Yoshito Hori speaks about leadership lessons with enthusiasm in a suit and tie

Given the strong interest that readers have expressed in the conference, I thought I would write frankly about memorable scenes and episodes from the Davos Forum based on some tweets I posted there.

Note: Paragraphs denoted with ○ are additional episodes from the Davos I wrote subsequently. All other paragraphs are tweets made during the trip.

I’m leaving for Europe on a midnight flight that will depart from Haneda Airport later today. I’ll make a round of visits to Paris, Zurich, Davos, Jeddah, and Riyadh on this trip to Europe and the Middle East. My itinerary is crammed with speeches and meetings. I’m on my way. See you later.

○ I saw two movies on the airplane to Paris, “The Social Network” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” Last year, I watched “Avatar” before going to Davos. I had made up my mind to watch “The Social Network” before travelling to Davos this year, because social networks were likely to become one of the topics of conversation at the conference.

I returned to my hotel after finishing my speech at HEC. It seems a long time since I delivered my last speech at a business school overseas. All Japanese students at HEC looked delighted to see me. I remember feeling happy in my Harvard days when a Japanese would visit the campus to give a speech.

I’m travelling in a cab to the Paris International Airport. It’s just before 9 a.m. The late morning sun is rising magnificently from behind the obelisk and the Ferris wheel in the Place de la Concorde. I’m passing the Arc de Triomphe now. The same morning sun is shining on the gate.

On my way to the airport, I realized I had left my coat at my hotel in Paris. There was no time to go back. Davos is cold. The thought depressed me. But I must think positively at a time like this. On second thought, I told myself that a chance to buy a new coat had come my way. But the thought of spending additional money bothered me a little.

I arrived at the airport. Studying the men in coats who passed me by, I began thinking, “If I’m going to buy a coat, I should buy one with a design I’ve never worn before.” I began to feel excited about buying a new coat. After checking in for my next flight, I stocked up on shop information and began shopping at the airport. I was able to get a coat at half price because of a sale. It was cheaper than a coat sold at an outlet in Japan. Satisfied, I’m making this tweet at a boarding gate now, thinking to myself how simple I am.

○ I met Yo Takeuchi of Development Bank of Japan at the boarding gate. He told me the forthcoming conference would be his first Davos Forum, and said, “My secretary searched the Internet, read your past blog entries on Davos.So I bought myself warm outfits and snow boots.” I was delighted to think that what I wrote in my blog was useful.

I arrived at my hotel in Zurich. I’m working on emails in my room now, watching the Japan-South Korea Asia Cup football semifinal match on the side. The match is being broadcast in German, however, I can’t concentrate on my work at all. Japan team is playing well. The first half ended with a score tied at 1-1. I feel our team can win the match today. But I must leave soon. One appointment with an investor was cancelled, but there is another one coming up.

I have just returned to my hotel room. It was sad to have had no chance to watch the second half and extra time on TV. I headed to the appointed meeting place, relying on live coverage from a friend over the telephone and Twitter. I couldn’t relax during the meeting. I was so glad to find that Japan won. I really want our team to thrash their opponent in the final and win the Asian Cup. The final is likely to take place during my travel from Davos to Saudi Arabia.
It’s easier to make friends at this pre-Forum meeting because it is smaller than Davos. I can also state my opinions with greater freedom here. It’s fun to do that. I’ll leave Zurich for Davos after speaking at an early-morning breakfast session tomorrow.

It’s time for me to go to a reception for this pre-Davos conference where I’m serving as co-chairman. Called the “Horasis Annual Meeting,” it has been held at a Zurich airport hotel one day before the Davos Forum since last year. I chose to take part in the event for the second consecutive year partly because it is organized by a friend of mine.

I spoke at the pre-Davos meeting in Zurich. I realized that I am getting used to panel discussions in English. I took part in a session on the global economy with the secretary general of the League of Arab States. I’m checking out of my hotel now to head for Davos.

○ I sat with a Russian beauty on a bus to Davos. We exchanged information and ate sweets that I had brought from Japan. Feeling like having a picnic, I admired the beautiful sights of the Alps on the way.

The bus arrived at Davos. I surveyed the streets from a shuttle I took, feeling as if I’d returned to a ski resort filled with good memories. I’ll head for the Forum venue after checking in at a hotel and unpacking my suitcase there.

○ Hotel Derby is where I stayed this year. I was assigned to a three-star hotel for the first time. I can tell my position among Davos participants from the hotel I’m given. My position has risen considerably. But my room was still small, and this hotel had no elevator.

○ I couldn’t figure out where conference rooms were located even after walking into the main venue for the Davos Forum. I realized that the Congress Center was expanded and many new rooms had been added. A large conference hall called the Congress Room had more than doubled in size, too.

