceive of power depends on whether we’re operating in our fear-based world or in our passion-based world. This principle of Balanced Leadership is at play – pardon the pun – in so many aspects of our lives. A recent example of this came up in this article, on the changing face of schooling in China.

Fostering creativity in students is not what usually comes to mind when we think about formal education in China (at all levels).  Large classes, rote learning, memorization of staggering amounts of dessicated facts for fear-inducing exams: that’s the typical image we have of schooling in China if not most of Asia.  While that’s still the norm, this article about Boya College in Guangzhou reveals both the limitations of this approach as well as a growing trend in another direction.

The great irony here is at a time when Asian students are trumping their North American counterparts in exams, their programs are increasingly adopting a more liberal, western curriculum. Why? This quote from the article says it all: “The current educational system (in China) produces stellar test-takers but few innovators and inventors.” The article goes on to reinforce the fact that today’s global economy requires a “creative class” to be successful.  A school system that values high tests scores, and a focus on conformity, memorization and group think is hardly the breeding ground for nimble, adaptive and creative thinkers.

In Balanced Leadership terms, this is about making space for both approaches. The demands and competition of fear-based systems – be they in education, business, public service – can foster excellence, accountability and personal achievement.  Similarly, the attributes of passion-based systems-flexibility, innovation, multiple options – can foster the creativity, alternate solutions and synergies that today’s workplace needs so much.

With all of China’s challenges – poverty, pollution, civil unrest and maintaining economic growth – is hard to predict how the aggregate of all these issues will affect the education system. But the very fact that more and more universities are opening up to programs that foster creativity and innovation is a recognition that a more balanced approach is being explored.  Combining the best of our fear-based and passion-based worlds can provide the type of learning environment students can thrive in.