Regional leadership and digital transformation: An interview with Angela Dong, global vice president, general manager of Greater China, Nike
Consumer Products

Regional leadership and digital transformation: An interview with Angela Dong, global vice president, general manager of Greater China, Nike

Angela Dong, global vice president and general manager of Greater China, Nike, shares her career journey and discusses balancing the responsibilities of a global leader with regional responsibilities.
Angela Dong
Angela Dong image

Angela Dong is the vice president of Nike Inc. and the general manager of Nike Greater China. She has spent nearly 18 years with the company and has held her current role since 2015. Prior to her current position, she held the role of VP, CFO, and general manager of territories for Greater China from January 2015 to June 2015, and she was the VP and CFO of Greater China for Nike for several years.

Before joining Nike, Angela held finance management roles for Coca-Cola China, British American Tobacco, and Procter & Gamble. She holds an MBA from Northwestern University.

Linda Zhang: Could you please describe your career path so far? 

Angela Dong: I have spent more than 17 years at Nike. Prior to my current position as vice president of Nike Inc. and general manager of Nike Greater China since 2015, I acted as the vice president, CFO, and general manager of territories for Nike Greater China. 

Before joining Nike in 2005, I worked in management positions for Coca-Cola China and Procter & Gamble, which provided me the opportunity to develop a deep understanding of corporate finance and to build my knowledge of the Greater China marketplace as well as a global perspective and holistic view of business. The incredible experience at top multinational companies also helped me learn how to work and collaborate with people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds.

Linda Zhang: How do you think the leaders’ roles have been shaped by events over the past few years, and how do you think they will evolve in response to continued changes in board and stakeholder expectations? What do you think will be the most challenging change to master?

Angela Dong: Every business challenge brings with it a business opportunity. Business uncertainty is often an opportunity to evolve and change our mindset, which, in turn, leads to the opportunity to improve for the good of the future. Many talented leaders have confronted unprecedented challenges over the past three years. We’ve already done hard things, and we can do them again. We’re confident enough to face and embrace change. The most challenging factor to master is the ability to navigate the business through that challenging macro and marketplace environment while meeting the changing expectations of various stakeholders. Nike is at the very center of sport. We have a true purpose: to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. Our authenticity in sport has driven our success in the past and will continue to navigate our business now and in the future.

In 2021, we celebrated Nike’s 40th anniversary in China. The past four decades have been a remarkable journey, with many opportunities and challenges alike. We’ve gone through some major resets. We’ve also been facing increasingly tough competition. Operating in this ever-dynamic environment, we always look to the core and very essence of who we are and what we do. At Nike, we always say that if you have a body, you are an athlete. As the champion for athletes and sport, we are putting serving every athlete at the center. Our mission and competitive advantages have kept us the number one sports brand worldwide. 

Linda Zhang: Considering the impact of new technologies and the high numbers of enterprise digital transformation programs, when do you think digital skills and experiences will become a must-have?

Angela Dong: I would suggest that digital skills and experiences are imperative for the CEO today. Moreover, the ability to influence how people think about their lifestyle, business, and even the workplace itself is the key must-have for a CEO to create the future people will both desire and, indeed, need. 

Digital transformation is about so much more than simply adopting new technologies and processes. At its core, it’s about overcoming inertia and resistance and breaking through antiquated systems to change the way people think and work. The CEO needs to lead from the front, inspire confidence in their vision, and rally but also empower the company workforce to believe in what might appear to be a distant destination. Over the past months, we have been investing in the experiences, technologies, and partnerships that bring Nike closer to our consumer by serving them personally every day, creating an incredible breadth of connection across the Nike Sport Marketplace in China. These great strides forward are built on our “China for China” (C4C) digital transformation and the successful landing of a China-specific digital ecosystem.

Linda Zhang: What is the biggest challenge of being a regional CEO? How do you balance the responsibilities of a global leader with your regional responsibilities? 

Angela Dong: Different cultural backgrounds bring different ways of thinking. A regional CEO needs to communicate clearly and ensure that global leadership understands the uniqueness of the local market. At the same time, it’s necessary to think about the problem from the perspective of the company and develop the regional business based on the global strategy. Greater China is an exciting geography of growth for Nike. Based on the uniqueness of Chinese consumers and the digital ecology of the Chinese market, we are constantly communicating with headquarters to increase the investment in the Chinese market to better serve Chinese consumers, especially in the updating of technology and digital capacity. 

Linda Zhang: To what extent does your company’s culture help or hinder your effectiveness as a leader?

Angela Dong: Nike shares the same vision and mission around the globe. We believe if you have a body, you are an athlete. As Nike’s founder Phil Knight wrote in the letter celebrating Nike's 50th anniversary, from day one, everything we did—and still do—is to unleash the potential of every athlete around the world. Nike is inheriting and carrying forward the spirit of Phil Knight by always listening to the voice of the athlete and remaining committed to innovation for our consumers. As the leader of Nike Greater China, my role is to promote this shared culture across the company and make it a consistent inspiration to all our teams.

Linda Zhang: What is an inclusive culture to you? How have your feelings about what “inclusive” means changed over your career? 

Angela Dong: An inclusive culture means embracing and celebrating our differences. An inclusive environment is the driving force behind innovation. At Nike, we believe the success of our teammates drives the success of our business. The belief is reflected in our ongoing commitment to fostering an environment focused on equality and diversity which allows for a breadth of perspectives to develop original ideas; it’s a key component of innovation. For example, we’re committed to increasing female representation across all levels of the company. In FY21, 43% percent of Nike Inc.’s global executives and senior management are women, and this figure rises to 54% for Greater China. 

Linda Zhang: What was most helpful to you in developing your career? What steps did you take to enable you to step up from a local to a regional role? 

Angela Dong: Strong teamwork lays the foundation for a business leader to grow and deal with all challenges. I appreciate the strong network and team spirit of our global and local system, which have been most helpful for my career development, particularly when I stepped up from a local to a global role that needs a broader view, scope, and mindset. 

Linda Zhang: You have been included in Fortune's Most Powerful Businesswomen in China, the 50 most influential business leaders in China, and Forbes's Top 100 Businesswomen in China a number of consecutive times. You have also been recently appointed to Estee Lauder's board of directors. This is an impressive set of achievements. What advice do you have for other leaders who are looking to step into CEO roles or global leadership roles? 

Angela Dong: I appreciate recognition from the industry, and I think this reflects the achievements of the teams I’ve worked with, rather than what I may have achieved myself. For the other leaders, especially young leaders in their journey of career growth, I have the following advice for their reference: first, be bold and do be not afraid to fail. You will be able to change up the game by being bold and taking risks and always unleashing your potential. Mistakes can be liberating and empowering. With every mistake, we got better. Second, play and win as a team. What I love about Nike’s culture is that it’s more about sports teams than it is about business companies. Succeed by not individually taking credit but by working together. Always put your team’s success ahead of your own. And, third, an invitation to sports: do sports, do more sports, and do sports better. At the end of the day, as future leaders, your physical strength will be one of your key competitive advantages.

About the interviewer

Linda Zhang ( is the partner in charge of Heidrick & Struggles’ Shanghai office and leads the firm’s CEO & Board of Director's Practice in China. She is also a member of the Consumer and Industrial practices.

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