○ I had arrangement to meet the representative for Human Rights Watch. It was the first meeting I had in Davos with an appointment. (It was what people would call a bilateral meeting.) I asked him how to make bilateral appointments in Davos. Now that I know how, I decided to take best use of Davos by setting up bilateral appointments from next year on.

George Soros stepped out of a car while Yoriko Kawaguchi and I were waiting for our vehicle in Davos at night. Taking the opportunity, I shook hands with him. Then, Indra Nooyi, the Indian woman who is CEO of PepsiCo, came out of her car. Nooyi is a powerful leader who ranks among the five most successful women in the world today.

○ I woke up 6 a.m., checked my emails, took care of business, and left my hotel at 7 a.m. The first event was a board meeting for a community called Global Growth Companies (GGC), of which I am a member. There were only a dozen or so participants, but the countries they represented made this meeting truly global. They came from emerging nations such as China, India, South Africa, Tajikistan, Kuwait, Vietnam, and Mexico, and advanced countries, including the United States, Britain, Germany, Switzerland, and Japan.

○ “Why do you go to Davos? What’s the fun, crammed in a room only about 10 square meters in size in the middle of the winter when temperature is 20 degrees below zero? One board member shared this opinion. All participants sympathized, but quickly dismissed the idea, because they know the attractions of Davos too well.

○ Stating an opinion at a Davos meeting is difficult because all people there want to show their presence. In this environment, I must state my view boldly without flinching. No one will give me a chance to speak if I keep silent. Davos is a place where the survival of fittest applies.

○ I took active part in discussions at a brainstorming session on East Asia. I saw a sophisticated woman who spoke fluent English at this session. She was a Minister from Indonesia. The Minister seemed to have attended the session in preparation for the East Asia Economic Summit, scheduled to take place in Indonesia later this year.

○ I lunched at a private meeting sponsored by Infosys. It turned out to be my first good lunch in a long while. Later, the chef was introduced to the audience, who reportedly was the first chef specializing in Indian cuisine to win a Michelin star. No wonder the lunch was so delicious.

○ The session on mindful leadership, in which I served as a panelist, was extremely interesting. The point made at this session was that a leader must have the right spiritual attitude, in other words, mental leadership, in addition to the skills to make clever decisions.

○ After the panel discussion, Daniel Goleman, the author of “Emotional Intelligence”, approached me and said, “It was very good.” I told him, “Your book on the emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) does not say how we can increase our EQ. GLOBIS MBA programs are aimed at cultivating a sense of mission.” In response, Goleman said, “I’d very much like to talk with you again.” We bumped into each other at a conference hall later on. We exchanged our opinions on that occasion. My name may appear in the next book of his.

○French Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry Christine Lagarde took the platform at a session on the IMF. In contrast to German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, Lagarde was elegant and chic. I wondered if their difference owed to their national backgrounds.

○ I attended a breakfast session on Japan held in a hotel room from 7:30 a.m. I rode in the same car with Heizo Takenaka as we proceeded to the main Forum venue. In Davos, courtesy cars are arranged for VIPs only because moving from hotels to the main venue is really difficult. A carriage porch was added to the expanded main venue to offer VIPs direct access to conferences. I got out of the car, entered the venue and reached a security checkpoint.

○ I took off my coat and hat, and put all my belongings in a basket. Unintentionally, I turned to Takenaka just before my security checks. To my surprise, Heizo Takenaka was passing through a detector with his coat on and a bag in his hands. “The level of the security check differs depending on your position,” he told me. Not everyone is equal at Davos.

○ I attended a session on “Foreign policy in the digital age and Lessons from WikiLeaks” from 9 a.m. The opinions shared by foreign ministers and other panelists there stunned me. They shared the view that the Internet was no big threat. They did so in spite of what was happening in Tunisia and Egypt. A top executive of the media company stated a similar view. He said, “After all, the Net offers scribbles and groundless rumors only.” They made me painfully aware that opinions vary according to position.

On my way to lunch, I bumped into a friend who had studied with me at Harvard and founded a leading venture capital in Europe. We met in front of people lining up for security checks at a hotel. I had hoped to make an appointment with him, but had not been able to locate him. In astonishment, I hugged the friend and celebrated our fortuitous reunion.

○ I attended a session on cloud computing at lunch. What one Western journalist said when introducing himself impressed me. In a masochistic tone, he said, “I’m a journalist, which was a fashionable job in the 20th century.” People’s perceptions appear to be shifting in that direction.

I returned to my hotel room after lunch. I decided to take a short break because I had been working hard since this morning. But I couldn’t give myself a decent rest because I had to check a pile of emails and wash my underwear. I remember reading an article that said Azim Premji, an Indian billionaire and the founder and chairman of Wipro, washes his own underwear during his business trips, too. I felt a strange sense of connection to him.

