Transformational CEOs
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Transformational CEOs

Leadership and Management Success in Japan

Kimio Kase, Francisco J. Sáez-Martínez and Hernán Riquelme

Transformational CEOs questions why some Japanese firms succeeded in the 1990s despite an economy that failed – regardless of the burst of the ‘bubble’ economy, a number of Japanese companies have maintained or extended their international leadership in particular sectors. The authors argue that whilst some of the reasons for successes are plain common sense – operational effectiveness and superior CEO leadership – some are Japan-specific and point to a break with traditional leadership rationale.
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A3: Norio Ohga: the fifth president of Sony Corporation

Kimio Kase, Francisco J. Sáez-Martínez and Hernán Riquelme


INTRODUCTION In 1995 Sony’s president Norio Ohga announced his successor would be Nobuyuki Idei. His selection was not based on Idei’s past achievement, which Ohga thought rather poor: Idei was unsuccessful as the head of the Audio division; his attempt at entering the home computer business was a failure. Ohga was adamant on this point: his selection was not based on the past but Idei’s potential. Ohga’s ideal man to lead Sony was somebody who would dazzle the world with his resplendence.1 Ohga himself strove to make Sony a company to dazzle people with its brilliance.2 His successor therefore had to be someone who understood Sony’s uncommon quality of outshining its competitors (Takagi, 2001). Such is the philosophy of a man under whose steersmanship Sony grew from a ¥1 trillion company in 1982 to a ¥6 trillion company in 1999. This case describes Ohga’s personal and professional history as it entwines with Sony’s growth. NORIO OHGA THE MAN3 Childhood Norio Ohga was born in 1930 in Shizuoka prefecture into the family of an entrepreneur. Shoichi, his father, ran his own business with branches in Indochina. In 1941, a year before Ohga joined a junior high school, to be exact, Japan’s navy attacked Pearl Harbor and the Pacific War started. In his second year he contracted pleurisy and had to stay home for a year. A neighbor, Ichiro Iwai, whose family owned Iwai Industries, a forerunner of the present-day Sojitz (Nissho Iwai) trading house, took pity on him and volunteered to...

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