The latest views on the new roles of leadership and the changing issues leaders are facing are two of the themes that entrepreneur Yoshito Hori is keen to check on at this year’s Summer Davos conference.
The dean of Globis Management School and managing partner of Globis Capital Partners will participate in the Swiss-based World Economic Forum’s international conference, formally called the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2014, taking place through Friday in China’s Tianjin.
“Summer Davos is a place where people actually causing a shift (in views on leadership roles) will gather. . . . I want to see what changes are taking place, and how participants resonate with new ideas that may come up,” Hori said.
Since 2002, Hori has frequently joined WEF meetings, participating in the Summer Davos six times, joining in discussions on improving the state of the world among business, political, academic and other leaders of society.
The WEF saw a common issue emerging in recent years through discussions at its about 80 Global Agenda Councils, each of which focuses on a specific theme from climate change to education to the future of manufacturing and justice.
The issue was the dysfunction of leadership in solving problems, according to Hori.
In response, the WEF launched the Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership in 2011 to discuss “a series of evolving factors that are affecting the way companies and public organizations operate, as well as how leaders of those institutions are equipping themselves to respond to those changing parameters,” according to the WEF.
Hori, who has joined the council’s discussions along with the likes of U.S. psychologist Daniel Goleman and Lynda Gratton, professor of management practice at the London Business School, sees several important factors that have rendered what used to be a functional leadership dysfunctional.
Among them is a growing use of mobile Internet devices such as tablet computers and smartphones. These devices enable people to watch major incidents as they develop, in near real time.
“When the reactor housing exploded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, everyone saw it in online video as soon as it happened, and they wanted to know the answer to their question: ‘What’s going on?’,” Hori said. “But the government leadership ran into trouble because it didn’t have the functionality or capability required to address such a demand.”
Another factor presenting difficulty to leaders is an increasingly diversified society, which requires leaders who may have been once able to act on a single value system, to bring together people with diverse values, according to Hori.
“Leaders, too, are now tremendously diversified. The leader of the United States is African American. A key leader in Europe (German Chancellor Angela Merkel) is a woman. The World Bank president is South Korean . . . and the CEO of Microsoft Corp. is Indian,” Hori said. “Leaders are now required to recognize the values of their subordinates and coordinate them.”
Leadership-related issues fascinate Hori, for whom creating the ideal leader is a long-running pursuit ever since 1992 when he jumped ship from Japanese trading giant Sumitomo Corp. to start a humble school operating out of a small Tokyo apartment.
That school would become the present Globis group of companies, which now operates an accredited business school on five campuses in major Japanese cities and manages venture capital funds with ¥50 billion in assets under management.
Hori developed his own vision of the ideal leader as he has kept asking himself what his role should be as he led his company in its rapid growth.
Hori outlines his vision in a July 8 LinkedIn article in English, paradoxically titled, “The Best Leaders Do . . . Nothing.” In the article, which has attracted over 50,000 views, he compares his ideal leadership role to a saying that the best leader is the leader “who does nothing,” which he attributes to ancient Chinese thinker Confucius.
The article argues Confucius is intentionally provocative, and states: “I think he (Confucius) meant that the best thing for a leader is to create a well-structured, well-trained and fully functioning organization and then get out of the way and let other people get on with their jobs.”
But the article also adds the leader should be “always ready to step out of the shadows and assume direct control, communicating the necessary message of change and transforming the business model until the crisis has passed.”
“What I mean by ‘do nothing’ is that by leaving much of the work to others in your organization, you can expect it to grow stronger. You as the leader have to wait until your staff learn to do what you can actually do yourself,” Hori said. “If you allow time for that, the capabilities of your organization will increase.”
Hori also recommends the leader use the extra time gained to engage in activities that contribute to the betterment of society.
For Hori, one such undertaking is G1 Global, a Davos-inspired gathering of leaders from government, business, academia, art, sports and the media in which they discuss challenges facing Asia and the world and to make commitments to create and innovate societies.
The next conference, tentatively titled “Japan in 2020: Boosting Innovation and Dynamism” will be held on Sept. 15 at Globis University Tokyo. Planned speakers include such luminaries as economist Heizo Takenaka, The Economist Tokyo Bureau Chief Tamzin Booth, and Glen Fukushima, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington D.C.