○ At the request of the Davos Forum organizer, I gave a video interview. The theme for the interview was “What you learn at the Davos Forum.” The interview lasted for about 15 minutes. This video was said to be compiled into a DVD and distributed to all Davos Forum participants. I wondered what would be the ratio of VIPs who would watch this DVD. I’ve never seen any video of this type myself after returning from Davos to Japan.

I attended a session on China from 9 a.m. Kevin Rudd, the former Prime Minister of Australia currently serving as his country’s foreign minister, and Larry Summers, a former president of Harvard University, took the platform at this session. Moderated by a friend of mine, the session was scheduled for broadcast in China. Asked to speak, I stated my own view. People told me about 200 million people would watch the session in China.

○ I met Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd for the second time. I went to say hello to him after the panel discussion. He remembered me. Come to think about it, the GLOBIS G1 Summit seems to have come out of my first encounter with Mr. Rudd.
(Refer to my past column, “Expecting the Second Meiji Restoration: A Dialogue with the Australian Prime Minister” available in Japanese only.)

○ A reply to my earlier posting arrived while I was making a tweet on Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s speech. “Mr. Hori, I just saw you on the webcast,” the reply said. “I didn’t notice the camera,” I wrote back. “I brought my PC to the Forum venue for the first time today.” In addition to the reply, I found the following tweet. “The camera showed our boss, Yoshito Hori, while I was watching the live webcast for the Davos Forum. He had a red necktie and a PC in his hands. Images and text are linking the world on a real-time basis. What I just saw reminded me once again of how amazing the age we are living in is.”

○ As a master of ceremony, Carlos Ghosn advanced the program for the welcome lunch for Prime Minister Naoto Kan hosted by Klaus Schwab in a relaxed, humorous way. I didn’t know Ghosn was such a cheerful person.

○ I went to the restroom before the Japan session. Prime Minister Naoto Kan came in next to me. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama occupied the space next to the Prime Minister. We had a lively conversation while relieving ourselves. I told Mr. Kan, “Your speech was wonderful.” He looked very happy to hear that. Forum participants from other countries approached the Prime Minister, saying, “Great speech,” and offering to shake hands with him as we walked out of the restroom. Satisfied, Kan showed that broad trademark smile on his face.

○ The Japan session got underway. Banri Kaieda, the Japanese minister of economy, trade and industry, Sadako Ogata, the president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Yorihiko Kojima, the board chairman for Mitsubishi Corporation, and Charles Lake, the chairman and representative of Aflac Japan, served as panelists for the Japan session. The moderator (an American, perhaps) asked the following relevant questions at this session.

“Why do Japanese reporters want to make this session open to them only, when the Prime Minister is talking about opening up Japan?” “Standard & Poor’s downgraded Japanese government bonds. What do you think about that?” “I think this session would have been held in a much larger room full of participants 20 years ago. What do you think about this reality?” “Many people used to come from overseas to study in Japan. These people are going to China to study now. How do you approach these young people?” We must be able to answer these tough questions with confidence ourselves.

○ Hiroshi Tasaka, who had written the essential part of the speech Prime Minister Kan delivered on this occasion, traveled to the Davos Forum 2011, but he attended virtually no session. I think involving someone like Tasaka in an important speech is a very good idea, however, I feel sorry for him for not being able to attend session in Davos.

○ A Forum participant from South Korea told me, “I saw the GLOBIS ad in the Financial Times.” The comment gave me a solid sense that GLOBIS’ position was rising steadily in the world.

○ I hopped on a helicopter to fly over the Alps. The James Bond theme for 007 movies blared in my head.

○ I arrived at Zurich airport. Two beautiful women came in a car to greet me. With eyes wide open, they told me 100 private jets arrived and departed every day during the period of the Davos Forum. They said French President Nicolas Sarkozy had left in a French military helicopter and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev left for Davos in a Swiss military helicopter. Other Form participants reportedly used cars to travel to Davos.

○ The women showed me the special Japanese government planes. They said, “They beat all other government planes that flew in for the Forum in size. But we have no idea why two planes came from Japan.” They doubled back and took me close to the two Japanese government jumbo jets with the Japanese flag on their tail waiting side by side.

○ The final for the football’s Asian Cup had kicked off before I boarded the helicopter in Davos. The score was tied 0-0 after the first half. I followed Mr. Ototake’s tweets to monitor the second-half action. The scoreless match against Australia had moved into extra time by the time I boarded a flight from Zurich to London.

○ I arrived at London. I accessed the Twitter with a prayer in my heart. Yes! We won! Congratulations, Japan! Still feeling high, I left London for Jeddah on a night flight.
Continued in my columns on Saudi Arabia

February 3, 2011
Yoshito Hori
At my office in Nibancho

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