3. Zhang Ruimin
Zhang Ruimin
Company: Haier Group
Title: Chairman and CEO
Age: 63

CEO Zhang Ruimin currently runs an operation with over 80,000 employees, divided into more than 2,000 independent management units. These self-managed teams -- which can have anywhere from less than 10 to dozens of employees -- tend to focus on a particular customer or customer type. In a recent interview with Fortune senior editor at large Geoff Colvin, Ruimin said, "If team members do not agree with their manager's way of working, the manager can be voted off."

The approach seems to be paying off for the company. The electronics and appliances giant Haier achieved sales last year of 150.9 billion RMB (approximately $23.8 billion USD) and a profit of 7.5 billion RMB ($1.2 billion USD).

Most of the management changes introduced by Ruimin are based on principles espoused in Western management courses and several are similar to those of smaller companies such as W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc.

After heading the company for more than 27 years, can Ruimin still maintain Haier's momentum? You might find the answer on his desk, which has a framed August 2002 cover of Fortune China. On the cover is a picture of a shipwreck, with the title "Why Do Companies Fail?" The cover article argues that business failures have less to do with uncontrollable external forces than management mistakes and a reliance on obsolete ideas.

By Fortune China @FortuneMagazine - Last updated May 31 2012: 10:28 AM ET
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