A Leader With the Times


At the awarding ceremony of Entrepreneur of the Year Japan in 2018

Innate optimism is the most important quality required for a leader. This is the biggest lesson I’ve learned from the current (third) president. I joined this company just after the start of his administration (2013). For about seven years since then, we have traveled all over the world. As I sometimes wrote, most of the trips were grueling, such as moving one country to another via overnight flights in a row. Even on the way back home from such long tough trips (even ones ending up achieving no results), I’ve never seen him pessimistic or stuck in negative thinking.

The purpose of working becomes diversified. Once, people just worked for bread and butter. Now, someone may work for self-fulfillment; others may for social contribution. Accordingly, required leadership styles become diversified. I think the previous two presidents are similar in leadership style: top-down and slightly authoritarian. On the other hand, that of the current president is completely different: mentor-type and democratic. Although this is a little off topic, he has never shown his irritation even when being bothered with my candid questions time and again during the business trips mentioned above. This super anger management is another thing I want to learn from him.

By the way, I don’t mean the leadership style of the current president is superior. The leadership issue is more complex than simple good and bad. It is not the best leadership style that makes companies survive. The leadership style that makes companies survive is best. In that sense, those of the previous two presidents met the needs of the times. More interestingly, they chose on their mutual consent the current president who has totally opposite personalities.

Shop interior and display in 2010 (Left) The current shop interior and display (Right)

Don’t be fooled by the gentle smile of the current president. He is as passionate as the founder, as logical as the second president, and may be more aggressive for new things than the predecessors. Generally speaking, democratic decision making takes time, but many reforms have advanced quickly under his administration. A good example is a drastic reform in the method of shop interior and display. You can see how different they are in the above images. I believe his innate optimism and democratic leadership style would have evoked energy at workplace and pushed forward many reforms this quickly.


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.